Sunday, January 04, 2009


Hair of the Dog, Nectar of the Gods: Pooch-Friendly Wineries
Story and photos by Express contributor Erin Trompeter
Posted By Express at 9:21 AM on December 16, 2008 Tagged in Arts & Events , Food & Drink , Life & Stuff

THE FROSTED REPRESENTATION of a golden retriever head on the door. Myriad black-and-white photographs of happy pooches adorning the walls. The jar of dog biscuits on the bar.

All signs send a clear message to Keyser, a 6-year-old golden: Dogs are welcome here.

But he hasn't entered the lobby of some fancy doggie daycare; he has walked into a winery.

Keyser has bellied up the bar (without tasting, of course) in numerous tasting rooms in Virginia, but Barrel Oak in Delaplane may very well be the dog-friendliest of them all.

Notice how the initials of Barrel Oak Winery spell "bow," as in "bow-wow"? Yeah, that's not an accident, according to Brian Roeder, who owns the winery with his wife, Sharon.

"We were trying to have fun with the name ... thinking of all this stuff," when they had an epiphany: What about Barrel Oak Winery. "[Sharon] went, 'Bow! Bow wow!' And it just worked out."

Barrel Oak's dog friendliness — and in some ways, the winery itself — was born out of the couple's desire to keep their two golden retrievers with them during the day. When patrons saw dogs on the property, they wanted to bring their pooches, too.

"It was always our intention to be dog-friendly, but we didn't know what that would look like," Brian Roeder said, adding that very, very few have complained about dogs in the tasting room.

The very structure of the winery lends itself well to the wear and tear of dogs: The Roeders left the floors unfinished to avoid their being scratched by claws. The tasting bar also features hooks on which to fasten leashes and an off-leash area on Barrel Oak's grounds allows dogs to run freely in the lovely hunt countryside.

Brian Roeder noted that Barrel Oak has held dog-centric weekend events, including a "Dog Days of Summer" celebration that brought in 120 dogs and their owners. Through Dec. 21, the winery features the work of Lee Anderson, a photographer whose black-and-white prints of smiling pups adorn the tasting room.

"It's been really nice having it on the walls," Brian Roeder said.

Barrel Oak also donates proceeds from sales of its wine and events to dog-rescue organizations.

While Barrel Oak might even qualify as dog-centric, other wineries have happily welcomed Keyser and other well-behaved dogs. At Breaux Vineyards, employees squealed and rushed to pet him when he walked in the door; a patron pointed out the "Wine Dog" book on sale in the gift area.

At Three Foxes, Keyser was offered a Milk Bone dog biscuit and received many scratches. He has even visited one of Virginia's top tasting rooms, Barboursville, where a roaring fire and frequent attention made him happy.

Dozens of Virginia wineries welcome dogs; a feature on the Virginia Wineries Web site allows sorting by pet-friendly wineries.

At Pearmund Cellars in Broad Run, Keyser had to gain the acceptance of Redmund, the owner's Basenji, who even has wines named for him and a little shrine in the gift shop. It was a little tough going, as Redmund on one summer Saturday wasn't too pleased about Keyser's presence, but it all worked out.

On a visit on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, however, Redmund relaxed at home with his family, so Keyser was top dog for the moment. But something he smelled outside beckoned him, and he whined throughout most of his owners' tasting.

A walk through the barrel room calmed him down, until an object mounted on the wall snared his attention: a stuffed wildebeest head.

» Barrel Oak Winery, 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, Va.; 540-364-6402.
» Breaux Vineyards, 36888 Breaux Vineyards Lane, Purcellville, Va.; 800-492-9961.
» Three Foxes, 10100 Three Fox Lane, Delaplane, Va.; 540-364-6073.
» Pearmund Cellars Vineyard Winery, 6190 Georgetown Rd., Broad Run, Va.; 540-347-3475.
» Barboursville Vineyards, 17655 Winery Rd, Barboursville, Va.; 540-832-3824.

Story and photos by Express contributor Erin Trompeter
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