By Catie Montgomery
My name is Catie. I’m a 2-1/2 year old cocker spaniel and I love the Temecula Wine Country. Last winter my Mom and Dad (otherwise known as Sue and Todd) moved me across the country from Wisconsin, driving through snowstorms and blizzards, to this beautiful part of Southern California. I had never seen so many sunny days in a row before and I love it! As much as I used to get a few kicks out of diving into snow banks after squirrels, I much prefer sniffing out the lizards and bunnies among the vines. I haven’t caught anything yet, but I love the hunt.
Almost every afternoon I have a deep urge to go to the wine country. At about 3 p.m. I have to start getting my Mom and Dad away from their computers (how boring is that?) and get them moving toward a winery. I have many tactics for doing this. Sometimes I growl and whine a little. Sometimes I just jump all over them until they can’t type anymore. Sometimes I go get my leash from the hallway and bring it to them (talk about a gentle hint). And, as a last resort, I may just lie at the door to the garage and pant. They eventually get the message, although they usually move a bit too slowly for me.
I have my favorite wineries: I love Oak Mountain on De Portola because they are so welcoming to dogs. Everyone who works there seems glad to see me. They even have a bowl of water sitting at their front door for me and my canine colleagues. Sometimes they give me special dog biscuits. There are also lots of bunnies and lizards at Oak Mountain. It’s a dog’s paradise. I must say their lizards are too fast for me and their bunnies disappear as soon as I approach. (It must be those darn jingling bells around my neck that warn them.) But I will not give up. There are also lots of other friendly dogs who visit Oak Mountain and we have a great time sniffing each other’s back ends. Sometimes my Mom and Dad sit around a big table with their friends who bring yummy snacks. And once-in-a-while someone sneaks me a nibble. (But why doesn’t anyone let me taste a little wine? I’ve heard it’s very good.)
De Portola also has other dog-friendly wineries. Robert Renzoni is very welcoming to dogs and they also give me water and treats. There are lots of places to run around at Robert Renzoni, too. They sell a great tomato sauce there and sometimes my Mom and Dad bring it home and give me a little taste. Yum! Who says dogs can’t eat spaghetti, although I admit to gaining a few pounds since moving to Temecula.
Masia de Yabar is an especially nice place for me to explore. It’s up on a hill with a gorgeous view and they have a big stone wall I can walk along. The lizards hide in the cracks of the walls and their smell just about drives me crazy. I sniff all over those cracks and chase the lizards when they appear, but they are very sneaky when they hear me coming. All I need is a tiny nip off one lizard’s tail and my day will be made. (I’ve heard those tails grow back so no serious damage will be done.)
At Danza del Sol there is so much space to investigate and so many nice wine drinkers who pet me and will even rub my tummy if I roll over (which I will cheerfully do for small treats). I like running up and down their steps and exploring all their beautiful plantings, although Mom and Dad keep warning me about snakes. I’ve never seen a snake, but I would probably like them since I’ve heard they slither along like lizards and I like anything that moves. But my Mom and Dad are just too protective. They almost always keep me on my leash and yesterday I even had to get what they called a rattlesnake shot. (Ouch! Was that necessary?)
Although we stick around De Portola a lot, we do sometimes venture to Rancho California, where Europa Village is one of my favorite places. They have a little courtyard where I can run around and they have some more of those nice stone walls to hop up on. If I’m lucky, my Dad might take me up the hill so I can smell the grapes and, of course, search for more lizards. Sometimes at Europa there is a nice boy dog named Austin hanging around and I actually don’t mind playing with him for a while, although he can be a bit forward for my taste. We chase each other around, but I think I’m faster.
Palumbo Winery off Rancho California also has friendly nice dogs who sleep in their tasting room and welcome me when I arrive. It’s a quiet, pretty place to sit at the top of a hill and just rest and take in the view while my Mom and Dad sip some great wine. Vindemia is also a wonderful place to explore. There I can run up and down hills and keep my Dad moving fast, which is great exercise for him. Last time I was there, I ran around with a big black dog who showed me the secret places to sniff. My lazy Mom was satisfied to sit and drink their nice wine and watch us run. I’ve also heard Stuart Cellars is very dog-friendly so I plan to go there soon.
I’m sure there are other dog-friendly wineries too. These are just the ones I visit the most. Please let me know about any other wineries I should visit. I do know that both Cougar Winery and Wilson Creek Winery like dogs, but they don’t allow me to visit because of their own dogs running around. (I understand their concerns, even though I would be very polite if I met their dogs. No barking or biting from me.)
One more thing about the wine country: When we start driving up the road to a winery my Dad will open the back car window just wide enough for me to stick my head out and breathe in the fresh country air. I love the scent of grapes and the fresh breeze blowing so hard in my face that my ears flap all over. Then I start making little squeaky sounds because I can also smell the birds and cows and horses and bunnies all around me. This is pure heaven for a dog like me since I was born to be a hunter and my most developed sense is smell.
Besides looking out for snakes, I have a few warnings for wine country dogs who like to explore. I’ve had two minor surgeries to get sticky prickers removed—one from my ear (Oow! that hurt!) and one from my paw. So here’s a warning to other doggies and their owners: watch out for those prickly plants! Also you need to be respectful of the beautiful landscaping at many of these wineries and not trample plants or flowers or nibble on them. Some of them could be poisonous to dogs. I also sometimes feel the urge to go (you know what I mean) in the wine country and my Dad always has a little plastic bag to depose of whatever I may leave behind, as I have been known to do on occasion. (Well, when a dog’s gotta go, a dog’s gotta go!) My motto is: keep your wineries beautiful so they keep welcoming dogs back!
After an afternoon in the wine country, I come home exhausted. My Mom and Dad say I must be having wine country dreams at night because I twitch and make funny little sounds as I imagine all the critters I just might hunt for the next day.
Please bring your dogs to the wine country. I am an only dog and I would like to make friends with your dogs, as long as they are polite. (Just yesterday I had fun with another sweet cocker spaniel named Abby. We had a real play date at Oak Mountain and it was fun.) I am sweet and I don’t bite or bark. I just love wine—or I know I would if I could only get a taste, but the vet says I can’t. Too bad. I’ll have to settle for sniffing lizards and grapes.