If dogs and wine are two of the greatest loves of your life, then a) we need to be friends ASAP and b) you better visit Sonoma county, home to some of the best wines in California where your furry friends are more than welcome during wine tasting. Besides the fact that Sonoma valley is really where California wine country came into being, the sheer number of dog friendly wineries in Sonoma coupled with their accessibility (as in no reservations required unlike boutique wineries in Napa), pricing (a tasting of 4-6 pours is considerably cheaper than Napa valley wineries at most places) and an impressive variety of wines (from luscious Pinot Noirs to crisp Chardonnays) are what make this part of wine country attractive to dog parents who love nothing more than a good glass of wine in the company of their dogs.
2018 was when I visited Sonoma county multiple times (it helps to live in San Francisco) and explored the wineries in Kenwood and Healdsburg (two premium destinations for all things wine in Sonoma) where I indulged in some serious wine tasting with Babu, our travel savvy 15 yr old Tibetan Spaniel mix. Naturally, here is a comprehensive post based on my experience and details on the wineries we visited to help you plan for your future dog friendly Sonoma wine tasting excursions.
I recognize that this post does not cover all the dog friendly wineries in this region (a girl can only drink up so much) but is a good starting point with some of the best dog friendly Sonoma wineries in both Healdsburg and Kenwood.
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Dog friendly wineries in Sonoma: Where to go wine tasting in Kenwood
Kenwood, located in the eastern part of Sonoma county on the upper Sonoma valley has some of the prettiest wineries to quench your thirst. Thankfully, several of them are dog friendly and best of all of you are a party of four or smaller, no prior reservations are needed for tasting. These are some of the wineries that we visited with our friends and Babu in August when the grapes were hanging delicately from the vines.
a) Deerfield Ranch winery: This was our first stop during wine tasting in Kenwood and the experience was nothing short of stellar at Robert Rex’s winery, an award winning wine maker. The path leading to the tasting room actually goes through a tunnel flanked on either side by a line of french oak barrels leading to a cave like room where tables are laid out for you to sit, relax and enjoy your tasting that is printed out on sheets, much like restaurant menu cards.
I went for an entire flight of reds, but you can opt for a white wine as well depending on the availability. Dogs are not only allowed in the tasting room but are very much celebrated as evident from their 2012 Syrah blend named “Obi Wine Kenobi” (we got a taste of that as well) after the resident winery dog. The tasting room is open from 10:30 AM-4:30 PM daily.
Obi wine Kenobi photo on left courtesy: Bongeats
b) Muscardini cellars: Another dog friendly tasting room in the heart of Sonoma valley (also known as valley of the moon), Muscardini cellars is where we again exclusively tasted some luscious Italian red wine. The tasting is only $15 (complimentary for wine club members) and reservations are not required for less than 6 people. The tasting room is open daily from 11 AM-6 PM.
c) Kunde Family winery: This was the final dog friendly Sonoma winery that we visited during our day trip to Kenwood. Kunde Family winery boasts of a very spacious tasting room and an equally expansive picnic area (I am talking about a whopping 1850 acres of estate). It is a very popular winery and does get crowded, so I highly recommend hitting it earlier in the day rather than later (opens at 10:30 AM). Dogs are allowed in the tasting room.
Besides regular wine tasting, what makes Kunde so special is that you can go on hiking with your dog along with winegrower Jeff Kunde and his wife Roberta with their dogs to explore the Kunde estate as well as learn about the sustainable winemaking process from grape to glass. Reservations need to be made in advance (hike is from 9 AM -1 PM) and the price is $75/person (includes wine tasting and wine country lunch). I am definitely going back to try this one out the next time I visit!
Dog friendly wine tasting in Sonoma: Healdsburg wineries
Dry creek wineries
We primarily visited wineries in two different American viticultural areas (AVA /wine growing regions) in Healdsburg that produce some of the best wines in California and the world. I will start with the wineries in the dry creek valley (carved out of the dry creek, a tributary of the Russian river) which are famous for their Zinfandels and bold red Cabernets owing to the bright sunshine that this part of Sonoma is drenched in.
