Wine + Dogs

Meet this cou­ple liv­ing the dream and raise a glass for res­cue: Mutt Lynch Win­ery’s Cal­i­for­nian wines taste de­li­cious and do good


Meet this cou­ple liv­ing the dream and raise a glass for res­cue: Mutt Lynch Win­ery’s Cal­i­for­nian wines taste de­li­cious and do good.

One might ex­pect Chris and Brenda Lynch, own­ers of Sonoma County, Cal­i­for­nia’s Mutt Lynch Win­ery, to be a bit pre­ten­tious. They are ar­ti­sans, after all, oper­at­ing in the rar­i­fied sphere of wine mak­ing, and reg­u­larly re­ceive ac­co­lades. Among many other awards, their 2014 Hell­hound Red, which they de­scribe as “dark and vi­o­lent,” won Dou­ble Gold at the 2017 Sonoma County Har­vest Fair. You could be for­given for think­ing that a stereo­typ­i­cal at­ti­tude comes with the ter­roir. But Chris and Brenda are any­thing but. “The wine busi­ness can be too stuffy,” Chris states baldly, “and so we wanted to in­ject a sense of play­ful­ness into it.” They de­cided to merge their love of wine and their love of an­i­mals—specif­i­cally their pack of mutts—and start their own win­ery, which they called, ap­pro­pri­ately, “Mutt Lynch.” (Their menagerie has now ex­panded to in­clude two kids, twins Katie and Porter.) Brenda soon found she had a flair for mak­ing wine so she took over pro­duc­tion while Chris headed up the mar­ket­ing and busi­ness arm. “I make it and he sells it,” she laughs. The love of dogs con­tin­ues straight through: Never a cou­ple to take them­selves or their wine too se­ri­ously, they named one of their first wines, a Zin­fan­del, “Do­maine du Bone.” The French lan­guage gives it an air of re­fine­ment, but the phrase ac­tu­ally means some­thing hu­mor­ously mun­dane: House of the Bone. Chris and Brenda fash­ioned the la­bels by hand and at­tached a small dog bone to each bot­tle, a labour of love. Al­though they no longer hand-la­bel their wine—“It’s too much work,” ad­mits Chris—they con­tinue to name each

with a mutt-in­spired moniker. Their 2013 Zin­fan­del, for ex­am­ple, is named “Por­trait of a Mutt;” they char­ac­ter­ize the de­li­cious blend of var­i­ous grapes as “al­ways a mutt.” In 2014, Forbes magazine took note of their in­ge­nu­ity and de­clared their Un­leashed Chardon­nay and Rusty Mut­titage as some of the “coolest wine la­bels.” The play­ful names are com­ple­mented by equally cheeky art­work fea­tur­ing de­signs like a dog danc­ing across a rolling vine­yard. Chris and Brenda also of­fer a full range of what they call their “MBF” wines, such as their 2014 MBF Char­bono, cre­ated from grapes from the cel­e­brated Fre­di­ani Vine­yards in Cal­is­toga, Cal­i­for­nia. Those new to im­bib­ing wine might con­clude that “MBF” is an acronym for a wine term they’re not fa­mil­iar with, but it is ac­tu­ally a ca­nine de­scrip­tor: “MBF” is short for “man’s best friend,” and an apt term for the very drink­able of­fer­ings. Brenda crafts her wines—rang­ing in style from Chardon­nay to Rosé—from grapes grown along the Cal­i­for­nia coast, vine­yards buf­feted by agree­ably cool winds blow­ing in from the Pa­cific Ocean. The Perotti Vine­yard, for in­stance, lo­cated in Dry Creek Val­ley near Chris and Brenda’s win­ery, is the source of their Zin­fan­del grapes, in­clud­ing those used in their de­lec­ta­ble dessert wine, the 2015 Nec­tar of the Dogs Late Har­vest Zin­fan­del. But out­stand­ing vine­yards are not the only rea­son for Brenda’s wine­mak­ing suc­cess. “I think I’m very much at­tuned to what my cus­tomers want,” she says, “And I work very hard to de­liver that to them.” Named as one of the most pet-friendly winer­ies by Wine Buzz Magazine, as well as by Bay Woof, a monthly Oak­land-area magazine, Mutt Lynch reg­u­larly opens its tast­ing room to both two-legged and four-legged vis­i­tors. Chris says peo­ple trav­el­ling with their dogs, who want to bring them along on a wine tast­ing, of­ten visit them. “They Google ‘dog-friendly win­ery’ and we come up,” he ex­plains.

Brenda en­joys talk­ing to vis­i­tors, whether at the tast­ing room or at char­ity events. She says they of­ten ask her why her win­ery is cen­tered on dogs, which she sim­ply ex­plains to them thus: “Dogs are great: they are al­ways there for you, wag­ging a tail, giv­ing you a hug when you need it.” As peo­ple taste the Syrah, they start to also im­bibe the more se­ri­ous as­pects of Mutt Lynch—be­neath the light-hearted, dog-in­spired la­bels, lies a mis­sion: Chris and Brenda are devoted to im­prov­ing the lives of needy an­i­mals, and they sup­port a mul­ti­tude of res­cue groups in Cal­i­for­nia and else­where by do­nat­ing their wine and their time. “We get calls ev­ery week from shel­ters that are look­ing for do­na­tions,” ex­plains Chris, adding, “We re­ally try to help out.” A glance at their web­site shows a long and di­verse list of animal res­cue groups they sup­port, from na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions to smaller op­er­a­tions in Cal­i­for­nia and other states. While reg­u­lar winer­ies host Happy Hours, Mutt Lynch puts on char­i­ta­ble “Yappy Hours” for peo­ple and pets that raise funds for animal res­cue groups, such as Hounds for Haiti. Their most re­cent ini­tia­tive, started in 2017, fea­tures a cus­tom la­bel cre­ated for a de­lec­ta­ble Mutt Lynch 2014 Caber­net Sauvi­gnon; the colour­ful art­work show­cases the win­ery’s part­ner­ship with the Sonoma Hu­mane So­ci­ety, in an ef­fort that not only high­lights the com­mend­able work done by the or­ga­ni­za­tion, but that gen­er­ates funds for the animal wel­fare group: Mutt Lynch do­nates 25% of the pur­chase price di­rectly to the char­ity. “It is our new­est pro­gram and the one we have the high­est hopes for,” Chris says proudly. In 2018, Chris and Brenda hope to ex­pand the pro­gram not only in Cal­i­for­nia but na­tion­ally. “In ev­ery bot­tle,” Chris con­tin­ues, “there is a por­tion that we are giv­ing back.”

Brenda and Chris

Brenda (sec­ond from left) and the Mutt Lynch “fam­ily”—the win­ery staff and their dogs.

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