Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cheers to the Virginia Winery Cats

Winery dogs have long been a spotlight of wineries in Virginia, and elsewhere (just about every wine producing state has a "winery dog" coffee table book). The Notebook toasted our top five winery dogs several months ago: Virginia Wineries Going to the Dogs.

Feline fans have been emailing us (and asking us in person) when will the cats be spotlighted. Well, it has taken us several months to pare down the list of favorite Virginia winery felines to five. The blogmasters enjoy dogs but we are definitely more cat people. So when we find a winery that has a friendly cat in the vicinity, it is a big deal. Many (if not every) winery in the state seems to have a dog on the premises. Finding a cat winery is more of a challenge. But several do exist.

Cats are just as important for a winery and the vineyards as dogs are. Cats keep the vermin away. And some winery cat owners have confessed that their farm cats chase deer away too. And while a cat entering a tasting room won't usually be the entertainment provider to most visitors as a dog can be, those who appreciate the felines will stop their tasting process to say hi.

Admittedly, cats are not the center of attention at wineries compared to dogs, and as much as we'd love to write about the wild and crazy antics performed by these cats at the wineries, there is not much action to be seen with a cat around. It is an honor to be in their presence, however; there is a mystical quality to cats that dogs simply do not possess.

So with this lead up, we confess that the wines, as well as the wineries, in our list are perfect Virginia spots in nearly every way. The cat is an added bonus.

The Top Five Virginia Cat Wineries:

5. Cardinal Point Winery (south of Charlottesville)
Aubie is one of a few resident farm cats at Cardinal Point, one of the original Monticello AVA locations. We didn't know his name until recently, and dubbed him "Basketball" several years ago after meeting him the first time. Aubie is usually a presence in and around the tasting room, and hangs out with guests on the patio. Dogs don't deter him. He has made it abundantly clear on several occasions that he is in charge of that patio (and tasting room.....and the entire winery).

Aubie eating - what else?

Aubie marching down the steps in front of the tasting room to greet visitors:

4. North Mountain Vineyard and Winery (south of Winchester)
Ginger is a beautiful tortoise shell cat at North Mountain, a calming presence, particularly in the winter when she's napping by the tasting room's fireplace. She loves going outside as well, and has a knack for sniffing out the cat people visitors, and making herself at home on their picnic bench. North Mountain also was home to "OJ," (named after the beverage, not the infamous ex football star). OJ was an orange tabby who always greeted customers (Ginger is a bit more shy), and who sadly passed away a few years ago.

Ginger visits the picnic table:

3. First Colony Winery (south of Charlottesville)
Fritz the Cat is the feline attraction here (the owners must be Bob Crumb fans). Fritz is an orange tabby who landed at First Colony as a kitten, with two broken legs, about eight years ago. Fritz is a feisty one, rather typical of orange tabbies, and was recently featured in a Cat Fancy magazine article on winery cats.

Fritz says hi to visitors on the First Colony patio:

Fritz, indoors:

2. Willowcroft Winery (south of Leesburg)
Willowcroft is home to a bonafide Hemingway cat, a polydactyl (six toed) tabby who arrived at Willowcroft from a nearby home as a kitten, and splits his time between the winery and his home up the road. At the time of Flint's arrival, another feline named Bailey ruled the roost here. Bailey left several years ago (he belonged to the previous tasting room manager), but his name lives on empty wine bottles that featured his namesake: Bailey's Bluff (an off-dry rosé offered at the winery about ten years ago). Flint is a lively cat and always seems to be in "stalking" mode when we visit. That stands to reason given Willowcroft's rustic setting on a Blue Ridge foothill; lots of insects and small rodents to find! We keep waiting for a wine featuring Flint's name or image on a bottle here.

Flint, inside the Willowcroft barn:

Flint, chillin' in front of the tasting room:

1. Fabbioli Cellars (north of Leesburg)
All you need to know about the cat loving owners of Loudoun County's Fabbioli Cellars is summed up by this sign posted on the door leading to their tasting room:

Several cats have made Doug and Colleen's place their home through the years. So many, in fact, that the cats' names were printed on their bottles of rosé. But Warren is the indisputable king of this cat winery. Warren is another orange tabby (what is it about wineries and orange tabbies?), and presides over all matters of winery operation.

Warren at the tasting counter:

Warren shares the lair with Goldie, a white and orange tabby. Other felines have been spotted coming and going, but Warren and Goldie are the most social of the cats here.

Blogmaster David's cat and her favorite bottle of Fabbioli wine:

And no cat blog would be complete without cat videos! Here are some of the aforementioned kitties, along with a few honorable mentions.

Ginger (North Mountain Vineyard):

Fritz (First Colony):

Warren (Fabbioli Cellars):
Clip 1 (drinking from a wine glass)

Clip 2 (managing the tasting counter):

Rex (Capitol Vineyards, near Front Royal):

Charlie (James River Cellars, north of Richmond):

And finally, introducing Daug....Barrel Oak Winery's (BOW's) first winery feline. A wonderful Russian Blue taken in by BOW staff about four months ago:

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