Dogs love this time of year—when our humans give themselves permission to regularly eat pie and make messes in the kitchen. While I generally prefer slobber-inducing wines with refreshingly high acidity, this season I find myself craving beverages with more body and the same heart-warming flavors that spice up our favorite fall dishes. Skip grocery store finds because this is the time to visit independently owned wine shops and seek out recommendations from the wine lovers working there. Tell them what styles you like, what you’re cooking, and tell them to rub your belly. (Okay, I think only I can get away with that last one.) 

My hope is that you will get your paws on something memorable, like the following bottles I tracked down locally. 

Gordon with Rococo Chenin Blanc.

First, consider Rococo, Chenin Blanc ‘Sur-Lie’, Santa Barbara County. I like its sweet notes of golden delicious apple and elderflower. This wine provides a subtle bread dough and cheese-rind character that has me begging for someone to drop scalloped potatoes on the floor. From the 2016 vintage, it has developed a rich nutty flavor, making it a rare match for dark leafy greens. Available in a limited quantity at The WineSellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Valley. 

Baja California wines Gordon sniffed out at The WineSellar & Brasserie.

In Casa Magoni, Chardonnay / Vermentino, Baja California, I find aromas of guava, ginger, and my favorite honeysuckle bush (before I do my business on it, of course). Bright tropical fruit flavors complement the almond butter finish. This style is mom’s favorite to pair with fall side dishes: think squash, yams, and honey-glazed carrots. 

Palafox Pionero, Tempranillo Blend, Baja California offers juicy flavors of mixed berries dusted with cinnamon. This wine is exceptionally aromatic, even to inferior human noses. The savory complexity and robust tannin structure remind me of the good ol’ puppy days before I learned snacking on leather shoes was considered impolite. Try it with cured meats instead. 

Can’t keep the paws off the Acri Cab Franc.

In the Acri Wine Co, Cabernet Franc, San Diego County, it's all spicy Luxardo cherry, blood orange peel, and dried guajillo chiles on the palate. Medium body and silky tannins make this a drool-worthy choice to serve alongside pork roast or barbacoa. It is exciting to see Cabernet Franc being produced in such an elegant style locally. It is mom’s favorite varietal for its bright fruit and deep earthy flavors, and I can tell if she had a tail it would be wagging. Available at Vino Carta

Gordon with a new favorite treat from Los Pilares.

The perfect fall beverage, Los Pilares, ‘Pie Town’ Cider, San Diego County is a dry cider complete with flavors of spiced apple pie crumbs, dried apricots, and walnuts. Made using wild yeasts and apple varieties sourced from a mountain orchard in Julian, this refreshing juice feels like a special treat on warm autumn evenings, a not-so sobering reminder of how spoiled we are to live in San Diego. Produced in small batches, you can fetch it online at

Must be 21+ to consume alcohol. Please drink responsibly.

Disclaimer | While the tasting notes and descriptions are accurately depicted, no dogs were actually served wine for the purposes of this article. Wine is considered toxic to dogs and should never be offered but we hope you enjoy a laugh or two with us find a favorite bottle.

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About the Contributor
Felicia Balli
Felicia Balli is a sommelier currently studying for her WSET Level 3 award in wines. She is the co-owner of Solera Culinary Services, offering gourmet dinners and wine tastings for small groups throughout San Diego. Her dog Gordon can often be found with her on wine tasting adventures. Gordon (his friends call him G) is a 1-year-old Cane Corso who enjoys long walks on the beach and great wine. His mom is a sommelier and his dad is a chef—which means you can often find him developing his palate on the kitchen floor. He is dedicated to making wine more approachable for dogs and their humans. Find more of his reviews on Instagram @dogmomsomm.