Furry Friends Are Welcome Here: Michigan’s Dog-Friendly Wineries

Bring your beloved pet on your vineyard adventures around the state
One of the winners of Sandhill Crane’s Dogs of the Vineyard calendar contest, Riesling, poses in the vineyard with — you guessed it — a bottle of Riesling. Photo by Jenna Kulhawik of Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Dog lovers will find kindred spirits at wineries across Michigan. Not only do many vineyards in the state allow guests to bring their furry friends, but several winery owners have dogs of their own on the property.

At Bowers Harbor Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula, the owners have had dogs at the winery since it was established 31 years ago. Their current vineyard dog — a term Bowers Harbor has adopted for a dog that freely roams the vineyards — is an English cream Labrador named Winston, who is 12 years old, and they’re training a new vineyard dog, Lucy, a 3-year-old goldendoodle.

When the dogs are around, guests are encouraged to interact with them.

“The dogs will tend to greet the guests when they come in and walk around and say hi to the kids,” says Bethany Poineau, tasting room manager at Bowers Harbor. “They’re almost an employee.”

Bowers Harbor’s vineyard dog, Winston, on duty. Photo by Lyndsay Platz

Even when Winston and Lucy are absent, visitors will often find canine companions at the winery.

“We are dog-friendly here, so we strongly encourage everyone to bring their own dogs,” Poineau says. “So it’s pretty common to see a collection of other people’s dogs here. Some days we’ll have 15 dogs at one time; some days we’ll have a couple.”

The guidelines for bringing a dog to the winery are simple: Keep your dog on a leash at all times and clean up after them. Leave dogs that become aggressive around people or other dogs at home.

In the southeast part of the state, Jackson’s Sandhill Crane Vineyards also allows guests to bring their dogs — and has similar rules.

“Guests are welcome to bring their dogs as long as the dogs stay outside,” says Holly Peterson, the owner and winemaker.

Dogs should also stay on a leash, and the winery has a pet station that provides bags and a garbage bin to make it easier for dog owners to pick up after them. Sandhill Crane also asks that all dogs be up to date on their vaccines for the safety of other pets.

Brew, the dog-in-residence at Spare Key Winery, chills under the grapevines. Photo courtesy of Spare Key Winery

“That’s really basically it,” Peterson says. “[Owners are] just responsible for making sure that they’re being good.”

Part of the Family
For winery owners like Peterson, allowing dogs at their establishments has major benefits, both for themselves and their customers.

“No. 1, I love dogs, and I have my own,” she says. “And No. 2, especially during the warmer months, our outdoor space is such a nice space out here. We are out in the country, so we have a lot of outdoor space. People are even welcome to walk their dogs around the vineyard. So it’s just my personal preference — I think it’s kind of fun that people can bring them out.”

Dog lovers also appreciate the ability to bring their furry friends, who are often more like family, along with them on their winery adventures, especially as summer approaches and the weather improves.

“We like to bring a certain uniqueness to our place any way that we can, so we allow the dogs pretty much everywhere on our property,” Poineau says. “We recognize that dogs are a part of the family — it’s another family member — … so we wanted to offer that additional aspect for people who travel specifically to come and see us here. … That way they’re able to come and do things with their pets while they’re traveling with them instead of just having to leave them at their Airbnbs or hotels.”

Abbie and Ethan McCarthy hold one of the four puppy litters that have come to Spare Key over the past four years while their dogs Lambeau and Jordy look on. Photo courtesy of Spare Key Winery

Dogs are part of the family at Spare Key Winery in Charlevoix, too. In fact, in addition to Brew, the winery dog on property all the time, and Zoey, co-founder and President Jean McCarthy’s Bernese mountain dog, there’s a rotation of visiting pets (including, on some occasions, a litter of puppies!) belonging to the owners’ family members.

“They’re excellent companions, and actually customers love them,” McCarthy says.

She says that when interacting with the dogs, visitors should always let the dogs approach them first. It’s also a good idea to be mindful of the dogs’ space and treat them as you would anyone else’s pet. Guests’ dogs are welcome on the property as well, as long as they’re leashed and get along well with other people and animals. Dogs should not be allowed to approach other guests, either.

Pet-Focused Philanthropy
Some dog-friendly wineries take their love of pets even further. Bowers Harbor names a wine after each of the winery’s dogs, which the staff chooses based on the dog’s personality. Winston’s wine, for example, is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, and a portion of the proceeds is donated to the local humane society.

Sandhill Crane’s Dogs of the Vineyard calendar and Abrazo wine, featuring the owner and her dog Rusty on the label. Photo by Jenna Kulhawik of Sandhill Crane Vineyards

Sandhill Crane donates some of the proceeds from sales of its Abrazo wine, an off-dry red whose label features Rusty, one of Peterson’s previous dogs, to the Cascades Humane Society.

Last year, the winery created its first Dogs of the Vineyard calendar, which also benefited the humane society. Customers brought their dogs to be photographed at the winery and later voted on their favorite dog photos. The 12 with the most votes became the photos for each month, and the rest were sprinkled throughout the calendar on individual days. In the back, coupons featured staff members’ dogs.

“The people that participated really loved it,” Peterson says.

Many other wineries in Michigan also allow guests to bring their dogs. Before visiting, be sure to check whether pets are welcome and what rules and restrictions are in place. Most of all, when bringing your dog along, follow common-sense etiquette to be courteous to the other guests — and dogs — so everyone can enjoy the experiences Michigan wine country has to offer.

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