Winery dogs: “You can’t make a good wine without a dog”

DOGS ARE A WINEMAKER’S BEST FRIEND, providing companionship in the vineyard and at the winery. They romp among the vines, chasing balls and snacking on grapes. Many of them greet guests at the winery, as much a part of the experience as tasting wine.

There’s also a deeper connection. “Just like drinking wine, or pruning a vine, to be a human with a dog is to participate in the most ancient of acts,” as one sommelier puts it. Adds one winery owner: “You can’t make good wine without a dog.”

We’ve gotten to know some foothill winery dogs over the years. Here are some: Lolita, Naggiar Vineyards Lolita plays in the vineyard, and she greets guests who visit the tasting room. “Lolita thinks she works for the winery,” jokes owner Diane Naggiar.

Like Naggiar’s previous dogs (Captain and Lucky), 12-year-old Lolita is a rescue dog. Diane fell in love with Lolita when she saw her in a box with other puppies at a nearby shopping center.

“I couldn’t resist her big brown eyes,” she says. Lolita, a golden-colored dog in a litter of black puppies, is a mix of Golden Retriever and Cocker Spaniel.

Chewy, Sierra Starr
Our young son loves Chewy, as do the other guests who visit Sierra Starr’s tasting room in downtown Grass Valley. “He’s a great people dog,” says owner Anne Starr. The Starrs figure Chewy, who is 10-1/2 years old, is a mix of Rotweiller and hound dog.

During Sierra Starr’s concerts in the vineyard, Chewy walks among the guests, stopping for pets. He also likes to lean against your leg and chew on bones.

Ava, Pilot Peak
Ava is a Golden Retriever who entertains guests, keeps deer out of the vineyard and “supervises” the harvest, says co-owner/winemaker Lynn Wilson.

Ava wears a special shawl during Pilot Peak’s events that reads: “Petting me is good, feeding me is bad, thank you.”

Ruger and Wesson, Smith Vineyard
The two chocolate labs play in the vineyard and watch over the bottling. “They love being around people,” says owner Christine Smith.

Smith also has a winery cat, Diego. “He is a great hunter in the vineyard,” Christine says.

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