There are few places in California that are prettier right now than springtime in Sonoma County. Vineyards are awakening with leafy canopy, blazing yellow mustard flowers are in full bloom, and goats and sheep—nature’s lawn mowers—are busy grazing upon vibrantly green hills and pastures. And who better to share these harbingers of summer and good times than your little four-legged buddy? Sonoma County is one of the most pet-friendly regions in California, with numerous pet-friendly wineries, tours, hotel, restaurants, and even Yappy Hours. Take a look below—even if you don’t have dog you’ll want to borrow one and hit the road to Sonoma’s Wine Country.
THE MOST PET-FRIENDLY WINERY IN THE WORLD
Combining their passion for wine and “all things dog,” Brenda, Chris, and their dog Patch opened Mutt Lynch Winery in 1995. Their motto is “Apply Dog Logic to Life: Eat Well, Be Loved, Get Petted, Sleep Alot, and Dream of a Leash-Free World” (sounds good to me). It’s probably the only winery in the world where your dog is as welcome as you are. In fact, Brenda and Chris will even host special events for your four-legged friend: birthdays, “puppy” showers, and even “Bark” Mitzvahs. Tours of their winery are by reservation, which you can do online at their website or by phone.
ECO-TOUR DOG HIKES AT KUNDE ESTATE WINERY
One of the top Wine Country tours in California is at the Kunde Estate Winery in Kenwood. The Kunde (pronounced Kun-dee) family has been growing grapes here for five generations, and today they’re one of Sonoma County’s largest suppliers. Starting this summer you can take your dog on a hike with 4th-generation winegrower Jeff Kunde, enjoying the panoramic views and wildlife at their 1,850-acre estate along the Mayacamas Mountain range while learning of Kunde’s sustainable winegrowing practices. Lasting approximately 4 hours, the hike concludes with a wine tasting and a Wine Country Lunch. Check with the winery for details; pre-registration is required and space is limited. 707/282-1534
DOG-FRIENDLY VINEYARD WALKS
Another wonderful vineyard tour is run by an outfit called Zephyr Adventures, which hosts Sonoma Vineyards Walks. For $125 per person (minimum group size is two), you get your own professional guide for the day who takes you on two vineyard walks of your choice, and inside access to private vineyard lands and people you would otherwise never see or meet. Also included are two wine tastings and lunch at the famous Dry Creek General Store. With advance notice you can also bring your well-behaved pooch to most wineries.
By the end of the tour you’ll not only learn about wine making, grape growing, and the history of the vineyards from your own personal guide, you’ll also be intimately familiar with some of the finest wines in Sonoma County. Log on to www.sonomavineyardwalks.com to read more about the four wineries they offer tours to, then pick the two that look the most interesting (this tour also makes a great gift).
DOGGIE PADDLING DOWN THE RUSSIAN RIVER
Now that spring is here and summer is just around the corner, it’s time to plan a trip to Sonoma County and spend the day leisurely paddling down a serene stretch of the scenic Russian River. Yes, dogs are welcome to hop aboard canoes on the Russian River and boy-howdy do they love the experience. I’ve done this canoe trip with Russian River Adventures at least a dozen times with friends and it’s always the dogs that are having the best time, hanging out on the bow sniffing the rivers scents, swimming around the boat, and being the center of attention.
There’s barely a rapid on the river so it’s very safe for both dogs and humans, and Russian River Adventures sells doggie life jackets at their canoe rental shop. The cost is $50 for adults, $25 for kids 2-12, and $10 per dog. 707/433-5599
There are dozens of other pet-friendly things to see and do in Sonoma County. Here are just a few to choose from—for more suggestions log onto DogTrekker.com.
- Pizzas and “Yappy” Hour at Lambert Bridge Winery: Take along your favorite four-legged friend for an evening of casual fun. Taste some Lambert Bridge wines, indulge in an assortment of wood-fired pizzas, and let your dog be social. 707/431-4670
- Dog-Friendly Santa Rosa Vintners’ Square: If your dog likes canine company and you like wine and shopping, you both will enjoy spending the day at Santa Rosa Vintners’ Square. The square is made up of four small boutique wineries that include D’Argenzio Winery, Sheldon Wines, Krutz Family Cellars, and MJ Lords Winery, as well as art galleries and a dog-friendly patio area where both wine-lovers and dogs can meet and socialize. 707/280-4658
- Dog Days of Summer at Mutt Lynch Winery: Come humans, come canines, come all to Mutt Lynch Winery’s annual Dog Days of Summer Open House in Healdsburg. Taste the newest release wines while enjoying gourmet treats for humans and dogs alike (but don’t get them confused). It’s the most dog-friendly event in the Wine County. 707/478-1722
The pet-friendly adventures listed above are just a fraction of the fun, romantic, and family-friendly things to do in Sonoma County. For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call 800/576-6662.