One of the most obvious statements I could make about myself is, “I love dogs,” but the second is, “I enjoy wine.” Of course, I consider dog-friendly wineries to be a little slice of heaven. But I found three wineries who take that a step further, with operations that not only welcome dogs, but benefit them. I’m in love.
I contacted Carivintas Winery, Barrel Oak Winery, and Chateau Morrisette to ask them about wine, dogs, and what bottle they would recommend after a game of fetch.
Carivintas is dedicated to making quality wine and bringing a better quality of life to unfortunate animals. Owner and winemaker Fleet Hamilton took time out of his busy schedule to talk about the concept behind Carivintas, his pets, and what he does to make his winery comfortable for dogs.
Dogster: Your slogan is “Blending Wine with Philanthropy.” What are some of the ways that your winery embodies that?
Fleet Hamilton: We started the winery with three things in mind: to do something we enjoy and love, to make a decent living, and to give back to the community. You’ll notice the art on our labels is of animals and various wildlife scenes. These are all paintings derived from photographs of rescued animals and treasured or endangered environs.
We are affiliated with nonprofit groups such as Best Friends Animal Society, and many local animal shelters around the country. A portion of our sales is donated to these groups through special fundraising programs every year.
Best Friends have a refuge that they populate with many animals who need direct relief; they are not just a political action group. They especially caught my attention when they took in 22 of the dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s operation. Return to Freedom is also a direct relief organization local to us.
Do you have any pets?
Quite a clan! Do they accompany you to the winery?
Occasionally they do, but it’s pretty tough to watch them and work efficiently — the dogs like to wander across to the park.
Why do you think that dogs are such a big part of wine culture?
For those of us who tend grapes out in the vineyard, they are our companions, and people who love wine tend to love animals, too, in my not so humble opinion. All animals have a special place with Carivintas; we want to help them out.
Do you have any dog-related charity events that you would like Dogster readers to know about?
We generally have fundraising sales of special labels in the fall for the holiday season, especially with Return to Freedom. There will also be a fundraising day for Old Yeller Ranch Rescue in June or July.
Finally: What wine would you recommend after a game of fetch?
A nice crisp ice-cold Rosé!
It’s no coincidence that the initials of this winery spell out “BOW.” Dogs are a strongly felt presence at the vineyard, on the website, and even on the stemware. Owners Sharon and Brian Roeder’s love for dogs and wine is infectious.
Dogster: Why do you think dogs are such a big part of wine culture?
Brian Roeder: They entertain and provide comic relief and comfort during the long and unforgiving hours of winemaking.
Have you always been dog people?
Absolutely. We got our first Golden Retriever, the beloved Bogart, soon after our engagement. We got our third Goldie the week before we opened BOW.
I love that your brand is very dog-centric. Was the vineyard envisioned that way from the beginning?
Yes. Everybody loves dogs. We wanted an excuse to have them around and we thought it would help with our brand development.
Do you encourage others to bring their pups to the Barrel Oak?
We are the most dog-friendly winery in America! Dogs are always welcome inside and out and guaranteed many scratches behind the ears, kids to play with, complimentary treats, and water dishes everywhere.
This may be a silly question, but I know grapes are toxic to dogs: has there ever been a problem with any dogs trying to eat the grapes?
No. We keep the winery meticulously clean, so when we are working with grapes during the harvest months, dogs are not present and the crushed grapes are cleaned up immediately.
I love the profiles you have for your pups! Are some more active in their roles in the vineyard than others? Who likes their “job” the best?
Birch appointed himself Head of Hospitality at the winery, so he is definitely the most serious about his job. Justice is a Golden Retriever through and through, and a job would really just take too much away from his playtime. Peanut is definitely top dog, though. She is very chicken, but not in the least bit hesitant to command the other dogs.
Who hits up visitors for treats?
Birch is insatiable. He knows that he has the power of his mind over matter. He will sit at the magic treat counter for hours tapping his toes for treats. It is amazing how much of the food magically appears and falls into his mouth. He knows he will be rewarded by being insistent!
Tell me about your Wine and Fleas fundraiser.
I blame the Westies! The good folks at Maryland Westie Rescue came to us a few years back and asked to use BOW for a fundraiser. We have been welcoming the Westies ever since!
What are some of your other favorite charitable organizations?
