There are two things my husband and I love more than each other: our black lab Eddie and good wine. What that says about our marriage—let us not go there. I can say that our love for each other has grown alongside our shared passions for both Pinot and our pooch, Eddie. So it only took a matter of time before we developed a list of dog-friendly wineries in Sonoma for our fellow dog and wine lovers.
I rescued Eddie from the San Francisco SPCA in 2008 (“Edward Lewis!” if he is rifling through the trash) and we have been inseparable ever since. Eddie joins me at work, and we escape our small city apartment for walks at least six times a day. Onlookers might say we are attached at the hip, questioning our interdependency.
Over the past decade, Eddie, my husband and I ventured beyond the steep urban hills of techy-dom to explore the rolling peaks and flat valley floors ladened with grapevines just north of San Francisco—wine country. As a result, our passion for Burgundian style Pinot Noirs and crisp fruit forward Chardonnays evolved. We found ourselves traipsing through Sonoma County’s bohemian Russian River Valley AVA more and more.
“We spent most weekends in Sonoma,” my husband recounts. “So it just made sense to buy a place up there.”
We now spend most weekends at our place in Guerneville, a small river town sandwiched between Sonoma’s Russian River AVA and the Pacific Coastline. No matter how much time we spend in the area, new winery discoveries are always on our radar to try.
Sometimes we make appointments, and other times we take our chances and pop in. These days our litmus test for a tasting room worth visiting depends on whether the winery is pet-friendly because if Eddie’s not welcome, we move on.
We learned early on that many of the larger more commercial wineries do not allow dogs, which left a bad taste in both Eddie’s and our mouths. Tasting rooms get crowded, and often staff does not feel there is room for four-legged friends. Others used the excuse that not all visitors are dog-lovers, which seems strange for dog-friendly Sonoma County.
That said, plenty of fabulous wineries make superb wines and welcome your wagging Wilfred with open arms, dog biscuits, and a giant bowl of filtered water. Here is a list of some of our favorite dog-friendly wineries in Sonoma.
Five Dog-Friendly Wineries in Sonoma’s Russian River
The Bacigalupi family has been growing some of the best grapes in Sonoma for several generations. For decades they sold their fruit to some of the most revered wine houses in the region. Most notably is the sale of their Chardonnay grapes to Chateau Montelena, the same vintage that won the Judgment of Paris blind wine tasting in 1976.
Bacigalupi still sells most of their grapes and the waiting list to purchase fruit seems increasingly longer. The family keeps the best fruit for their Bacigalupi label.
Today, you can enjoy their Russian River Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Zinfandels and new sparkling Rosé in their modern bungalow tasting room on Westside Road just west of the town of Healdsburg. If either of their Rosés (Zinfandel or Pinot Noir) are available—buy them immediately! They often sell out.
The Bacigalupi tasting room is also dog-friendly, and their small umbrella covered patio is the perfect outdoor spot for tasting their wines while soaking up the sun. No appointments necessary for tastings.
De Loach Vineyards
De Loach is one of the dog-friendly wineries on Olivet Road; a Russian River strip of wineries worth visiting between River Road and Guerneville Road. You can hop from one excellent winery to another without driving far. De Loach usually has dog treats behind the counter and a dog bowl near the entrance. They have recently moved their tasting room to the vineyard house behind the winery. Here you can sit outside and enjoy wines made from grapes grown on the surrounding vines. During the summer, walk behind the house and pick some fresh figs off the giant fig tree next to the vineyard.
Jean Charles Boisset, heir to the Burgundy wine conglomerate, purchase De Loach in 2003. The winery, a substantial production winery currently distributes across the country The Russian River tasting room of De Loach contains their top tier wines, which represents the region’s best offerings including wines not typically found outside the area. The winery produces a delicious Rosé, several Chardonnays, an old vine white blend, several old vine Zinfandels, and many vineyard designate Pinot Noirs as well as some regional blends.
