I’ve taken some liberties over the years with pairing wine with the unusual—books, movies, video streaming and even home ownership. Because don’t y’all relate more to drinking a bold California blend after spotting a snake in your basement than pairing it with some fancy-schmancy food thing you will—face it—never even try to make?
So, in the spirit of wine + life pairings, I present wine pairings with puppy training.
I did not, like thousands of others, adopt a puppy during the coronavirus pandemic. I got one at the end of August, spurred by a notice on my local upstate New York community network that someone was looking to sell a few Golden Retrievers. The owner was a friendly farmer who had bred her female golden to another just to get puppies to give to her grandkids, but when she birthed a litter of 14—way more than grandkids on hand—the pups went out onto the local market for a good price. I had visited shelters on and off but was nervous about adopting a dog with more baggage than me. I figured I might not get another chance to get a puppy I could ruin all on my own. And, I’ve always had a soft spot for Goldens.
The day before I picked up my pup, I attended a Rioja wine event in East Hampton. Often I look back on that evening—balmy weather at a waterside resort, a boat ride with the winemakers and plenty of bottles, fresh seafood and paella—and think that was my last moment of freedom and sanity.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the puppy (who was nicknamed “Nobody,” thus inciting me to adopt him and give him a proper name), but as anyone who has reared a pup knows, puppy love is equally accompanied by frustration, anxiety and stress. All of which culminated for me this week as Sammy hit the equivalent of the terrible twos. So far, we are both alive. Barely.
It was as good a time as any to share the wines that have gotten me through crate training, leash training, house training, car training (you get the idea) as well as potential puppy-nappers (truth!), projectile vomiting and puppy diarrhea. And, I was also inspired by @aguyandagolden whose Golden Retriever, Teddy, has more than 5 million followers on TikTok. If he can make his side-eye-giving dog famous, so can I. (And, P.S. Teddy has nothing over Sammy in the side-eye department.)
Seven Hills Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2021 Columbia Valley, Washington. A creamier style of Sauv Blanc, but still showing classic markers of gooseberry and lime. Medium bodied and less edgy than New Zealand offerings. Pleasant and a good choice for people who want a more temperate SB. Reading: The Golden Rules of Positive Puppy Training.
Private Beach Semi Sparkling Vino Rosato (Italy). A lively low-alcohol fizz with a fun retro label. As its name suggest, ideal for the beach or a crow-pleasing drink for an afternoon party.
Kendall Jackson Vintners Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2021. A very serviceable and pleasing white wine with a softer fruit and green profile that should satisfy white wine drinkers who don’t gravitate towards Chardonnay or a more pungent style of Sauvignon Blanc. Reading: Why Does My Dog…?
Le Chant des Sirène Gris de Sauvignon Rose 2021, Bordeaux. Fun die-cut label features waves and a washed up siren. Neutral in character with notes of peach, melon and baby strawberry, you can drink this all day at the pool. Or, while watching your puppy destroy your flower beds. Reading: Family Dog.
C’est La Vie Vine de Pays Rose 2021. A blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache, this is a slightly deeper style of rose that demonstrates how rose transitions into fall with ease. A fun, hip typographic label matches the fun in the bottle. Rose, lavender, strawberry notes, it’s charming and flirtatious. The sister white blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc is equally charming with its white orchard fruit and almond blossom notes. Reading: How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend
Stone Castle Shiraz, 2020, Kosovo. Stewed strawberry, black cherry and other tart red fruits prevail in this is earthy, chewy and fascinating wine. I drank this while reading a classic dog training manual by the monks of New Skete, who are renown for training German Shepherds (and others). Reading: No Bad Dogs: The Woodhouse Way
Château Briot (Ducourt) Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Bordeaux (Entre-des-Mers). Another more temperate , dry Sauv Blanc with classic markers but without the aggression of New World SBs. This shows lime blossom, Granny Smith apple and unripe pineapple and other tropical fruits. Good match with roasted green vegetables. Reading: The Art of Raising a Puppy
Macari Rose 2020, Long Island. A good medium-bodied rose with ripe raspberry and strawberry and a bit of glycerol on the palate. Great with charcuterie and cheese or with a New Mexican posole soup with hot green peppers, as I had. Reading: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.
Gigante Friulano Vigneto Storico Colli Orientali del Friuli, 2019. Sent to me in a min tasting bottle form Italy, I wished I had more. Smoky and flinty notes hint at the volcanic soil in which the vines are grown, followed by rich, ripened apple and baked pear fruit with a layering of anise on the finish. An intriguing off-the-beaten path wine. Reading: The Year of the Puppy.