We just finished providing the last of $12,500 donated from sales of our TourGaFranc to the LiveStrong Foundation. In all the winery has given $144,000 in cash donations plus over a thousand gift certificates for silent auctions, each worth $150.
We also love Lucky Dog and Lost Dog Rescues and Helping Haitian Angels, as well as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. We have helped over a hundred organizations raise $800,000 by giving the winery to them to use for their fundraising since 2008.
What wine would you recommend after a game of fetch?
That would be the BOWHaus White. Perfect for cooling down and quenching a thirst on a beautiful summer day.
The Morrisette family planted their first grapevines in 1978, when there were no working wineries in the state. Four years later, David Morrisette produced his first commercial wine, an accomplishment he dedicated to his Labrador, Hans.
Dogs continue to be a driving influence at the winery and can be found hanging out on the property or on the bottles. I talked to Keith Toler from Chateau Morrisette.
Dogster: You refer to your winery as “the winery that dogs built.” Why do you think dogs play such a big role in wine culture?
Keith Toler: Wine is all about slowing life down. Growing grapes can take up to five years before they may be harvested to make wine. They are usually grown on an estate with lots of open space and the grapes require constant attention. Who better to while away the time with than man’s best friend? Even if you’re not growing the grapes and making the wine, having the companionship of a dog while you enjoy a glass of wine just seems to be a natural fit.
In our case, Hans, the original Chateau Morrisette Black Lab, went to school with our founder, David Morrisette, and was with him through bottling of our very first wine, a red blend called the Black Dog, in 1991.
Hans, our mascot, appears on most all of our wine labels. He stuck by David during planting, growing, and harvest season, and was expert in lapping up any wine spillage during production. Hans was instrumental in encouraging the Morrisettes to persevere in their hobby-gone-wild venture by offering moral support, a warm muzzle, and a friendly handshake through thick and thin.
David wanted to demystify wine for the public and produced the Black Dog Wine in 1991 in honor of Hans. The wine label sported an original art design showing a black dog drinking out of a young lady’s wineglass.
Who are the current canine mascots of Chateau Morrisette?
The last of our Labradors died last year. His name was Lucky. We will soon be getting another Labrador to stand in for the long line of Black Labs who have represented us here at the winery.
It would not be uncommon to find Barnabus wandering the property. He is a 180-pound Newfoundland and some guests often think he’s a bear when they first see him. Caesar is sometimes here. He’s a 100-pound Great Pyrenees mix. Both these dogs keep the Morrisette family company when not at the winery.
Leon belongs to our cellar tech, Joe, and he loves to find a nice shady spot in the garden and dig out a small den. Katie Red is a small Shih Tzu and she resides in the offices. Guests can easily recognize her because she has on a different dress almost every day! She’s definitely an inside pooch and will only be seen when one of us takes her for a walk around the estate.
Many employees bring their dogs to work with them when possible. A couple come every day, while others only come on special occasions. It really depends on the nature of the job.
Do you have any favorite dog rescue or other dog charities that you work with?
We produce a red blend called Liberty, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this wine is donated to the St. Francis of Assisi Service Dog Foundation and the Service Dogs of Virginia. We also sponsor a pet adoption at the winery each year working with the Floyd County Humane Society.
What are some of your favorite dog-friendly events that you hold at the winery?
We have four Black Dog Music Festivals each year, at which dogs on a leash are always welcome. These festivals attract about 2,000 patrons to each event and people bring their dogs along for the fun. From June to October, we offer free concerts every Sunday on our winery courtyard and guests are welcome to bring their dogs, enjoy some wine, and listen to the music.
What do you do to make your vineyard dog friendly?
Well-behaved dogs are welcome anywhere on the estate (except in our restaurant, where Virginia law prohibits them). There are water bowls in different places, and our cashiers have been known to give out treats. We offer for sale unique dog beds, organic dog treats, and a variety of clothing featuring the Black Dog.
What wine would you recommend after a game of fetch?
After a game of fetch, you want something that’s crisp and refreshing. I would suggest our 2012 Nouveau Chien, the newest dog in the Kennel of Chateau Morrisette wines. It’s best described as new world and evocative with a sweet and sultry finish. Perfect to cool down after a brisk summer activity, but don’t forget your water, too!
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About the author: Claire Lower is a freelance writer who holds a B.S. in chemistry. She was raised by two veterinarians and used to nap in kennels. Read more writerly things by her, see what she eats every day, or follow her on Twitter.
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