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.
DogTrekker.com has mapped out a road-trip itinerary that can guide you to 10 dog-welcoming wineries or tasting rooms between Davenport in the north and Watsonville in the south. That’s too many for one day, of course, but you could always go “micro” by visiting two dog-friendly wineries on the Corralitos Wine Trail at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, 10 miles south of Santa Cruz. Alfaro Family Vineyards and Nicholson Vineyards, both open on winter Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., are just minutes apart and welcome leashed canine visitors to relax as their people taste their very special organic pinots and chardonnays.
As a bonus if you’ll be visiting at lunchtime: Alfaro isn’t far from the Corralitos Market and Sausage Company, a regionally famous deli. Before you pick up your picnic fixins, make a detour to let your dog run off steam at nearby Aldridge Lane Park, where leashed dogs are welcome so long as they steer clear of the equestrian facility.
Also on the DogTrekker trail is MJA Vineyard, a Hawaiian-spirited winery that spreads dog-friendly aloha both inside the tasting room and on a fire pit-warmed deck. Dogs get treats and water while their people enjoy exceptional cabs (and/or top-notch Kona coffee), but it’s strictly BYOL (bring your own lei) and aloha attire so far as accouterments are concerned. There’s a backstory, of course. The winery founder, who comes from a long line of Croatian winemakers, retired to Hawaii, began growing Kona coffee and came back to California to pursue the family passion; MJA’s Westside Tasting Room & Cellar in Santa Cruz is open daily and offers live music on a frequent basis. It’s located in a micro-boutique winery collective with a dozen dog-friendly tasting rooms in the trendy Surf City Vintners complex near the UC Santa Cruz campus.
One more suggestion: If you’re making a scenic cruise down Highway 1 on your way south, Bonny Doon Vineyard Tasting Room, on the side of the road in Davenport, is a great place to refresh. The “Dooniverse,” as they call it, is open daily and sits right next to the Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn, a landmark establishment with quite a history. Your four-legged friend is welcome in the tasting room but will need to chill in your vehicle if you go next door to eat. A bonus: Dog-friendly (leash required) Davenport Beach is just across Highway 1.
Photo Credit: @rubytuesday96