Some say that wine is art's best friend. Just judging from much of the "wine country" art on view in local tasting rooms, however, I'd hazard to guess that the jury's still out on that one. In fact, some say, the jury's been drinking. Wait, this just in—the jury's totally wasted, and they're not coming back.
Here's a winery with a winning strategy for bringing art to their wine labels and winning the loyalty of wine fans at the same time: put a dog in it. Mutt Lynch was started back in 1995 by Chris and Brenda Lynch, wine-industry veterans who wanted to launch a smartly focused wine brand that addressed their interests as animal-rescue advocates. And so it was. Mutt Lynch has been lauded by both The Wine Advocate and Dog Fancy magazines, and was named "Best Dog-Friendly Winery" by Bay Woof readers. A portion of proceeds benefit various organizations, from the Marin County Humane Society to NorCal Portuguese Water Dog Rescue.
Sharing a homely cellar just south of Healdsburg with Mietz Cellars and Deux Amis wineries, Brenda spends harvest as winemaker, while Chris is busy training retailers to heel—one might guess—as president of Terlato Wine Group. The tasting room, a couple of boards across two wine barrels, is dog-friendly, as are the spit buckets on the cellar floor—if your dog is into that kind of thing. Food pairings include a jar full of milk bones, and tchotchkes include eco-friendly poop bags. When you buy a case of wine, the 12th slot is filled with a dog treat or toy.
The 2010 "Fou Fou le Blanc" Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99) does not—repeat—does not sport a New Zealand–like note of cat pee—more like honeydew melon, with a sweet finish. The 2012 Rosie Rosé ($13.99) is a Sweet Tart of a Zinfandel rosé, while the 2007 Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel ($13.99) may be most familiar to local market shoppers—brambleberry thicket, juicy and rustic.
The top of the line, 2009 "Man's Best Friend" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($24.99) is also reasonably priced. Lap up the mocha, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice flavor; the finish is dry, but not cat-tongue dry. The rare and alluring 2011 MBF Charbono ($24.99), from Napa Valley's Frediani vineyard, smells like slumbering plums dreaming that they are figs while cool midnight air drifts across a bed made of licorice. Good thing plums don't allow their dogs to sleep on the bed, or it would've just smelled like dog.
Mutt Lynch Winery, 602 Limerick Lane, Healdsburg. By appointment only, Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–4pm. Tasting fee, $5. 707.942.6180.