It's a Dog's Life in Wine Country - Sonoma West Times & News

04/06/11

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From the Sonoma West Times & News
Author Laura McCutcheon

The wine isn’t the only thing that makes Lambert Bridge Winery guests feel warm-and-fuzzy inside, according to those who know and love their tasting room pooches. The Healdsburg winery is home to a 2-year-old, 160-pound St. Bernard named Bernadette, and a 4-year-old yellow lab named Gus, both of whom are said to give the tasting room a welcoming, homey feeling.

“She’s a princess,” Lambert Bridge Winery managing partner Greg Wilcox said, referring to Bernadette – or Bernie for short. “She is perhaps the most photographed dog in Sonoma County. As soon as people come in she rolls on her back and the people are on the floor petting her,” he said, adding, “I am actually considering changing my business philosophy: Give the wine away free and charge to pet Bernie.” Bernie’s job is to seduce people into buying the wine and Gus, the winery’s other dog, is in charge of protecting the vineyard from turkeys, Wilcox said.

“Gus has wine in his veins,” he said, noting he is the offspring of Rafanelli and Mauritson winery dogs. His dad is from Rafanelli and his mom is from Mauritson. “So Gus was truly born into the wine industry,” he said. He’s also a celebrity of sorts, according to Wilcox who said Gus is on page 250 of the second edition of “Winery Dogs.” Bernadette, who was not born when that edition was published, has already been photographed – sitting in a half wine barrel – for the third edition, he said, noting it hasn’t come out yet.

“Winery Dogs” of Sonoma is a 176 page hardcover book full of just that, with photos and bios included. There are four different versions, covering dogs in Sonoma, Napa, Central California and New York. Other publications, such as “Wine Dogs USA,” “Wine Dogs Australia,” “Wine Dogs Italy” … bear testament to the fact that dogs and wineries seem to go hand in hand.

Asked about the connection, Wilcox said, “We are just dog lovers here at the winery. I would say nine out of 10 people who walk through our door have dogs, and one of the first things they tell me is ‘We miss our dogs… we need a dog fix,’ and then down to the floor they go to play with our dogs. They don’t just bend over; they sit down on the floor and lay with the dogs.”

Often times, visitors to the tasting room are on vacation so they haven’t seen their own pets for a while, he said. But the dogs also give people a “very homey, welcoming feeling. It’s almost like you’ve come home,” Wilcox said.

Lambert Bridge also has a winery cat named Kitcat, but she doesn’t get as much attention as the dogs do, due to her “standoffish” personality. Apparently she also doesn’t like to be confined to the tasting room, where the dogs hang out and lap up the attention.

“You pet a cat and they tend to walk off. The dogs will sit there and lay with you and let you pet them,” Wilcox said.

by Laura McCutcheon

Events to enjoy with a four-legged friend – staff writer

Lambert Bridge Winery dog friendly affair

Lambert Bridge Winery on the first Friday of each month (beginning around May, weather dependent) holds a dog friendly affair where guests are invited to bring their canines to the winery with them.

“We crank up our big Italian ovens in the picnic grounds and we make pizza and drink wine,” Greg Wilcox, managing partner of Lambert Bridge said, noting Fideaux bakes special treats for the dogs and they even have dog toys scattered in the yard.

“I think we have had 46 dogs at one time with their owners eating pizza and drinking wine,” he said. The animal shelter generally brings dogs up for adoption to the Friday evening events, and some of the wine club members have been known to make donations to the animal shelter right on the spot.

In addition, Lambert Bridge during the months of November and December donates 50 percent of the proceeds coming from wine sales to local residents, to the Healdsburg Animal Shelter, Wilcox said.

For more information call 431-9600.

Man’s best friend has made his way into the wine industry; next thing you know he will be sipping chardonnay with his master – which could be the winemaker himself.

“You can’t make wine without a dog,” states Vincent Arroyo of Vincent Arroyo Winery in a book called “Winery Dogs” – one of many publications featuring colorful photos of canines along with their bios. “Wine Dogs USA” is testament that Arroyo’s sentiments are shared by winemakers around the world.

Sonoma County is home to dozens of dog-friendly wineries that treat their pets as part of the family. Some wineries go beyond the tasting room pooch and the vineyard dog, however.

Blessing of the Animals

Take Santa Rosa’s St. Francis Winery for example, where once a year a priest comes out and actually blesses animals with holy water.

The pets also get their photos taken at “Blessing of the Animals” while the humans drink wine and meander among vendors selling pet accessories, grooming services, etc. All proceeds from the event go to the Sonoma Humane Society, which also attends the event with an adoption truck.

“It’s a wonderful day. It’s one of the best events we have all year,” said Event Captain Monique Buchmann. “Last year a camel came out, his name was Humphrey. Sometimes people bring in their horses; we get lots of cats, a turtle one year … random animals,” she said, noting, however, they see more far more dogs than anything else. The event will be held late September or early October (date to be announced). For more information call (888) 675-WINE ex. 255.

Dog Days of Summer

“Come humans, come dogs, come all” is Mutt Lynch Winery’s invitation for “Dog’s Days of Summer,” an annual event that raises funds for “man’s best friend.”

All proceeds from this year’s affair, slated for Aug. 6, will benefit the Healdsburg Animal Shelter. Past events have raised as much as $10,000, according to Mutt Lynch Winery owner Brenda Lynch who said this year’s goal is higher due to the fact that multiple wineries are participating, as opposed to just Mutt Lynch in the past.

Dog Days of Summer is a “doggone good time,” Lynch said. This year’s event will feature new release wine tasting, Hound Lounge (an area set up with a bunch of dog beds where canines can kick back and relax, and wine barrels where people can tether their dogs), Yapps and Apps (dog treats and human treats, such as milk bones and cheese and crackers), live music, dog art, and the unveiling of the new label for “Mutt-itage” – a Bordeaux blend made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

“Mutt Lynch Winery was founded on the belief of giving back to the community. Dogs are an integral part of families and we need to include them in everything we do,” Lynch said, noting the winery has donated, participated or sponsored over 500 charitable events throughout the United States, Caribbean, Romania and Mexico.

Dog Days of Summer will be held from 1 to 4 p.m., Aug. 6. For more information call 942-6180.

Copyright © 2011 Lambert Bridge

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Lambert Bridge 4085 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448 (800) 975-0555