Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Winter Trip to Virginia’s Dog Friendly Wineries

Spring, summer and fall are perfect times to load the dogs in the jeep and head out to Virginia’s wine country for a day of sips, walks, shopping and lunch on a dog-friendly patio.  But the cold wet winter months are a bit more challenging.

Undeterred by the freezing forecast -- my husband, friend Alyson (visiting from California), Boomer, Kacey and I took the 50 mile drive from Alexandria to Delaplane, Virginia.

Our first stop was Barrel Oak Winery ( ).  Upon arrival, there is little doubt that Barrel Oak is dog-friendly.  We are immediately met by dogs leaving the tasting room, or just taking a potty break.  To say that Barrel Oak loves dogs would be an understatement.  The tasting room is filled with owners and their dogs.  The gift shop has great dog-inspired items, and their wines pay homage to canines, such as their Chocolate Lab Dessert Wine.  A quick look at their events calendar and I see two dog-focused fundraisers in the month of February.

It’s hard NOT to have fun at Barrel Oak.  There is a buzzy welcoming vibe – everyone is happy! Friends and families are picnicking on the fire pit heated patio.  Kids and dogs are getting lots of attention.  We slide up for a tasting and quickly realize that we are standing next to a couple and their dog Tucker from our neighborhood!  Wine and dogs are great conversation starters!

We purchased a couple of bottles from our server Nate, and then headed to our next stop – Aspen Dale Winery ( ).

While Barrel Oak has the buzzy festive atmosphere, Aspen Dale is closer to a cool coffee shop (but with wine and in an old barn).  Dogs are also welcome in the tasting room which is warm, hip, and relaxed.  A soloist on guitar plays “coffee shop” music.  There is a fire in the fireplace.  Dogs relax on the floor and owners sit on comfy couches, at cafĂ© tables, or stand at the tasting bar.

Aspen Dale provides a small plate of “pairings” to go with the wines – a piece of apricot, a bite of sausage, a bit of chocolate – all perfectly paired with each wine.  We loved it!  We loved it so much we purchased a bottle of their Parris Country Red Blend (yum), some pheasant sausage and sage cheese for a little snack.  Aspen Dale is one of those special places where you could easily spend the entire afternoon.
Pairings at Aspen Dale


From Aspen Dale, we wandered a bit, but thanks to iPhones and GPS, we eventually found Cobbler Mountain Cellars ( ).  Located on a hill off of a couple twisty gravel roads is their lovely tasting room.  Like Barrel Oak and Aspen Dale, it’s also in Delaplane, but it's the youngest of the three wineries. 
The Cobbler Mountain Paw Wall
Cobbler Mountain is very friendly.  We immediately felt welcomed and the dogs were appropriately gushed over!   Given its location – far off of a main road, dogs can actually go off leash in their yard.  An entire wall in their tasting room is covered with paw prints and the names of their dogs and dog clients. 
Cobbler Mountain Cellars often hosts groups of dogs and their owners for special events – there was a recent gathering of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and in the summer and early fall, Cobbler Mountain holds weekend camping and hiking trips for owners and their dogs.
New friends at Cobbler Mountain

We left Cobbler Mountain with a bottle of Vidal Blanc and a promise to return. 

Our winter outing to Delaplane, Virginia wineries was great fun.  Boomer and Kacey got plenty of attention in three very different and welcoming wineries.  We got to taste and purchase great wines in a variety of settings – winter was the perfect time to visit Barrel Oak, Aspen Dale and Cobbler Mountain – but we’ll go again in the spring!

There are currently 253 wineries in Virginia and MANY are dog friendly.  Only California, New York, Oregon and Washington have more wineries than Virginia., lists all wineries and their regions.  You can also filter by varietals and if the winery is pet friendly.