They say that a dog is a man’s best friend, and with a winemaker, it’s no different. The Australian duo Susan Elliott and Craig McGill have spent more than a decade traveling the globe for their Wine Dogs series, a set of books photographing the dogs of the wine world. From New Zealand to Napa, the photo books share the stories, both hilarious and heartfelt, of these canine companions and their contributions to their wineries. The Daily Sip had the joy of chatting with Craig and Susan to learn all about their travels. To purchase their Wine Dogs books and merchandise, click here.
TDS: So, what inspired you to start the Wine Dogs series?
CM: We published the first book about 10 years ago, but it was an idea we came up with 15 years ago. We’d travel to wineries and be greeted by dogs. We’d play with the dogs and then go in for a drink. We’d take a picture with the dog, and we’d look back and every second photo was a dog photo. We said there was probably a book in this.
TDS: You’ve traveled the globe documenting winemakers and their dogs. Where have you found the craziest, most dedicated dog lovers?
SE: I think America without a doubt. What I really like about the American wine industry, is they’ve really embraced the rescue dogs program. They have a dog-friendly policy in a lot of wineries there.
CM: We thought there would be a bunch of fluffy pooches, but the majority were rescue dogs. That was great for us to see, and as a result we’ve been in contact with a lot of rescue organizations.
SE: There is also a really active inclusion of people and their pets. Frenchie is a French bulldog at Raymond Vineyards who has her own winery. At Raymond, there is also a secondary building where the dogs can hang out, all decked out in faux-French aristocratic paintings and beds. And in the tasting room, the owners can watch their dogs on a TV.
TDS: How do you think a wine dog contributes to a winery culture and the wine itself?
CM: I just think it makes for a friendlier atmosphere when customers arrive. They automatically feel they are in a more relaxed environment. Going to a winery can be quite intimidating for first-time visitors, and it’s a big mystery for young people. But the dog’s all have their jobs, even if it’s just keeping the winemaker company.
SE: Making wine is a lot of work for the winemakers, and a lot happens late at night. Dogs provide great companionship, and there is such a great bond between the owners and their dogs. That really comes through in the books, that the dogs are part of their family really.
TDS: Are there any particular story you’d like to share that really stuck with you?
CM: There is a dog in Paso Robles named Tootsie who saved a young boy’s life. She jumped in the Sacramento River and rescued this boy and became an overnight sensation. She was a great dog.
SE: She was a massive dog, a big wolfhound. She was really famous in all the local papers. She was really good-natured.
CM: The dogs will make us laugh. There was one dog that was sleeping in the wet cement. We have so many different stories.
TDS: What’s next for Wine Dogs? Do you have any more books coming out?
CM: We’re working on Wine Dogs California edition, and we’re in the early stages of Wine Dogs South Africa. We’re also updating Wine Dogs Australia. We’re also coming out with the world’s first Wine Cats.
SE: We have been working with cats, which is a very different thing. You need a bit more patience with a cat. They’re just as quirky, though. But, they’re a little bit more in control of themselves. Dogs are a bit more social, but you can get really beautiful photos of cats because they are really still, unless they run away, of course.