For many wine-producing regions, the months of August through October are the start of the grape harvest, the busiest time of the year. With this frenetic period comes the crush, when the just-picked vintage is processed and begins its journey from the vine to the bottle.
As thoughts turn to wine this time of year, they also turn to the dogs—the wine dogs, that is. As many a dog-obsessed wine lover knows, one of the most distinguishing features of a winery is its resident wine dog.
In the spirit of the season, we asked winemakers and winery owners across the nation about their canine tasting room ambassadors and production assistants. We found that while the wines themselves tend to be the main attraction, sometimes it’s the dogs who keep guests coming back for another taste.
So, grab a glass of your favorite drink and settle in for a treat to one of our favorite pairings: Wine and dogs!
8 Winery Dogs Who Just Want You to Drink Wine, Give Pets, and Repeat
Beatrice, Griz, and Olive, aka, “The Frenchies”
French Bulldogs Beatrice and Griz, 3, and their mom Olive, 7, are the resident pack at Lobo Hills winery in Woodinville, Washington.
In the past, the Frenchies have gone to the vineyards to help motivate workers as “therapy dogs” during the demanding harvest.
“People know we have Frenchies, and guests come into the winery and actually ask for them. They’ll just see them and laugh and get on the floor and want to hang out with them. They have this way of warming your heart up as soon as you see them,” said winery co-owner, Diana Dollar.
“Wine is about community, and community is having that sense of belonging, and dogs bring that out in their unconditional love of people.”
Indiana “Indy” Jones Eberle
9-year-old mixed breed Indy has only known one way of life—being the beloved wine dog of McMinnville, Oregon’s Yamhill Valley Vineyards, where he was raised by head winemaker Ariel Eberle.
“He is my trusty companion in the vineyard, winery, office, and at home,” Eberle told The Dog People.
The “official customer greeter,” and “official branch manager, collecting and retrieving sticks in the vineyard,” Indy “keeps morale up among the harvest interns and greets everyone each morning as they sip on their coffee in preparation for the day’s events.”
Because grapes are poisonous to dogs, and because “Indy loves grapes,” Eberle keeps close tabs on Indy to make sure he’s staying out of them.
“During harvest he spends most of his time inside the winery until we get all the grapes cleaned up outside.”
Eberle said she has “taken notes” from all she has learned with Indy by her side.
“Indy has taught me so much about how to live, most importantly how to be in the moment. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, he makes the best of it.”
When it was time to welcome a wine dog into the family and the family business, winemaker Greg Frichette, of Frichette Winery in Benton City, Washington, knew it had to be a Lab.
Frichette “grew up with a yellow Lab, Shelby, and had him for over 16 years,” Frichette’s wife and winery co-owner, Shae, told The Dog People. “With great memories of Shelby, he wanted to introduce this breed to his family and family business. So, he searched for the puppy who would eventually choose the Frichette family as her family.”
“Piper is sweet and loves people,” Shae said. One of Piper’s greatest needs in life is for you to love her, and never stop.
“Want to exercise your upper body? Piper loves rubs. She’ll nudge you when you are getting restless so that you keep your hands and upper body engaged by giving pats and rubs.”
Sadie loves to play—with tennis balls, stuffed toys, even the bouncy, silicone bungs used to cork wine barrels. “She watches when we sell them out of the tasting room wondering why they are going away,” said Joanne Dunham, co-founder of Dunham Cellars, in Walla Walla, Washington, where Sadie can be found most days.
“Sadie will lay in the courtyard for hours waiting for customers. If guests are enjoying their wine indoors, she will make a pass through with her tennis ball, drop the ball at their feet. When they pick up the ball, she runs out the door hoping they will follow her outdoors for fetching.”
The 7-year-old Border Collie is part of a long legacy for the winery, which has produced two separate wines inspired by the family dogs who “have been an important part of our personal lives as well as part of the winery’s,” Dunham said.
The “Four Legged White” riesling, inspired by Joanne’s husband’s dog, Maysy, was discontinued in 2016, but the “Three Legged Red” blend, inspired by Port, the family’s tripod, was first released in 2002 and is still being bottled today.
“It is still one of our most popular wines amongst our fans!”
Soda Pup, aka “Soda,” was bred in Florida to be a show dog, but it was not to be because of his “funky eye,” said Lori Yata, co-owner of Stone House Urban Winery, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Yata ran a Boxer rescue near Sarasota—the city that provided the inspiration for his name—and once Soda came into her care, he never left.
“He’s a calm, loving Boxer,” Yata said.
When Yata relocated to Maryland and teamed up with Stone House Urban Winery owner Lorie Dixon to help her run the business, Soda quickly became the beloved “official greeter” of the tasting room, “putting smiles on people’s faces,” and sweetly tolerating the many kids who came looking for him.
“He’s become the face of the winery,” Yata said.
Soda became a worldwide sensation last year when Yata outfitted him with a special backpack that allowed him to offer socially-distanced, curbside wine delivery to customers.
The 12-and-a-half-year old Boxer has now been retired from his canine courier services, but Yata estimates he made at least 100 deliveries. People travelled from neighboring states just to receive a “Soda delivery.”
“He literally kept us in business,” Yata said. “He has got me and the business through thick and thin.”
Ziggy was living on borrowed time at a high-kill shelter in Georgia.
That’s when Bruce Murray, of Boundary Breaks winery in Lodi, New York, first got a look at him. On Petfinder, of course.
With the help of Ruff Dog Rescue, “a network of animal-lovers who transport animals from shelters to new homes,” Murray explained, Ziggy made his way to where he belonged all along, with Murray and his wife and winery co-owner Diana at their dog-friendly winery.
Now the 5-year-old mixed breed (who is part Australian Shepherd, Staffordshire Terrier, and Rat Terrier) spends his days running through the vineyards and playing with the many dogs who come to the winery.
“We encourage our guests to bring their dogs,” Murray told The Dog People. “We do our tastings outdoors and we have a large, fenced-in dog run with a 20 by 40 foot tent for shade. Many of our employees also own dogs, and they often bring them to the winery. Sometimes there are as many as 15 dogs on the site.”
If you ever visit Boundary Breaks, it’s Ziggy, the winery’s official greeter, who you’ll likely be first to meet. “Because of his Aussie Shepherd nature, he wants to inspect anyone who arrives at the winery.”
For dog-obsessed wine lovers, it’s hard to imagine a better welcome.