Perfect pairing: Wine and dogs—what’s not to love?

When the editorial team at Knife & Fork, the quarterly food-and-drink magazine published by C-VILLE Weekly, saw this exuberant photograph of Finnigan—the Australian labradoodle at Veritas Vineyards & Winery—we knew we had our cover dog. Photo: Zack Wasjgras When the editorial team at Knife & Fork, the quarterly food-and-drink magazine published by C-VILLE Weekly, saw this exuberant photograph of Finnigan—the Australian labradoodle at Veritas Vineyards & Winery—we knew we had our cover dog. Photo: Zack Wasjgras
Finnigan among the vines at Veritas. Photo: Zack Wasjgras

On July 1, 2018, Virginia House Bill 286 went into effect, officially allowing dogs to enter winery tasting rooms. The occasion was met with no discernible reaction from one constituency: the dogs that live at wineries. Those lucky animals need not engage in any “get your laws off my fur” protest. As vineyard owners and winemakers will tell you, the resident dog pretty much does whatever he or she wishes. Whether they’re mascots, greeters, or guardians that chase away other animals, like geese or even pigs, canines at some vineyards can gain a certain level of celebrity. “People call and ask, ‘Is Fig in the tasting room today?’” Paul Summers, owner of Knight’s Gambit Vineyard, says of the popular hound. “They don’t ask about hours or whether we have a band playing on the porch—they only want to know about Fig.” We’re tail-wagging happy to introduce you to Fig and a few other four-legged drinking buddies right here. Editor’s note: In the print edition of Knife & Fork, we misidentified cover dog Finnigan as Emma, an extremely similar looking pup from Muse Vineyards (see below).

Fig, a 3-year-old hound mix rescue, is evidently tired after a day of greeting tasting-room visitors at Knight’s Gambit Vineyard. Photo: Zack Wajsgras


Owner, winery: Paul Summers, Knight’s Gambit Vineyard

Gender, breed: female, hound mix

Age: 3

Origin: Charlottesville/Albemarle SPCA

Attributes: Sweet, affable

Duties: “When the tasting room is open, she mingles,” Summers says. “Otherwise, she’s out hunting something or other.”

Memorable moment: “None really stands out. She’s just so all-around friendly—that’s her greatest characteristic.”

Birdie the blue heeler, winemaker Ben Jordan’s dog, leads her human down a row of vines at Early Mountain Vineyards. Photo: Zack Wajsgras


Owner, winery: Ben Jordan, Early Mountain Vineyards

Gender, breed: female, blue heeler (Australian cattle dog)

Age: 5

Origin: Harrisonburg breeder

Attributes: Big personality, high energy, always “on”

Duties: “She hangs out at the winery, not down near the tasting room. She thinks it’s her job to watch over me, so she follows me everywhere, out to the vineyards, you name it.”

Memorable moment: “We had a big event for the Virginia Winemaking Board. There were buyers in from around the country. We were all sitting down, eating—lamb cooked on a spit. I got a tap on my shoulder, looked up, and Birdie was standing on the [carving] table, licking up the drippings. It made quite the picture—I had it framed.”

Ti Rey the Welsh Corgi has pretty good hops for a 7-year-old. His first name is a French term of endearment, and “Rey” is an abbreviation of Dee (left) and Roe Allison’s vineyard name, Reynard Florence. Photo: Zack Wajsgras

Ti Rey

Owners, winery: Dee and Roe Allison, Reynard Florence Vineyard

Gender, breed: male, Corgi

Age: 7

Origin: Dalarno Welsh Corgis, Culpeper

Attributes: Gentle, unflappable, confident

Duties: “He’s our official greeter,” Dee Allison says. “When people arrive for a tasting, he knows before we do, goes straight to the door, and herds them in.”

Memorable moment: “He picks out certain people he likes, lays down beside them, and puts his head on their foot—right there at the tasting bar,” she says.
Abbey, an 11-year-old golden retriever, sometimes has a tough time keeping up with her younger sister, Shelby, a 7-year-old German shepherd border collie mix. Photo: Zack Wasjgras

Abbey and Shelby

Owners, winery: Jason and Laura Lavallee, Wisdom Oak Winery

Gender, breed: both female; golden retriever (Abbey), German shepherd/border collie mix (Shelby)

Ages: Abbey, 11, Shelby, 9

Origin: Abbey, Augusta Dog Adoptions, Waynesboro; Shelby, a farmer in Pennsylvania

Attributes: “Abbey’s mellow and reserved,” Laura Lavallee says. “Shelby’s outgoing and rough-and-tumble, a tomboy dog.”

Duties: Abbey mostly hangs out with visitors on the patio, but she also looks to Shelby for direction and will follow her around. “Shelby’s the hunter—chasing away birds and deer,” says Lavallee.

Memorable moment: “Four pigs got loose from the farm next door and decided to visit,” she says. “‘Next door’ in this case means a half-mile away. Shelby spent a good 25 minutes herding them. It was a lot of work, but she got them back home.”

Finnigan the Australian labradoodle is at home among the aging tanks and barrels—and everywhere else, for that matter—at Veritas Vineyard & Winery. Photo: Zack Wasjgras


Owner, winery: Emily Pelton, winemaker/Veritas Vineyards & Winery

Gender, breed: Male, Australian labradoodle

Age: 3

Origin: “We got Finn from a wonderful breeder in Suffolk, Virginia,” Pelton says. “A close friend had the same breed, and we fell in love with his kindness and spirit.”

Attributes: “Finn is a very compassionate and sensitive dog. He is full of energy and loves to snuggle.”

Duties: “Finn is in charge of lifting everyone’s spirits,” Pelton says. “He does that with his happy, constantly wagging tail and lots of love for everyone.”

Memorable moment: “Finn dressed up in a men’s suit for Halloween and seemed so proud and proper. It was hilarious!”

Muse Vineyards’ tasting room ambassador and wildlife manager, Emma, is a rare water-dog breed, the Barbet, which appears in French scripts as early as the 16th century. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 2020. An estimated 500 Barbets live in the United States. Photo: Zack Wasjgras


Winery: Robert Muse and Sally Cowal, Muse VineyardsVeritas Vineyards & Winery/winemaker and owner, Emily Pelton

Gender/breed: Female, Barbet

Age: 6

Origin: American Barbet, Indianapolis

Attributes: Sweet, gentle, and calm—but also an instinctive hunter

Duties: “Her main preoccupation is keeping various and sundry mammals from invading the vineyards,” Cowal relates via email. “These have included raccoons, deer, groundhogs, possums, squirrels, and rabbits. She also greets tasting room visitors, both human and canines, with enthusiasm!”

Memorable moment: “Her most outrageous, wildest act,” Cowal writes, “was killing a fawn and then dragging the poor thing around in front of startled visitors!”

Posted In:     Knife & Fork,Uncategorized

Tags:     , , , , , , , , , , ,

Previous Post

Chestnut dreams: In Nelson County, growers bring back a local delicacy

Next Post

Hog wild: Local pig farmers let their stock roam free to feast on chestnuts, acorns, and hickory nuts, producing pork that butchers and chefs swear by

Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to

Leave a Reply

Notify of