What’s a sip of Syrah without Spot by your side? Tasting Cabernet Franc is more fun with Fido, and Merlot is merrier with your mutt to keep you company. More and more NorCal wineries are realizing the appeal of being dog-friendly, inviting four legged friends into the tasting rooms, onto the lawns, and for picnics beneath the shade trees. Just don’t let Buster steal the bocce balls.
Mutt Lynch Winery, Windsor
With a slogan like “Bark Less, Wag More,” Fido is in for good time at this dog-friendly winery recently relocated from Healdsburg to downtown Windsor (follow your tasting with a romp on The Green park). The labels feature dog art, a portion of sales is donated to local animal rescue organizations, and besides boasting a dog welcoming tasting room, the winery hosts events like monthly Yappy Hours, and the annual Dog Days of Summer gala.
To drink: Unleashed Chardonnay, Merlot Over and Play Dead, Hell Hound red blend.
Kunde Family Estate Winery, Kenwood
How about a dedicated dog hike on moderately strenuous trails across the 1,850-acre Kenwood estate? The paths wind through oak woodlands, native grasslands, and chaparral, while taking in panoramic views of Sonoma Valley. And since it’s led by fourth generation winegrower, Jeff Kunde, plus his dogs Cooper and Marley, the trek rewards with insight into Kunde’s sustainable winegrowing practices. Conclude with a tasting and Wine Country lunch, and feel good knowing that a portion of the fee is donated to Canine Companions and the Sonoma County Humane Society.
To drink: Merlot, Red Dirt blend, Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel.
Truett Hurst, Healdsburg
The upscale ranch-like setting is a welcoming backdrop for dogs, spanning five acres of lush heirloom fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens, a creek running with Coho salmon and Steelhead trout, olive trees for sniffing, and goats and sheep for (politely) observing. Purchase some salumi, cheeses, smoked salmon, and pita chips, then take a seat on the paver stone patio, or on the red Adirondack chairs nestled beneath shade trees on the banks of the creek.
To drink: Salmon Run Rosé, Bluebird Sauvignon Blanc, White Sheep Pinot Noir.
BobDog Wines, Cloverdale
Winery dog Cabernet welcomes fellow furry friends to her estate set 2,000 feet above Alexander Valley, and winemaker Tim Ward and his wife Kandy Ward actually get hurt feelings if they find out you have a pooch and didn’t bring him/her along. Tastings include a vigorous hiking tour through the vines, and introductions to the winery’s miniature horses, mini-mule, followed by playtime on the crush pad and lawns.
To drink: Old Vine Zinfandel, Mountain Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon made from CabSau vines grafted onto Merlot trunks.
Hill Family Estate, Yountville
Fido may need a nap after a day of exploring dog-friendly wineries, and this downtown Napa Valley tasting salon is the perfect posh snoozing spot. Owners can sip amid an eclectic décor boasting a Fender electric guitar, antique furniture, and a surfboard and baseball bats stained with Hill Harvest Red wine. Go for the antipasti-paired seated tasting, and slip your friend a few bites here and there.
To drink: Tiara Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, Clarke Vineyard Syrah.
Bink Wines, Philo
Every good dog deserves a road trip, so pack the pup in the car and head to Philo in Mendocino County. At Bink Wines in the Madrones luxury bed and breakfast complex, co-owners Cindy Paulson and Deb Schatzlein have their own winery dog, Reilly, and love canines so much that they keep a collection of dog toys “for borrowing” in their tasting room. The floors are polished concrete for easy cleaning, there’s a large garden for exploring, and hosts can recommend other pooch-perfect adventures like the nearby Navarro River and beach.
To drink: Lumineux Merlot Rosé, Thomas T Thomas Pinot Noir, Old Chatham Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.