By Karen Edwards
What could be better on one of those hot, “dog” days of summer than to wander into a cool, dark tasting room at a nearby winery, sit down and sip a glass or two of something chilly, crisp and summery? Sounds good, right? Now, add a dog to the mix and, really, does life get any better than this?
Plenty of winery owners across Ohio are willing to share their best friends with visitors. These furry companions are there to meet and greet you and make you feel at home. Some wineries even allow you to bring your best friend along—and hey, if you don’t have a pup, you can always enjoy Ohio-made beverages inspired by dogs. Here’s a special dog-centric roundup. Why not plan a visit—with or without your pet—to one of the dog-friendly wineries below? We think you’ll have a grrrrr-eat time!
The greeters: Toby and Matilda, both Jack Russell Terriers. Toby is the older dog at seven years. Matilda is five. “They have been a part of the wine farm since they were pups,” says owner Patty Ribic.
Their duties: Toby and Matilda’s main job is to meet and greet the winery’s guests. “They hear the door jingle, and they’re there,” says Ribic. Matilda also takes responsibility for keeping the farm’s rodent population down. “Field mice, moles, voles—if it moves, she will find it,” says Ribic, adding, “We spend long days at the farm, (and the dogs) make the day seem less like work!”
Tasty tidbit: Toby is also known as “The Professor.” Why? “His obvious intelligence,” Ribic explains.
The greeters: Sassie and Gunner, each two years old, are proud members of the “Markko breed” (see Tasty Tidbit for more on the breed). The two are proud parents of five puppies. The pups are for sale, by the way, if you’re interested in having a winery dog of your own.
Their duties: “They love to greet visitors, and love to be petted,” says Markko owner Arnie Esterer. “They’re also good vineyard dogs. They chase away the raccoons,” he says.
Tasty tidbit: Markko has been breeding dogs for more than 40 years, and calls his line the “Markko breed.” “It’s over one-half Old English sheepdog and about an eighth bearded collie,” says Esterer.
Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars
The greeters: Anyone who has ever visited this winery remembers Zeus, the Great Dane/white German shepherd blend who enjoyed greeting guests. His “wife,” five-year old Great Dane Hera, along with Zeus’s son Apollo and his daughter, Aphrodite (both three years), are still there.
Their duties: Greet visitors and serve as the winery’s security crew. And since they’ve come to the winery, owners Chuck Harris and Nina Busch say they haven’t had to run any additional electric fences to keep “varmits” out of the vineyard.
Tasty tidbit: “They have a bigger fan base than I do,” says Harris. “No one comes to the winery and says, ‘Go get Chuck,’ but they almost all say ‘Go get the pack.’”
Website: No Website but can view profile at: www.tasteohiowines.com/winery-detail.aspx?id=Ravenhurst+Champagne+Cellars
Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard
The greeters: Pepper and Spur are the two winery dogs here, says Janee Houston, the winery’s manager. Pepper is Houston’s five-year old Blue Heeler and Spur is owner Nick Miller’s four-year-old Red Heeler.
Their duties: These are two hard-working dogs. They greet customers and love to play fetch, says Houston, but they also work hard herding cattle and sheep on the farm as well as keep the chickens safe from predators. “During harvest season, they work alongside the harvest crew making sure everyone takes a break to throw a stick which makes a day of hard work fly by,” says Houston.
Tasty tidbit: “These working girls are Cattle Dogs, also called Heelers for their affinity for herding by biting the heels of cattle,” Houston says.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog)
Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard
The event: Yappy Hour events at the winery are the first Thursday of the month here. “We invite well-behaved pets on leashes to the winery to benefit local rescue groups,” says the winery’s Janee Houston. “There are plenty of raffle baskets you can win or just enjoy a bottle of wine on the patio. This monthly event is very popular and everyone is welcome.”
Tasty tidbit: Rose’s Rescue brings their adoptable pets and donations or pet items will be accepted to help struggling pets in the community.
The Winery at Wolf Creek
The events: Yappy Hours here are offered the second Tuesday of the month from May through October. This is an evening event, from 5 till 8 p.m. For a $10 fee, you’ll receive a glass of wine, treats for your friend, and entry into a gift basket drawing. Your pet gets a chance to roam the winery’s expansive lawn and socialize with other dogs (the same way you mingle during a Happy Hour). The tasting room is off-limits to Fido, however. Your other option is to attend the winery’s “Dog Days” event, a day of activities for you and your friend, along with some dog-related vendors who offer items for sale.
Tasty tidbit: Both events benefit the charity “Give Dogs a Chance”—a group that assists pets and families in need of medical care who could not otherwise afford the care. While you’re there, see if you can spot a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a fuzzy black mutt. The two belong to sales director Jen Vereb. “Ripley, the Rhodesian is now eight and Kirby, the Portuguese Water Dog mix is 10,” she says. She brings both her dogs to both events.
The Winery at Otter Creek
The event: There’s no special event planned here, but “Yes, we allow dogs,” says co-owner Jackie Evans. “Our setting is in the country so many people bring their dogs. They are permitted inside (the tasting room) as long as they are on a leash,” she adds—and as long as they’re well-behaved.
Tasty tidbit: You may run into a pair of Golden Retrievers while you’re there. They belong to co-owners Jeff and Christie Chrisman and are named Ben and Mason. Evans and husband Mike own two Labradors. The black one is Marvin and the yellow Lab is Newman. Feel free to introduce yourself if you see them.
Muddy Paw Wines
Owner/winemaker: Ed and Gina Trebets.
About Muddy Paw: Ed Trebets has been the Winemaker/Chemist for Chalet Debonné Vineyard and Grand River Cellars for the last ten years. “He has always dreamed of creating his own wine label so we launched Muddy Paw as a way to honor our dogs, give back to our community and share our passion for wine,” says Gina Trebets. Muddy Paw launched in 2010.
The inspiration: Paisley is the Trebets’s five-year-old English Yellow Lab.
The wines: Muddy Paw offers a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Semillon.
Where to find the wines: You can find Muddy Paw at Grand River Cellars and Chalet Debonné Vineyards as well as some specialty wine stores in the community.
Tasty tidbit: “We donate a dollar from each bottle sold to the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village,” says Gina Trebets.
Cattle Dog Cider
Owner/winemaker: Barrel Run Crossing Winery and Vineyard
The inspiration: “It was named after our favorite dog breed,” says Janee Houston—and presumably inspired by Pepper and Spur, the winery’s two working dogs.
The cider: This is a dry, hard cider, made from all Ohio-grown apples, along with home-grown apples from the winery farm’s own orchard.
Where to find the wines: You’ll find the cider, in addition to the winery’s award-winning wines, at the winery in Rootstown. Select bottles of wine may also be found at various locations around the Rootstown area.
Tasty tidbit: It’s worth noting that Cattle Dog Cider has been specifically designed for beer drinkers.