No appointments necessary for the tasting and dogs are welcome. The JCB winery also located on the same property, specializes in sparkling wines, French style Pinots, and Jean Charles Boisset’s personal label. One needs to make an appointment for the JCB tasting.
Fog Crest Vineyard
We first discovered Fog Crest Vineyard while enjoying a tasting at De Loach. A member of the Fog Crest tasting room staff saw a photo we posted of Eddie in the grapevines on Instagram. After commenting on the image, she invited us to Fog Crest’s dog-friendly patio. We decided to take her up on her offer.
Fog Crest Vineyard sits on a hillside overlooking the valley floor. The dog-friendly patio is perched high enough that guests can enjoy an artisan cheese plate and their wine tasting with expansive views. On clear days you can see hawks circling above.
Fog Crest makes a Rosé, several Chardonnays, and a few Pinot Noirs. Some are estate grown while others use purchased fruit, but all are delicious. The Rosé is only available to wine club members, but I would seriously consider joining so you can stock up.
Our insider tip: Buy a chilled bottle of Fog Crest Rosé or Chardonnay and take it with you down the road to the Bohemian Creamery where you can enjoy the wine with an out of this world goat cheese tasting.
The young staff at Fog Crest Vineyards love dogs, and cannot wait to meet yours. No appointment necessary.
Hartford Family Winery
Probably the most expensive wines on this list, the Hartford Family Winery is nestled in its own private valley off of Martinelli Road in Forestville. They built out several outdoor seating areas so guests can enjoy their tasting surrounded by the beauty of their estate vineyard. This location, a perfect spot for a picnic lunch with your dog, while enjoying their fabulous Chardonnays, Pinots, and Zinfandels.
Hartford wines have been served in the White House for years. Many of their Chardonnay grapes grow on the Sonoma coast at higher altitudes, where the cool ocean breeze keeps temperatures and sugar development low, yielding whites that are crisp and dry with hints of melon and pear. Winemaker Jeff Stewart is very proud of his refreshing Rosé, barely blush in color and inexpensive. The Rosé is released annually on mother’s day and sells out soon after. Hartford Family Winery also recently ventured north to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where they harvest Pinot Noir grapes into delicious Oregon style pinots under the Hartford Label.
Hartford is a dog-friendly winery. No appointments are necessary for tastings. You may want to call in advance to reserve a picnic table to guarantee one will be available.
Hook & Ladder Vineyards & Winery
Across Olivet Road from De Loach Vineyards is Hook & Ladder Vineyards & Winery. Founded by Cecil De Loach in 2004, after he sold De Loach Vineyards and Winery, Hook & Ladder is a no-frills winery and tasting room where dogs are loved more than their owners.
A homage to firefighters, which De Loach himself was for most of his life in San Francisco, the Hook & Ladder tasting room, which is also one of the barrel aging room, is adorned with t-shirts from firefighters across the US who visited the winery at one time.
In addition to regional favorites like Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir; Hook & Ladder makes some amazing Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Cab Francs. They also produce olive oil, perfect for finishing salads, bruschetta, and pasta with red sauce.
Hook & Ladder has been producing high-quality wines since 2003. Though most wines in the area have gotten progressively more expensive, Hook & Ladder tries to keep their price points low, because they never want the cost to prevent customers from enjoying good wine.
Hook & Ladder, a dog-friendly winery does not require an appointment for tastings. They love all dogs, especially Dalmatians. When the tasting room is crowded, you can easily secure Fido to a shady spot just outside the door. Weather permitting, buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it over a game of bocce ball on the court overlooking the vineyards.
There are loads of dog-friendly wineries in Sonoma, and we are always looking for suggestions.
About Guest Blogger Philip Hall
Philip Hall is a professional storyteller, foodie, and founder of EatsPorkJew.com. As a San Francisco-based freelance writer, photographer and marketer, he helps uncover the unique stories behind food, beverage, travel and lifestyle brands and the people who shape them.