These wineries are lined along the dry creek road (that runs parallel to the tributary) and showcase wines from the dry creek valley AVA, where grape growing dates back to about 140 years and which boasts of over 70 wineries across 9,000 acres of vineyards. All the dog friendly dry creek wineries that we visited were not only some of the prettiest wineries in Sonoma, but were also places were the staff was the friendliest and best of all, we did not (party of two or three humans) require any reservations beforehand. Here are the notable ones that we visited, in the order that we did:
a) Wilson winery: A beautiful dog friendly winery in Sonoma, Wilson offers their own estate wines which can be enjoyed either in the tasting room or in the picnic area where there is plenty of seating to make yourself comfortable. I tasted a flight of 5 Zinfandels for $20 and was very impressed by the friendly nature of the staff who took time to explain the source of each of the wines in the tasting. Open daily, 11 AM -5 PM (holiday hours may differ).
b) Lambert Bridge winery: Another dog friendly dry creek winery that produces Bordeaux style wines, Lambert bridge was definitely the most expensive of all our tastings where 6 wines (4 reds and 2 whites) costs $30. All the wines were very crisp and on the lighter side, even the bold reds. The best part about this winery is that the chief and assistant winemaker are both women (YAY! so happy to support women run businesses) and they are pretty exclusive, as in the wines are available only in a few Healdsburg restaurants and not commercially (they produce 7000 cases of wine each year and about 25% of their crop is not utilized).
So, if you love something at the tasting, better purchase a bottle at the winery itself. Linda, a member of the staff who ran the tasting, also informed me that being the “Liquid Assets” member has its own perks cause you get to do the tasting the barrel room with a complimentary cheese platter to nibble on. Winery is open 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM Mon-Sun.
c) Amista vineyards: Amista won us over with their wine and friendly staff who actually suggested the next dry creek winery for us that also turned out to be our favorite one on dry creek road! This again is another one of those dog friendly wineries in Sonoma (they have a shaded picnic area too) where dogs are allowed in the tasting room, which has a charming barn like feel with plush sofas to sit on as you sip your wine. A classic flight of four cost $15 for tasting and these were all estate wines. They are a small batch winery producing only 2800 cases a year and the bottles are not available for sale outside of the winery. Winery hours are Mon-Sun, 11 AM -4:30 PM.
d) Quivira vineyards: Quivira, thanks to recommendation from folks at Amista, was hands down our favorite dog friendly winery in Sonoma because of the delicious wine, the knowledgeable and extremely friendly staff and the beautiful surroundings. Their acres of vineyards coupled with a beautiful garden are a treat to explore with a wine glass in hand! They have different tasting experiences for visitors, of which we went for the classic tasting ($20) in the tasting room which does not require prior appointment. I highly recommend tasting their 2017 Rose which has been consistently the top scoring wine!
e) Dutcher Crossing winery: this dog friendly dry creek valley winery also allows dogs in the tasting room as well as the gorgeous picnic area outside overlooking acres of vineyards. Here too, I got a taste of their estate wines with 5 pours for $20. The tasting room has lots of dog friendly merchandise to make you feel very welcome if you have your furry friend in tow, such as dog collars and wine dog books that are up for sale. Fun fact: the bicycle logo on their wine glasses represents a true bicycle standing in the tasting room. Open Mon-Sun, 11 AM -5 PM
f) Sbragia Family vineyards: Another dog friendly winery accepting walk-ins, Sbragia is located at the very northern end of dry creek road near the Lake Sonoma outlook which by the way is a great scenic spot to visit. Sbragia specialized in Zinfandel and Cabernet much like other wineries in this region and their Zinfandel blend is homegrown on their vineyards surrounding the outdoor picnic area. For a flight of four red wines (you can choose if you want all whites, reds or mix and match) I paid $20. The winery is open from 10: 30 AM – 5 PM.
