The Dog Daze of August: Imbibing With Man’s Best Friend

Lionel the Bassador of Del Ray chilling in the winery at Muse Vineyards. (Anthony Istrico)

By Kelly MacConomy

ALEXANDRIA,VA- The summer solstice marks the beginning of the sweet sultry summer days ahead, lingering in a hammock with a good read, your best friend by your side and something cool to drink in hand. But come August, the dog days prove to be less hospitable. Fortunately for dog-loving Z~Oenophiles in the DMV, many wineries, breweries, and distilleries open their air-conditioned tasting rooms to both two- and four-legged guests all summer long.

Thanks to Delegate John Bell (D-87th), Virginia tasting rooms may permit dogs and companion pets indoors. Most wineries welcome dogs with their families outdoors at al fresco tasting bars and picnic areas, but a new Virginia law diligently enforced in 2017 prohibited animals in all tasting areas where food was also served.

Delegate Bell noted that, in Loudoun alone, business at wineries had dropped by more than 25 percent as a result of the new law. He proposed to amend the exclusion of dogs in tastings rooms, and it passed in the General Assembly on February 23, 2018. It’s still left to the discretion of the owner/management to decide if they will permit pets indoors. Companion pets and service dogs are, of course, permitted by law.

Breaux Vineyards in Hillsboro has a long-standing open-door policy for pets. One of the premier wineries in the state, Breaux was among the first to host Dog Days. It was originally held in August, but oppressive heat and humidity prompted a move to May, usually the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Live music, pet-product and services vendors, dog contests with bottled prizes, and Breaux’s award-winning wine make their Dog Days a hallmark of the Virginia wine festival season.

Griffey the winery dog at Breaux Vineyards inaugural Dog Day. (Kelly MacConomy)

On Memorial Day weekend, Diane and Mike Canney of Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville hosted Leashes of Valor, a nonprofit organization founded in May 2017 by Dozer and Axel LLC. LOV’s three founders: Danique Masingill, Jason Haag, and Matt Masingill are U. S. military veterans with more than 40 years of combined service. LOV adopts and trains service dogs to pair with veterans dealing with PTSD, TBI, or MST at no cost to the veteran. Axle, LOV’s beautiful German Shepherd namesake, was rescued by the Leashes of Valor team just days away from being put down. LOV’s third annual Charity Classic fundraising event will be held September 16 at the Fawn Lake Country Club in Spotsylvania County.

The Winery at LaGrange in Haymarket held their Dog Days event on the summer solstice, June 21. Dogs of all shapes and breeds were feted, with puppies available for adoption, first-responder dog demonstrations, ball pits, gourmet treats galore—even bottled canine champagne and pup-friendly Pinot! The live entertainment performed favorites to howl by: “Hound Dog”, “The Dog Days Are Over”, “Every Dog Has His Day”, and “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”.

Axle rescued by Leashes of Love days before being euthanized. (Mike Canney)

Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane is affectionately known as BOW for its passionate dog-welcoming atmosphere. The tasting room and brewery bar is a canine cornucopia of happy wags and wiggles, where every day seems to be Dog Day. Dogs are welcomed up and down, inside and out, in all seasons. Come winter, curling up by the giant stone hearth with your bestie is pure bliss, but in the dog days of August, lying on the air-conditioned stone floor is the place to be.

Lionel Istrico, the Bassador of Del Ray, frequents the tasting room of Muse Vineyards in Woodstock, Virginia. Nestled in the banks of the Shenandoah River, Muse Vineyards is a perfect retreat for four-legged friends. Getting away from the hot sidewalks so harsh on delicate paws and the constant cat race of city life is a petcationer’s dream. The antipasto charcuterie options available at Muse keep Lionel coming back for more, weekend after weekend.

Leashes of Love rescue dog Radar taking a spin in the Sunset Hills vintage Chevy truck. (Mike Canney)

“The mountain views from Muse give me room to zoom,” says Lionel. “I love to plotz on the cool floors of the tasting room after walkies through the vines. Emma [the winery dog] is howlingly beautiful. I chase my tail whenever I see her. And Mom and Dad love the wine.”

Lionel and Emma got engaged on New Year’s Eve. All the good dogs are taken.

(Courtesy of The Winery at LaGrange.)

A number of Virginia wineries put the puppy welcome mat out year round. Notably Chateau Morrisette in Floyd has a black dog in their logo and on their labels. They host the annual Black Dog Music Beach Festival in Floyd on August 10, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sadly, their beloved black Newfoundland Barnabas, known affectionately as Barney, has passed away. To honor their love for Barney, vineyard founder David Morrisette plans to picture him on the beer labels of their new brewery.

Z~Oenology recommends you always call ahead before venturing far to a winery, brewery or distillery. Policies change, there may be a special event scheduled, and/or the hours may have changed. Always take fresh water and a clean bowl for your pup, as well as treats. Most wineries provide a bowl or two for water, but it’s better to be safe than thirsty! And while you are enjoying a tasting, be sure to keep your furry friends away from the spillage. Accidents happen, especially when you pair leashes with stem ware and open bottles of vino.

Dog Daze at the Winery at LaGrange with Bella and Belle the Poodle. (Kelly MacConomy)

Ever wonder why it’s called the Dog Days of Summer? “Dog days” is an ancient term and has many explanations. National Geographic says that to the Greeks and Romans, the dog days occurred when Sirius, the Dog Star (brightest star in the constellation Canis Major), rose just before the sun, in late July. They called these days, the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever or even catastrophe. The phrase was translated from Latin to English some 500 years ago. Since then, it has taken on more meanings. Carpe vinum. Carpe canis. Carpe diem.

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