By Gina Trippi
If you’re talking wine, you’re talking dogs—somewhere. Dogs are in the vineyard, the winery, the tasting room, the retail shop and even the wine critics corner.
Why? It is said that dogs in the winery tasting room bring comfort to guests and make the experience of tasting wine a little less threatening. In our shop, the occasional appearance and constant photographs of the Shop Dogs, our two greyhounds Bandit and Cate, represent our values of honesty, loyalty and community.
Much has been written about dogs living the good life at wineries. We should be so lucky! Wine Dogs, a book featuring more than 300 wineries and 450 photos of the resident dogs, reveals which dog ate a couch and who chewed Bill Clinton’s leg! While there are a lot of fun and heartwarming stories like these, the truth is that the dog that walks beside the winemaker has a special mission. Winemaking sounds romantic and glamorous, but the reality is that the job is largely about farming and, on some days, it can be quite lonely.
Jesse Lange of Lange Estates in Dundee, Oregon, works the fields with Maggie, a ten-year old golden retriever. “I walk the vineyard and pull a cluster to check the grapes, tasting the grapes from the top, middle and bottom for quality and ripeness,” Lange says. “Maggie follows and does some tasting herself.”
In California, Shauna Rosenblum carries on the family tradition of winemaking started by her father Kent Rosenblum. A veterinarian by trade, Kent fell in love with Zinfandel and the rest is, as they say, history. But dogs remain a permanent fixture at the winery. Shauna features a photograph of her blind pit bull playing guitar and sporting a pair of Ray Charles sunglasses on the label of her flagship wine called Rock Hound.
Quincy Steele, the son of legendary winemaker Jed Steele and an accomplished winemaker in his own right, spends time in the vineyard with Ouna. “She spends everyday walking the vineyards with me,” says Steele, “She sees it as her job to chase rabbits.” Ouna came from another farm to live with Steele so she is in her element. But Ouna doesn’t just walk the vineyards in California; she keeps Steele company in Beaune, France as well!
Vineyard dogs are not just an American idea. Giampaolo Tabarrini’s winery in Umbria, Italy, was recently featured in the highly regarded magazine Wine Spectator. “Bruno is not a dog; he is more human than many humans,” says Tabarrini about his Italian mastiff. During the day, Bruno enjoys the freedom of the vineyards, sharing his day with the workers picking the grapes. “But at night,” Tabarrini says: “Bruno comes home to sleep on the sofa!”
What about dogs and wine in Asheville? Lettie Teague, wine critic for the Wall Street Journal, addressed the subject in her column of October 23, 2016 titled Asheville: America’s Next Great Wine Town? Teague observed that dogs were “everywhere at MetroWines” and noted we employ one of our two greyhounds, Bandit, to engage customers. “His image is on Bandit’s Bargains signs throughout the store, touting the very best buys,” says Teague, who keeps her own pair of Corgis close while she writes.
In addition to all the virtues that dogs represent in the wine world, they are also just plain good company and, sometimes, wine representatives!
Gina Trippi is the co-owner of Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street in Asheville. Committed to the community, Metro Wines offers big shop selection with small shop service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.575.9525.