Many people think us folks here about Mr. Wigglebutt only care about dogs, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, we care about dogs a lot but we also care about other stuff, like drinking! The folks at Mr. Wigglebutt like their whiskey and vodka and beers for sure, but there’s one thing as proper Californians we like drinking more than anything else by a mile, and that’s good old wine. Since we’re such big wine lovers and we live less than an hour from wine country, Leslie and I like to head to Napa every now and then to pick up our wine shipments and taste the fruit of the vine. Wine tasting in and of itself is a good time and a noble pursuit, but wine tasting with your dog….now that’s something special.
Back when I was 15 or so, you could do just about anything when you went wine tasting (like going wine tasting when you’re 15 and having no problem being served), but now Napa Valley has become this luxurious destination with all manner of snootiness so most of the time you’ve gotta know where you’re going and what’s cool and what is considered gauche.
So if you’re going to Napa and you want to bring your dog, feel free but just know some places are cool about it, and some ain’t. Behold, the Mr. Wigglebutt guide to wine tasting in Napa….
First and foremost, you need to understand that several wineries are dog friendly, but that doesn’t mean you can roll in there with your jank-ass, ungroomed, Mississippi Crotch Hound and just expect the folks at the winery to welcome you with open arms. Wash your dog, and make sure its well socialized and well behaved. Obviously not every dog is as awesome and fancy as Sherlock, but don’t go rolling into a winery with Barney the Beach Mutt either. Show some decorum people….please. (editors note: I’ve taken some heat on the above paragraph. If it offends you, relax, I’m joking. Key takeaway: make sure you’re dog is clean and doesn’t want to kill people)
Another must when wine tasting with your dog is to have it clear the decks before you actually get to the wineries. I know from experience how embarrassing it is to come walking up to a winery on a gorgeous day, only to have the dog immediately squat down and drop a hot steamer that takes 15 minutes to complete. Before you get to the winery, take your dog to a park, cemetery, home of someone you don’t like, etc and let them just shit for England. Always remember to have poop bags with you whether Fido has dropped ass or not because you never know when he will decide it’s time to lay a deuce and you want to be ready.
Calling ahead to check on whether or not a winery is dog friendly can be hit or miss. When you call ahead, you typically get one of three people, none of whom are helpful:
- Deer in the Headlights Chick – This gal will have to ask someone else if dogs are allowed, she’ll sound all nervous, put you on hold forever, blabber on about nothing, and generally lengthen the amount of time you have to wait until you get to drinking.
- Captain Wake & Bake – The dude who smoked four bowls of Kush before he showed up for work. Captain Wake & Bake will say something like “Uuuuhhh right on man, I love dogs” and then you show up and dogs aren’t allowed
- Little Lord Fauntleroy – I hate this guy the most. Little Lord Fautleroy is always some snobby rulesmeister who’s goal in life is to be a stuck up drag who wants to make life miserable for other people.
Point being, you can call ahead or not, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. We prefer the doggy ambush method where you just show up and walk in with your dog like a boss and hope nobody shuts you down.
Ask if you can taste outside. First off, it shows that you’re respectful of others in the tasting room and will go a long way towards people feeling like its cool for you to have your dog there. Second, and most importantly, tasting outside gets you closer to the action and if you’re comfortable talking to the people working at the winery, many times it’ll get you access to places others don’t see, barrel tastings, food from the garden (many wineries have organic gardens), and all sorts of unusual stuff. Outside is the place to be for you and your dog.
Finally, keep your dog on a close leash. At our favorite winery, Leslie and I used to just let Sherlock go and he’d run around and play with the other dogs. Then, one day, Sherlock charged straight up to the winery’s yellow lab, mounted up, and tried to get up in dem guts (fortunately, I was able to get him off…I mean make him stop). By and large, you love your dog, but everyone else might not, so keep him/her on leash and keep that leash close so nobody gets bothered.
Now that you’ve got the tips on how to go wine tasting with your pooch, here’s a list of some wineries and our dog experiences there:
Location: Napa valley on the Silverado Trail
Dog Status: Dog friendly, two paws up
We are long time members at Regusci and absolutely love their wines. The staff in the tasting room is always fun and knowledgable, the setting is gorgeous, and they allow dogs. Regusci is one of those places where it just feels good to be there and after you have their wine, it feels even better! Whether you have a dog or not, any wine tasting day is not complete without a stop at Regusci. Without question, the best winery in Napa Valley.
Location: Carneros end of Napa Valley
Dog Status: NOT dog friendly, two paws down
Artesa is a gorgeous winery with pretty good wine and an excellent membership program, but alas, they’re not dog friendly and they’re pretty freakish about it. You’d think with so much outdoor space and seating that Artesa would be down with the dogs or at least have a small dog friendly area but they aren’t and they’ll let you know about it. Sadly, the above photo was Sherlock’s first and last trip to Artesa. After this, Leslie was told Sherlock was not welcome at the winery so we left and cancelled our membership soon after. Nice place, but don’t bring your dog.
Dog Status: Dog friendly on the patio, one paw up!
Gloria Ferrer is a great maker of sparkling wine, in a gorgeous spot, allows dogs on the patio, and is one of our favorite stops if we’re near Sonoma. Gloria Ferrer also does a great tasting complete with nuts and they have an excellent wine club. Gloria Ferrer is a larger winery so they have a big variety of bubbly from $100 per bottle all the way down to $15 per bottle so there’s something for everyone. Great spot!
Location: Napa Valley on the Silverado Trail
Dog Status: NOT dog friendly, two paws waaaaaay down
Let me start off by saying Darioush is a stunning winery, full of fanciness, and they have a great tasting room staff. Unfortunately, last time we visited, we tried the ambush like a boss method of bringing Sherlock, and Leslie got nailed as soon as she walked in the door. The guy who stopped us was all in a huff and said we can only have Sherlock inside if we hold him. I asked about tasting outside and he denied me with great flourish. So, if you want some better than average wines, lots of snootiness, and a place that hates dogs, this is your place. Shame on you Darioush, shaaaaaaame.
Poor Sherlock, shut out in the cold at Darioush (below)
Location: Napa Valley on Highway 29 in Rutherford
Dog Status: Dog friendly (I think), two paws up!
Whitehall Lane is another one of our favorites and is the first winery I ever did a tasting at many years ago. I have to admit I’m not totally sure on Whitehall’s official dog status because these guys are so laid back and cool, they always just tell us to bring Sherlock inside. Whitehall Lane is small and everyone there is casual but don’t let that fool you because their wine is knock your socks off fantastic! If you drive up the famous Highway 29 through Napa, Whitehall Lane is about midway between St Helena and Napa proper so you’d pass it once on the way up and once on the way back…and I’d suggest you stop both times!
Dog Status: Dog friendly in their tasting room/retail center, one paw up!
B. Wise is a largely unheard of winery which makes no sense because their wines are outstanding. The retail tasting room off the highway is dog friendly and the people working there are very nice. We used to be members but had to cancel because B. Wise wine ain’t cheap and it was time to make a few cutbacks. If you’re ever in Sonoma and you want to have a truly special wine tasting experience, make reservations to go to the caves for tasting at B. Wise (pictured above). The cave is very nice, very unique, and very intimate. Best of all, two large doors open out to panoramic views of Sonoma valley. Definetely not to be missed!
Get out there and go wine tasting and take your dog with you too! You’ll see a side of the wine country you’ve never seen before.