See Ya Later Ranch Okanagan Falls, BC
Located in British Columbia’s Okanagan Falls, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley region known as wine country, See Ya Later Ranch sits at the highest elevation of any vineyard in the area. Founded by Major Hugh Fraser in 1919, the ranch was named after the three-word parting note left by his wife when her London upbringing disagreed with their rural lifestyle. Despite his wife’s departure, Major Fraser, a dog-loving eccentric, was not alone, having many canines to keep him company. He ran the ranch for over forty years, and upon his death was buried at his behest in the dog cemetery he had created for his loyal companions.
In homage to the Major and his love of dogs, a pup with angel wings graces the label of every bottle of See Ya Later Ranch. See Ya Later is now home to three dogs: Hiro, Goku, and Pinot, who can be seen wandering the vineyards, greeting visitors, and playing with empty wine boxes.
Today the ranch produces three award-winning reds, two of which are named after the Major’s dogs, as is their rosé, “Nelly.” Also in the offering are acclaimed whites ranging from riesling to chardonnay and a delightful sparkling brut.
50 cents from every bottle sold is donated to the BC SPCA and the vineyard participates in the annual local Dog Days of Summer charity pet fashion show. The ranch welcomes dogs at its events as well as tastings and tours, offering watering-stations for canine guests who have worked up a thirst wandering the property. Visitors can the tour the ranch with their dogs, taking in breathtaking views of the Okanagan Valley and Skaha Lake, before stopping for lunch at the Patio Restaurant with its lake breezes and vineyard vistas. We can see why the Major stuck it out. —LE
Mutt Lynch Winery Healdsburg, CA
At Mutt Lynch Winery in Healdsburg, CA, owners Brenda and Chris Porter and their winery dog Patch, an ex-racing Greyhound rescue from New Zealand, dream of creating a leash-free world. Their dedication to dogs and rescue efforts in particular runs deep. Mutt Lynch combines the Porter’s love of all things dog with their passion for creating new and innovative “doggone good” wine, all while helping dogs in need.
Dog friendly, of course, Mutt Lynch Winery is a place where visitors can bring their canines to share with them a personal wine-touring experience. The Porter’s enjoy getting to know their visitors’ dogs while guests get to know the Mutt Lynch wines. The winery is open for individual visits by appointment, as well as for an array of special events throughout the year.
Aside from constantly elevating their craft and creating award-winning wines, Mutt Lynch Winery is always on the lookout for ways to promote animal rescue and pet adoption through their business. The winery supports local animal rescue organizations in different communities and partners up with wine shops and restaurants all over the country to fundraise, promote rescue, and publicize the ongoing struggle to save stray, surrendered, and abandoned pets’ lives.
In 2009 alone, Mutt Lynch supported over 50 nonprofit animal organizations and attended over 30 fundraising events, resulting in $30,000 in donations. Mutt Lynch also hosts an annual dog art label contest in partner with DogArtToday.com in which artists from all over submit works and the most popular appears on a Mutt Lynch label. Recognizing the popularity the contest drew in during it’s first few years, this year the Porters donated 10 percent of all of the proceeds from the sales of the exclusive wine to the San Francisco SPCA. And that’s not all. Mutt Lynch supports adoption efforts on a national level too, donating $10,000 to the pet adoption website Adoptapet.com in 2010. How cool is that?—SI
DogRidge McLauren Flat, Australia
DogRidge is a family-run vineyard and winery on the McLauren Flat in South Australia. Dave and Jen Wright bought property in 1992 and in doing so inherited several vine plantings from the 1940s, making theirs some of the oldest vines in South Australia. The vineyard is named after Dog Ridge, a type of rootstock used in grape growing, which happened to fit with the Wright’s love of Curly Coated Retrievers, as well as their location at the top of a sandy ridge. The 140 acre vineyard produces a variety of wines including sauvignon blancs, chardonnays, grenaches, merlots, petit verdos, and award-winning shiraz’s.
The winery and vineyard is home to two Curly Coated Retrievers, Nelly and Goose, a mother-daughter team, as well as the occasional kangaroo and rabbit. During vintage season, which runs February to April in South Australia, Nelly and Goose like to nip at the ripe grapes, letting winemaker Fred Howard know it’s time to start the harvest.
At wine tastings, available by appointment, Nelly and Goose make an unofficial welcoming party, greeting visitors with wagging tails.
Tours of the property are offered for those who wish to stretch their legs and take in the view, and while canine tourists are uncommon at the vineyard, they’re free to join the tour and (paws crossed) even chase a rabbit or ‘roo or two, should one happen by. At the end of a tour or tasting, a stop at the on-premises art gallery featuring works by resident vitner/artist Jen Wright is a must.—LE
Frenchie Winery Napa, CA
Jean-Charlet Boisset opened Napa Valley’s first dog-helmed winery located at Raymond Vineyards in May 2012 with the belief that no four-legged pal should be left to languish in the car while her people sipped good wine.
