In Paso, we love our furry friends just as much as we love our wine! Guest Blogger and founder of Wine 4 Paws, Sarah Tomasetti discusses how she combined her passions to create a weekend in Paso Robles where community and visitors alike come together to raise money for Woods Humane Society, a local non-profit animal shelter in San Luis Obispo County, all while enjoying the bounty of the area. Wine 4 Paws weekend is also a great way to uncover a few new Paso jems as well.
Why is Wine 4 Paws important for Paso and how did it get started? What organization does it support?
My husband and I had been volunteering for Woods Humane Society when we lived in Arroyo Grande. We moved to Paso in 2005 and of course we made sure to visit lots of wineries. All the winery owners were so nice, and everyone seemed to have a friendly dog or cat around. We couldn’t volunteer at Woods on a regular basis anymore, and I wanted to stay involved. I thought, “How about a fundraiser? Maybe the wineries would be willing to donate a % of their sales for just one day to Woods.”
When I told my husband the idea he thought I was crazy – “You’re going to go and ask them to give you money??” But the idea was really to promote our local wineries and in return raise money for this amazing organization. You never know if you don’t ask, right?
Woods began in San Luis Obispo in 1955. When Wine 4 Paws began, over half the animal surrenders to Woods were coming from the North County. In the past couple of years, Woods has opened a North County Location as well as the first low-cost spay and neuter clinic in North County – and the money we’ve raised has helped. Woods also works with other rescue organizations in our community providing low cost spay and neuter services and other assistance.
I think Ranchita Canyon was the first winery I approached. Bill & Teresa Hinrichs didn’t hesitate. Same with Graveyard Vineyards – Paula was immediately on board. Chuck Desmond from Paso Magazine was kind enough to write an article on the inaugural event, and Pam Lock from Ecluse called me up, saying, “I have to be a part of this!” So the interest was there from the beginning.
Is there something unique about the Paso Robles Wine Community that makes this event extra special, or even possible?
Everything! Everyone I met at the wineries was so nice, and really wanted to be involved in their community. That has proven to be true year after year. We started with 34 wineries and are at 98 this year - Changala, Ecluse, AronHill, Doce Robles, Dunning, Graveyard, Justin, Pianetta, and Ranchita Canyon have all done Wine 4 Paws every year since the beginning. Every summer I’ll hear from wineries about how excited they are for the next year. So here we are with the 11th Annual Wine 4 Paws weekend! The genuine enthusiasm from the wineries and all the winery visitors has made Wine 4 Paws an incredible, unique event. My goal was to make it a win-win, where the wineries get some extra business thanks to our promotions and in turn Woods Humane Society gets some much-needed funds. We’ve had some wineries tell me their biggest weekend of the year is Wine 4 Paws which is a HUGE compliment.
It’s not just wineries. We have Earth & Fire Brewing Company and Olivas de Oro Olive Oil in the mix, as well as 3 restaurants: Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ and Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar in downtown Paso and Milestone Tavern in in San Luis Obispo. We also have wine tour companies, hotels, vets, and local vendors who are part of the weekend. It’s truly a community effort and makes me very proud to live here. Las Tablas Animal Hospital contacted us a few years ago and have now become our main sponsor and Uncorked Wine Tours and Teresa Rhyne Law Firm also sponsor the event.
This year most of the participating Downtown Paso wineries PLUS Jeffry’s Wine Country BBQ and Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar have joined together and will be donating 10% of sales starting FRIDAY, April 5. As the day turns to night, come out for Bark After Dark! Each Tasting Room is coming up with something fun including spice pairings at LXV, live music at Chateau Lettau and Asuncion Ridge, and a jukebox at Pianetta. Symbiosis wine is taking Nose Training for dogs and offering “Human Nose Training” with wine! Hoyt Family Winery will have Karaoke where you can howl like your favorite furry friend. Cypher Winery will be doing an oyster pairing with their Ethereal wine (advanced reservations needed www.cypherwine.com), Bushong Vintage Company has new released to enjoy while you spin some vinyl, Bodegas Paso Robles will have new releases, and Earth & Fire Brewery and Indigine Cellars are also on board with other fun offerings. And everyone including Jeffry’s will continue donating 10% of sales all weekend long.
What should a visitor from out of the area expect when they pack their pooch and come to Paso during Wine 4 Paws weekend?
Wine 4 Paws was not actually created as a “take your dog wine tasting” weekend. You don’t need a dog with you; anyone can get out and help all the homeless animals in our community who are waiting for loving homes! But for those who do want to bring their dogs, most of the wineries are dog friendly, as are many of the hotels here in Paso.
If you do bring your dog, please make sure it’s well socialized and respect each winery’s rules on having a dog with you. They should be on a leash at all times.
Can you give us a few local tips for those who are traveling with their dog to Paso Robles?
- Socialized dogs only.
- Keep your dog leashed and under control at all times.
- Most of our wineries are dog friendly, but some have livestock or other animals on the premise and will therefore not be able to accommodate dogs.
- Don't leave your dog in your car! Instead, call the winery in advance and ask if they are dog friendly.
- Some wineries will allow dogs outside only.
- PLEASE do not bring more dogs than people! We don’t want other wine tasters overrun with your 4-legged companions.
- And as always....if you have a group of 6+ people, it’s good wine tasting etiquette to call ahead.
In your experience, talking to Wine 4 Paws visitors, what are the best dog-friendly hotels to stay at during the weekend?
Holiday Inn Express is offering a 20% discount to anyone who books for April 6-7 and mentions Wine 4 Paws. Hotel Cheval is very dog-friendly! Wine Country RV has some cabins for people who don’t actually “RV” it. The Oaks, Allegretto, and La Quinta are other great options.
What transportation services can wine tasters use to get around during the weekend?
Along with Uncorked Wine Tours we have 101 Wine Tours, Breakaway Wine Tours, The Wine Line, and SLO Safe Ride.
Finally, wineries and other businesses can people visit to help support Wine 4 Paws weekend?
For a complete list of participating wineries as well as info on the Friday downtown kickoff, Special Events hosted by some of those wineries, Wine Specials, and other great info, visit www.wine4paws.com . You’ll be able to print a map HERE, or you can pick one up at any participating winery during Wine 4 Paws, April 6-7.
And don’t forget April 5 – head downtown to any of the participating tasting rooms for a special Friday map.
Learn more about Woods Humane Society HERE