Oh, the carefree life of a winery dog. It ranks high on our list of reincarnation fantasies. Yet in Santa Cruz County
, which is home to over a dozen dog-friendly wineries
, you needn't wait until the next go-round to enjoy a breezy life of leisure.
If you’re up for a special-occasion getaway centered on food and wine and can’t leave your four-legged other behind, consider the oh-so-chic Napa Valley
town of Yountville
. This culinary mecca is chock-a-block with strollable tasting rooms
(most with dog-friendly outdoor seating). Some 19 tasting rooms clustered within a mile of each other participate in the Yountville Wine Walk
, which awards prizes based on the number of establishments visited.
Are you one of those folks who enjoys taking selfies with your dog wherever you roam? Add some fun to your quest by participating in the Placer Wine Trail Photo Hunt
, a contest taking place through December. The deal: Visit a member winery, find the “treasure” (it might be an artwork, an artifact or a physical feature of the property), take a selfie, post it on Instagram
and be entered to win a $100 gift card.
“Agritourism”—an agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch—is as old as winemaking in California, yet there aren’t many places where visitors with dogs can spend the night on the premises. Bed & Barrel at Stonehouse Cellars
, a winery/tasting room/B&B in Clearlake Oaks, Lake County
, is an exception.
OK, nobody can visit four dozen dog-friendly wineries on one trip! Nevertheless, that’s how many await along the Highway 128 and Highway 101 corridors. Pick a region and let serendipity be your guide as you spend a leisurely day wine-tasting with your pup.
The Bay Area’s Tri-Valley region
, just 45 minutes east of San Francisco, is a sunny paradise for hiking dogs and their people, rewarding both with lots of wide open spaces and scenic vistas.
The four cities that make up the Tri-Valley region, Pleasanton
, each have something special to offer DogTrekkers.
, that big puddle of blue in the middle of Lake County, is a popular vacation destination for families, but it’s hardly the only body of water in the vicinity. Blue Lakes
(Upper and Lower), just five miles away, are a pair of clear, spring-fed bodies of water ideal for swimming and fishing. Only human-powered craft or those with or electric motors are allowed (speed limit is 5 mph), but you can rent an electric “yacht” or pontoon boat from the Lodge at Blue Lakes
and pile the family (dogs included) on board for a great day of cruising about.
While water activities are of course a big attraction in Lake County
, more than 30 wineries
, most with dog-friendly
picnic areas and tasting rooms, welcome visitors in what is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country. While the region is best known for its sauvignon blancs, petit sirahs and big reds are gaining well deserved cachet. The Lake County wine-growing region
blanketing the eastern portion of the county is divided into seven AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), or appellations, each with its own sense of place.
isn’t all about food and wine; it’s also a magnet for artists and art lovers from around the world. Combining a dog walk with a little art appreciation is a great way to spend a day—and get some unique backdrops for your photos while you’re at it. Start with the 2017-2019 Napa Art Walk,
called “Shifting Perspectives,” featuring 10 sculptures by artists from four Western states installed in downtown locations.
When it comes to dog-friendly lodging in Napa Valley
, there are almost as many choices as there are wineries to visit. Start your search by sorting out your parameters regarding type, location, level of luxury, price, etc., then delve into the dog-friendly listings on DogTrekker.com
Lodging choices in Napa Valley
run from extravagant, five-star resorts to budget motels, but for that certain brand of DogTrekker who prefers to rough it a bit, there’s another alternative: camping. Whether sleeping in a tent, an RV or a rustic shelter, you’ll enjoy the valley from a unique perspective—and have money left over for a splurge. Here are three places to check out.
Potential visitors to Napa Valley
tend to think first of vine-covered hills dotted with wineries, wineries and more wineries. They’re all here, of course. But it would be a shame to bypass the city of Napa itself. A renaissance over the past two decades has transformed what once was the utilitarian center of wine country into a visitor destination packed with pizzazz. Downtown Napa
is walkable, dog-friendly and filled with surprises for two- and four-legged visitors alike.
After a rough fire season that took out homes, businesses and lives, Mendocino County
is bouncing back with a full helping of winter events and holiday cheer. The gorgeous seashore offers uncrowded respite in winter, while towering redwoods invite contemplation and dog-friendly wineries welcome visitors with treats for the pups and tastes for their people.
While parts of Sonoma County
were ravished by the October wildfires, residents are banding together to stand strong and welcome visitors to the vast majority of the county that was untouched by the blazes. Whether you come to spend a winter weekend in Santa Rosa
or explore the Wine Road Northern Sonoma County
, you and your four-legged travel companion will find a warm welcome almost everywhere you go. But before your dog can settle down in a tasting room or hotel, she likely needs some exercise.
California’s desert regions
are at their most compelling in winter, when cool weather and clear skies combine to energize people and pets alike. If you’re planning a trip, don’t think only of cactus and rock. Southern California’s high-desert wine country
invites visitors with vines, wines and a swaggering touch of the Old West. It’s all centered around the town of Temecula
, 60 miles north of San Diego, 80 miles east of Greater Palm Springs
and 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
If you don’t live in Santa Cruz County
, you probably know this gorgeous stretch of the California coast for its beaches, its stellar university and the namesake town that proudly embraces its somewhat eccentric reputation. But Santa Cruz County is also known for its mountains, its redwood forests and its wines
, particularly the pinot noir and chardonnay that thrive in the fog-kissed climate. Wineries and tasting rooms are sprinkled throughout the county, and dogs get a warm welcome at many of them.
is mostly rural, and its extensive patchwork of public lands encompasses everything from national forests and state parks to dog-friendly preserves administered by the Bureau of Land Management. If you and your well behaved, always-comes-when-called pup prefer to wander together without being tied by a leash, head to Stornetta Public Lands, a 1,665-acre coastal haven near Point Arena, where you’ll also want to check out one of the West Coast’s most iconic lighthouses.
is dominated by – you got it – one of the largest bodies of water in the state. But Clear Lake
, a popular vacation destination, is just one piece of a diverse county that is coming on strong as a fast-growing wine region with laid-back (and dog-friendly) appeal.
