Meet the hardworking hounds of the wine industry.
Wine dogs. They’re the unsung heroes of the wine industry. Their humans get the glory for the scrumptious chardonnay or shiraz, but it’s the wine dogs who quietly keep things running smoothly.
There’s dozens if not hundreds of these handsome, hard working hounds in the Margaret River wine region, and Lizzy Pepper reveals where to meet some of the friendliest wine dogs around.
Photos by Craig McGill and Tim Campbell
Wine Dogs – the book
Serious dog lovers will have cry-laughed over the Wine Dogs books, including the latest Leunig edition. The books profile dogs from all over Australia, sharing each dog’s favourite pastimes, obsessions and (my favourite) their naughtiest deeds.
I asked photographer Craig McGill to share a few of his favourite local wine dogs and behind the scenes stories.
Craig says it was a trip to the Barossa and McLaren Vale that spurred the idea for the book. “We were greeted by dogs in every winery we visited. After returning home and looking at our travel photos, we noticed most of the pics were of winery dogs – I said to [co-publisher] Sue “There’s probably a book in this!”
Having met hundreds of wine dogs, there must be a ‘naughtiest deed’ that tops them all? “There’s two; the dog that set itself in quick-set cement and the dog that peed on the Jehovah Witness” says Craig.
Craig reveals the secret to getting dogs to look at the camera – perfect if you’ve ever had a dog look everywhere but the lens; “a squeaky ball is essential.”
Michael Leunig penned a superb introduction to the latest Wine Dogs book and contributed over a dozen cartoons. With 19 Margaret River region dogs in the new book, you could easily plan a weekend of wine tasting around it. Available at wineries and the Margaret River Bookshop.
Hamish – Howard Park
Hamish loves attention, according to his human, Nat Burch. You’ll probably find Hamish snoring by the fireplace in the cellar door or cleaning the kitchen floor.
Watch out in the carpark though; Hamish enjoys a game of chicken with cars, and his naughtiest deed was when he jumped into a visitors car, peed and ran away.
Becky – Hay Shed Hill Wines
Becky’s been the perfect host at Hay Shed Hill for over a decade. She meets and greets guests and will lavish you with gifts of gravel rocks and a paw shake if you’re bearing food.
Becky entertains kids while their parents taste the wines, and her naughtiest deed is stealing a whole roast chook from owners Mike and Leith’s dinner table.
As Hay Shed Hill has grown, so has Becky. Ten years ago, it was a cellar door with an enviable cheese cabinet, now there’s the fabulous Rustico restaurant serving Spanish degustation lunches and tapas style plates. Becky can recommend it all.
Tux, Harley, Max and Jack – Credaro Wines
The four Border Collies of Credaro Wines are busy right now, helping prune the vines. True working dogs, they’ll follow their owners around the farm, checking (chasing?) lawnmowers and catching mice.
Naughtiest deeds? “There’s lots of naughty stuff!” says Tash who works in cellar door. “They’re pretty chilled, but they’ve been known to pee on the rug.”
Bess – Arimia
You can’t actually visit Arimia without first acknowledging Bess. This loveable 3-legged Australian Shepherd lays across the front door and won’t move until you say g’day.
“She meets, greets, plays with kids and lies under tables, waiting for crumbs” says owner Ann Spencer.
“She’s practically perfect and gets on with everyone – she doesn’t have any naughty deeds” says Ann. I enquire about Bess’s missing leg… “perfect except she chases cars – and it didn’t teach her a thing!”
Solly – Cullen Wines
“Solly’s a bit of a czar – he’s a people magnet, people come here to meet him” says winemaker Vanya Cullen, of Cullen Wines.
“Dogs have an incredible emotional intelligence, and Solly is a gifted morale booster” she continues. His job is to make people happy, and you’ll find him lazing in the sunshine outside the restaurant and cellar door, waiting for love.
Not a naughty deed as such, but Vanya says Solly is dedicated to organic pest control, catching as many blowflies as he can, and leaving snot marks on the windows in his quest.
So, what are we doing this weekend? A Wine Dogs tour of Margaret River, of course!