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Pinot on A Leash

By Steve Palopoli

WINE TASTING is a social pursuit—in theory, anyway. In reality, tastings are often very private affairs, with couples and small groups that stick mostly to themselves. Even a fair amount of imbibing isn't guaranteed to bring together the cliques in a room packed with wine lovers.

The Mountain Winery in Saratoga has come up with a novel way to break the ice. People love dogs. Dogs love each other. People love to talk about how their dogs love each other. One is likely to see more instant friendships in a dog park than at a wine bar. So, they reasoned, why not bring the dog park to the wine bar? Or in this case, to the winery's hilltop grounds. Mountain Winery held its first Pets and Pinot event last month, and got enough of a turnout (and positive feedback) that two more have already been planned: Sunday, Sept. 13, 11:30am–3:30pm, and Sunday, Oct. 11, noon–5pm.

The idea is simple: wine lovers who bring their pets get a free pour of pinot (which is where the event name comes from, in case anyone was worried that Baron von Schnauzerface is getting liquored up against his will). Other than that, the winery's normal tasting fees apply: $8.50 for the reserve series (cab, chardonnay, merlot, old-vine zin) and $12 for estate wines (chardonnay and pinot).

This mixing of fur and flights is the first such event I've heard of, but Mountain Winery's general manager Joan LeMahieu says the idea just came up in a staff brainstorming session and seemed like a "fun experiment." For the first event, Los Gatos' Bow Wowzers made up doggie bags for visiting pets, including dog treats shaped like wine bottles. Next time, says LeMahieu, the Bay Area dog club Society Dog will be bringing 40 or so of their members along, as well. And though so far the event has been the exclusive turf of dogs, the "pets" part really is an open invitation.

"If people want to bring their parrot, that's just fine," says LeMahieu.

PETS AND PINOT happens again on Sunday, Sept. 13, 11:30am–3:30pm, and Sunday, Oct. 11, noon–5pm, at the Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga;

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