Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Meet the Winery Cats

That's not a typo...winery CATS. Much has been said about winery dogs. Books have been published. Awards given out. Dog treats sold in tasting rooms. Leaving the cats in the dust. What's a cat lover to do? The blogmasters do enjoy dogs - as long as they keep their slobber and muddy paws away from us while we visit a winery. But to us, there's nothing finer than a visit from a winery cat. And they do exist. It's just that the wineries don't feel the need to trumpet their feline friends in their tasting rooms. Cats and cat lovers don't need the constant gratification that dogs and dog lovers crave (sorry, but we had to get a few "cat jabs" in).

As Robert DeNiro said in Meet the Parents, why do wineries spend so much time promoting their "emotionally shallow animals?" That may be a bit harsh. Humans do have both canine and feline aspects of their personalities: Sometimes we want to be in the middle of a crowded party room, and other times we want to be alone with our thoughts. But ask any dog lover with no interest in (or even an inexplicable hatred and/or fear of) cats and they would rather belt you in the face than admit that they have any cat facets to their psychological make up.

It makes sense for wineries to have dogs: They keep the deer away, and keep the more extroverted visitors happy. Yet us introverts like companions too, and we don't need a dog to validate our respective self-worths!

Cats serve a purpose in wineries too....something about rodents and other vermin. Cats did put an end to the black plague, after all, by killing off the disease-carrying vermin. Cats probably wouldn't control deer the way a dog would - but don't tell a cat that.

This may be an odd topic for this blog, but reading a Virginia wine magazine last night gave us the idea for a spotlight on winery cats. Yet another "Virginia's Best Winery DOG" competition has started. Enough is enough - let's hear it for the cats (cue music...)

Our favorite winery cats (in no particular order as any winery with a cat gets the top prize):

FLINT (Willowcroft Farm Vineyards, south of Leesburg).
Flint is a pure tabby who is often found sitting in the middle of their gravel parking lot, refusing to move out of the way of incoming cars. Flint's story is he came to visit the winery as a kitten about seven years ago, from a nearby house, and apparently spends more time at the winery and in the tasting room now than his own home. Willowcroft had another feline once upon a time - Bailey - and the winery had a wine named after him.

FRITZ (First Colony Winery, south of Charlottesville).
Naming a cat "Fritz" is amusing enough (for those familiar with Bob Crumb's work). This orange tabby is vocal and probably the most dog-like feline we've encountered. He came to the winery as a kitten, sadly abandoned with two broken legs, and has adjusted as the tasting room mascot with "aspirations to own the winery one day" according to Martha, the tasting room manager.

CARDINAL POINT WINERY kitty (name of cat: unknown).
Another orange tabby, this guy should be named Basketball, as that's exactly what he resembles. But he has no problem jumping onto the barrel where his food dish is. There are a lot of dogs at Cardinal Point too, but the cat makes it clear who's boss. The blogmasters overheard a grumpy older man at this winery once, who immediately left the tasting room when he entered with his wife, and was heard uttering "I didn't like the cat" when he left. One less cat hater in a winery is fine with us!

GINGER (North Mountain Winery, south of Winchester).
Yes, this is also a dog winery, as the pictures on their website indicate. But Ginger, a beautiful calico, hangs out with guests as well, especially those who love cats. Cats have a way of recognizing cat people even if they're too busy to dote on them - Ginger finds her way to the picnic tables and announces her arrival every time.

WHITE ROCK VINEYARDS kitty (name of cat: Unknown).
White Rock Vineyards, near Smith Mountain Lake, is a charming family-owned rural winery with an incredibly appealing enclosed Florida-room like tasting room, and their resident cat, a friendly Siamese and a perfect lap cat, welcomes us every time.

WARREN (Fabbioli Cellars, north of Leesburg).
Doug Fabbioli and his family and staff are proud cat owners - several cats have been spotted at his winery. But Warren is the star, and he knows it. Another big orange tabby, Warren drinks water from (what else) a wine glass and sometimes has to be asked (nicely, of course) to get off the tasting counter.

RUDY (Hiddencroft Vineyards, near Lovettsville).
Another "Croft" winery in Loudoun County, Hiddencroft makes some delicious, award-winning wines. Rudy is a tan tabby who usually accompanies Clyde, the owner/winemaker, on his tractor. Rudy shares the greeting role with another cat, whose name we don't know and who is a bit more skittish than Rudy.

Hopefully other wineries will fall into this blog post and realize that cat people are the silent minority (or even majority)....we don't mind dogs, but much prefer cats. There are probably many other cats to be found at various Virginia wineries, especially the farm wineries. We hope to add Part II to this entry in the coming months.....

In the meantime, visit our photo album of Virginia cats:



  1. And there is Charlie at James River Cellars

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