Russian River valley wineries
The Russian river wineries along Westside road are where you go for tasting the luscious Pinot Noirs for which California is known for, thanks to the foggy micro climate on this side of highway 1, aka Russian river valley. Many of these wineries are by appointment only, but we still managed to find a few that were not only good for walk-ins but also very dog friendly. These wineries are:
a) Twomey winery: Although Twomey is dog friendly, the tasting room is adjacent to a food facility and so dogs are allowed only on the picnic grounds. They serve the best of Russian river Pinot Noirs (tasting costs $15 for four pours) but unlike several other wineries, they do not waive the tasting fee if you make a purchase (Pinot noir bottles come at a heftier price tag of $50 and upwards). The staff was extremely friendly and while we were out enjoying the view of the vineyards, they even brought out treats for Babu! Twomey’s tasting room is open from 10 AM-5 PM daily.
b) Armida winery: This dog friendly Russian river winery won the best tasting room award in 2017 as well as the best Zinfandel award in 2016 at the SF Chronicle’s wine competition. Armida welcomes dogs on a leash in the tasting room and we tasted a combination of reds and whites totaling 6 pours. Since we purchased a bottle of Pinot noir, our tasting fee was waived. Armida is open daily from 11 AM – 5 PM.
c) Moshin vineyards: Our final stop during our third visit to Healdsburg was Moshin, which also was a fantastic way to cap off our wine tasting sojourn in Sonoma. Moshin is again dog friendly (on leash dogs are welcome in the tasting room) and this is where we not only tasted several delectable Pinot Noirs, but also learned about the different soil types in the different viticultural areas (such as Russian river vs Sonoma coast) which produce differences in the grapes harvested and thus the wine as well as why Pinot Noir grapes are so finicky and have a mind of their own.
Our very chatty and friendly host Julia also told us that the reason Pinot Noirs are so expensive is because they get way less tonnage since the grapes are prone to sunburn, rot and mildew and are also genetically unstable, leading to quite a bit of variety in the final product. Our tasting (with 6 pours plus a dessert white wine) came to $15 which was waived since we could not pass up on having another bottle to bring back home (and share with friends, of course!).
Dog friendly restaurants in Healdsburg
With all this wine sloshing in your stomach, I am sure you will be looking for dog friendly restaurants in Healdsburg to grab a bite as well. I have you covered with these amazing spots all of which welcome dogs on their patio or have outdoor seating. I highly recommend Barndiva (reservations advised), Chalkboard (reservations advised), Bravas Bar de Tapas (gotta make a reservation for outdoor seating), The Shed at Healdsburg (it is closing soon in 2019 unfortunately) and Costeaux bakery (come early as it gets super crowded) are my favorite Healdsburg dining spots that are dog friendly and have excellent food!
Dog friendly hotels/lodging in Healdsburg
We made a day trip to Kenwood and had no overnight stays but the Kenwood Inn and Spa Sonoma is an excellent place that is not only dog friendly but has a spa package for them as well! We had two weekend getaways in Healdsburg where we stayed in the relatively more affordable towns of Guerneville and Geyserville because Healdsburg is extremely expensive to find lodging especially with a dog. We went for vacation rentals/Airbnb since it is really very difficult to come across good dog friendly hotels that do not charge an arm and a leg to have your furry companion with you.
Airbnb has often come to our rescue while traveling with Babu in small town California. For those of you looking for last minute options with great location, this is the Guerneville cottage (beautiful secluded location but a little tough to find) and here is a link to the gorgeous Geyserville home (we were three adults and a dog) which was pricey but way less compared to a hotel with same amenities for two rooms.
Honestly, it was so very worth the tag for a weekend of comfort and our host was extremely helpful and responsive. Here is $40 off if you choose to book through my link. Always remember to confirm with the host before you book with regards to their pet policy, as in how many are allowed and if there are any breed and weight specific restrictions.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article on dog friendly wineries in Sonoma and are already making plans to head out for tasting some of our best wines with your best friend! California wine country, especially Sonoma county, is a gorgeous destination to visit and I intend to return soon to discover even more dog friendly wineries, including the famous Mutt Lynch winery in Windsor that I am yet to visit. Thank you so much for stopping by to read my adventures with Babu and Cheers to dog powered good times in beautiful California!
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