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.
Owner, winery: Paul Summers, Knight’s Gambit Vineyard
Gender, breed: female, hound mix
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.”
Owner, winery: Ben Jordan, Early Mountain Vineyards
Gender, breed: female, blue heeler (Australian cattle dog)
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.”
Owners, winery: Dee and Roe Allison, Reynard Florence Vineyard
Gender, breed: male, Corgi
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 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.”
Owners, winery: Robert Muse and Sally Cowal, Muse Vineyards
Gender, breed: female, Barbet (French water dog)
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 by 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!”