The Lake County wine-growing region
blanketing the eastern portion of the county is further divided into seven AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), or appellations, each with its own sense of place. While best known for its sauvignon blancs, petite sirahs and big reds like tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon are gaining well deserved cachet.
Wine grapes were introduced to the Sierra Nevada foothills during the Gold Rush years, when miners were thirsty for refreshment and farmers eager to provide. Today, the Sierra Foothills AVA
(American Viticultural Area) stretches from Yuba County in the north to Mariposa County in the south, with five smaller AVAs under the umbrella designation. Two of them, El Dorado and Fair Play, are in El Dorado County
, within easy striking distance of Sacramento
, gateway to the Gold Country wine country.
region, an hour east of San Francisco, is nothing if not full of surprises, especially when it comes to wine. Production is centered in the rolling Livermore Valley
AVA (American Viticultural Area), where the first grapes were planted in the 1840s. More than 50 wineries, two dozen of them proudly dog-friendly, have since sprung from the rich soil, and they’re all close enough for a day trip or overnight trip from the Bay Area or Sacramento. So leash up your pup, crack a window and take off into the so-close-but-so-far-away countryside.
Winery rich Mendocino County
is home to 10 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), a half-dozen of which are smaller regions lumped together under the over-arching Mendocino County label. While there are many dog-friendly tasting rooms scattered about, it makes sense for newbies to follow one of two designated “wine roads,” one tracing Highway 128
through the famed Anderson Valley, the other centered around the Hopland area
on Highway 101.
What part of the Napa and Sonoma valleys is closest to the Bay Area and Sacramento? The answer: Carneros, a wine-growing region and AVA (American Viticultural Area) that spans parts of Sonoma
counties and backs up to San Pablo Bay. The marine influence makes Carneros (which means “sheep” in Spanish) a bit cooler than regions up-valley, with a microclimate ideal for cultivation of grapes used in sparkling wine production. Dog-friendly tasting rooms abound, and while we haven’t visited them all, we have some favorites.
While the Tri-Valley region is within easy commuting distance of the Bay Area and Sacramento, after a day of hiking or touring the wine or craft beer trails, it’s always nice to stay for dinner, pull into a nearby hotel and spend the night. Tri-Valley has accommodations to fit any taste or budget and by our count, over two-dozen are dog-friendly. The Hyatt House
in Pleasanton even has their own resident dog who hangs out in reception.
There’s no shortage of places in Tri-Valley to chow down at an outdoor table with your pup at your side. Enjoy the small town hospitality and laid-back vibe whether your choice is award-winning California cuisine, local farm-to-fork comfort food, rustic bistro classics or pubs featuring craft brews. Speaking of craft brews, nine out of the 14 dog-friendly breweries, tap rooms and restaurants on the Tri-Valley Craft Beer Trail
serve food. Many are conveniently situated just off Interstates 680 and 580, in or near the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin and Danville.
Three valleys and four cities make up the Tri-Valley region
, which away from urban areas is characterized by rolling hills studded with gnarly oaks and sprawling vineyards. It’s less than an hour from San Francisco or Sacramento, straddling the line between Alameda and Contra Costa counties on the “sunny side” of the bay. Dog-friendly hotels
and craft breweries
abound as you explore the three valleys—Livermore, Amador and San Ramon—from which the region takes its name.
If you plan to put on your hiking shoes and head out to enjoy the East Bay Regional Parks mentioned in this issue, we have just the place to refresh, relax and renew after the hike – the Tri-Valley region
of California! Just a little over 30 miles from San Francisco on the sunny side of the bay, this area encompasses three valleys and four cities where dog-friendly hotels
and craft breweries
and tap rooms abound.
Last fall’s fires, combined with harsh winter storms, were not kind to the popular state parks along Highway 1 in the Big Sur region. Much of this scenic slice of coastline remains inaccessible due to unstable hillsides and destruction of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge (about half a mile south of Big Sur Station), which has been demolished and is being rebuilt. It won’t reopen until fall at the earliest, meaning camping opportunities this summer are heavily curtailed.
Mendocino County’s 47 wineries
produce many reds, of course, but crisp viogniers and other whites are also specialties of the region. If visiting in winter, when inclement weather is a possibility, you might want to do a little homework in advance to select establishments that welcome dogs in their tasting rooms
as well as in their outdoor picnic areas.
While most Mendocino County
restaurants with outdoor dining venues
allow dogs to curl up under the table with their owners, winter weather can throw that option a curve ball. In inclement weather when patios aren’t open, your pup can always wait in the car while you dine. Or—if you know in advance—you can take an unconventional route to an indoor venue.
Northern California’s Tri-Valley
once supplied hops—a primary ingredient in beer—to brewers around the world. Those roots are reflected in an emerging craft-beer scene drawing visitors and their four-legged companions. Located just 45 minutes east of the Golden Gate Bridge, the region is made up of the charming towns of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Danville.
For those who live in San Francisco, Sacramento and most points in between, the Tri-Valley region
, with its rolling topography and semi-rural character, offers a refreshing change of venue for weekend explorers traveling with their dogs.