When Boisset entered the fast-paced wine business and traveling became a frequent part of his job, he got Frenchie, a French Bulldog, to keep his wife company while he was on the road. Who was to foresee that Frenchie would become such a beloved part of the family that he would inspire Boisset to start a winery named for him? With Frenchie as the figurehead of the winery, visitors are encouraged to bring their dogs along. Innovative and extremely dog friendly, the winery provides outdoor dog suites where guests’ canines can relax or nod off in their own wine-barrel beds. When the tour heads indoors, guests can watch their companion’s outdoor experience by means of the “Frenchie Cam,” a camera set up to monitor dogs visiting the winery.
Among Frenchie’s current releases are a 2009 Napoleon Red Wine blend and a 2008 Louis XIV Cabernet Sauvignon, each $30. Labels feature artist Carol Lew’s depictions of Frenchie as different historical figures. For every bottle of wine sold, Frenchie Winery donates one dollar to the ASPCA.
In addition to its regular Monday-through-Sunday tastings and tours, Frenchie Winery also hosts dog-friendly events, such as their first annual “Bark-B-Que,” which took place this past July and included food, music, wine, and an on-site mobile pet groomer. Sounds like a good time to us.—SI
Dog Point Vineyard Marlborough, New Zealand
Dog Point Vineyard is located in the major grape growing region of New Zealand, Marloborough’s Wairau Valley, an area situated at the northern tip of the South Island that sees lots of sunshine, allowing for the slow evolution of the vibrant fruit flavours found in Dog Point’s wines. It is the history of this geographical area that gave the vineyard its name. When the Europeans began to settle in Marlborough, they introduced sheep into the district. The shepherds’ dogs often wandered off and eventually made a home of the hill where today’s vineyard now stands. As a result, the early settlers named the spot “Dog Point.” The vineyard’s owners, Ivan and Margaret Sutherland and James and Wendy Healy, have honoured this history by keeping the name and producing delicious, highly acclaimed wines, including a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir, distinct to the region.
Dog Point has received the most praise for its Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc, called “one of the finest examples of this variety made in New Zealand (and hence in the world).”—NS
Punk Dog Wines Napa, CA
Punk Dog Wines believes that “everyone needs to take their fun seriously.” Inspired by their energetic and strong-willed Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Sophie, Lisa and Eric Gordon created the Punk Dog label in 2001 with the mission to create new and unconventional blends meant to be enjoyed right after purchase. According to the Gordons, Sophie, now Punk Dog’s “mischievous mascot,” represents all that Punk Dog wines strive to be: bold and adventurous, with a whole lot of character.
The Gordons call their Napa Valley situated Punk Dog vineyard “absolutely Californian,” and given the reputation of California as the natural home of free thinkers, that seems apt.
Punk Dog has developed a distinct philosophy focused on quality, originality, and, most importantly, the sheer enjoyment of winemaking. The wines themselves attest to the label’s commitment to all that is unconventional. They blend mostly red wines, which often change on an annual basis depending on the quality of grapes available. These blends are not limited to grapes from the same region, or even of the same ripeness level. And because Sophie has played such an important role in the founding of Punk Dog, her name has naturally crept into both the wine names and label design. Case in point: the winery focuses on two wines each year, Sophie’s Riddle and Sophie’s Romp.
Sophie’s Riddle is a lighter blend that changes from year to year, while Sophie’s Romp is a bold, Cabernet-based blend.
Punk Dog is also planning to release two vintage 2009 wines later on this year: Sophie’s Zin, a Zinfandel, and Sophie’s Zen, a desert wine.—NS
Cru Vin Denver, CO
Combining artistic talent, a passion for wine, love for canines, and social conscience, Denver, Colorado-based Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group unearths fantastic vineyards and small lots of wine throughout the world to craft exceptional blends at an approachable price point. Each blend honours a real dog with a special story and features a label with an original, limited-edition illustration by artist Jay P. Snellgrove, one of the Cru Vin partners. Once a particular vintage is sold out, the label is put to rest and never used again. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from every bottle is donated to specific canine-related causes, such as service organizations, animal shelters, and rescue groups.
The winery has four different artistic series. Loyal Companion Wine is made by eco-friendly wine maker Tony Wasowicz and supports local animal shelters and rescue groups through the donation of a portion of the wine sales and the creation of Loyal Companion dog tags. The Puppy series and Portrait series both feature drawings of dogs that were once a part of the Cru Vin Dogs Wine Group team. And finally, the exclusive Best in Show series is made in limited quantities, paying tribute to prestigious winners from international dog shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club and Crufts. All not only have a charitable aim but also strive to draw attention to the causes they support. Now that’s doggone delicious.—SI