Hands up if you love wine and your four-legged friend!? Well, you’re going to love this, because you can now combine your two favourite things in one unforgettable experience. The Yarra Valley is located less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne, so if you are looking for a country escape that offers romantic getaways, fresh regional food, quality wines and dog welcoming experiences, then a visit to the Yarra Valley in Victoria needs to be on your To-Do-List.
K9 Tours with Pooches and Pinot
Yarra Valley based tour company Pooches and Pinot know how many of us today, travel with our dogs, or want to. They have created private wine tours for you and your pooch around the beautiful dog-friendly wineries in the Yarra Valley. Offering a VIP door-to-door service, they collect you in one of their Mercedes touring vans, and from that point on you and your pooch are treated like royalty. They tailor-make an itinerary for you based on what you want to experience. So, if you want to mix it up a bit, you can add a gin tasting paddle at Four Pillars Gin or a brewery visit to sample the craft beers at Watt’s River Brewing. All with your K9 traveller by your side.
They know all the best pet-friendly venues to take you to, so in summer your pooch can laze by your feet on a winery deck while you are taken through a guided wine tasting. In the cooler months, you can both be together inside the cellar door/distillery/brewery. All the wineries have lovely outdoor areas, so if your dog gets restless, or needs entertaining, your private tour guide takes him or her off for a sniff, and an explore while you carry on tasting wine. They even build in a walk at a beautiful location during your tour, so your K9 traveller truly gets to have a pawfect day out.
Yarra Valley Wineries
With over 300 vineyards and 160 wineries in the Yarra Valley, and more of them coming on board and welcoming pups, there’s a lot to discover. What better way to share a wine tour experience than with your best friend(s). Up to six of you can tour together with up to two dogs (as long as they know one another well). Pooches and Pinot have priced it so that solo travellers, couples as well as families or groups of friends can enjoy a private tour with their pup.
Puppy for a Day
Get this – if you don’t own your own dog or haven’t got your dog with you – you can borrow one of theirs to accompany you on your tour! They’re dead serious – it’s called ‘Puppy for a Day’ and supports the RSPCA!! How? Well, their two dogs can be loaned out and don’t charge you for their time, but they do ask for a donation of up to $10 which Pooches and Pinot then match and give to their annual charity. Which this year is RSPCA! Check out the two cheeky pups you can choose to borrow on their website!
The Top Dogs at Pooches and Pinot
We caught up with owners of Pooches and Pinot, Jeff Jenkins and Helen Collier. They have called the valley home for over 10 years and personally know all the venues, staff and winemakers at the places they visit on their tours so, their guests are greeted like rock stars and treated like VIPs! ‘Our guests love the fact that we live here and know everyone, as it makes them feel like a local as though, they’re just out for the day with friends, rather than being on an organised tour,’ explained Jeff whose business card describes him somewhat tongue-in-cheek as ‘Top Dog at Pooches & Pinot’.
Deputy Dawg Helen added ‘Our guests definitely love the fact that it’s so personalised – they deal with Jeff or me when they are enquiring and planning their tour, and then it’s Jeff or me they get to tour with on the day. The way we connect with people is an important part of our offering and our guests get to put a face to a name.’
Locals in the Valley
Being locals they have a really good understanding of the Yarra Valley region. They know not just all the best wineries, but all the best dog-friendly accommodation in the area, great cafes for brekkie the next day with your pooch – even where the best walks are. Some of the locals don’t even know about these! So, it’s a pretty impressive service they offer.
Yarra Valley Winery Tours
A unique tour experience like this attracts people from all over Victoria. The Pooches team can pick guests up within a radius of 75km from Healesville, and provide a quote for their door-to-door service, but also send people a list of local (and fabulous) dog-friendly accommodation they might like to consider, where they can be collected from without a pick up fee. This not only saves the guests paying the extra charge but also means they’re not spending another 2 to 3 hours in the van on the day of the tour.
A full-day tour goes from 10am to 5pm so you can imagine how well your puppy would sleep after all that excitement! And the reviews they’re getting would agree, they’ve created dog-friendly experiences worth barking about.
Yarra Valley Wine History | Wine Varietals
On your tour in addition to tasting delicious award-winning cool-climate wines, you’ll get to hear about the valley’s wine history. From the first vines planted over 180 years ago, to why wine production ceased in the 1920s and how it bounced back with the replanting of grapes in the 1960s. Today is has become one of Australia’s leading wine regions known and loved the world over.
The region has a long-held international reputation for producing first-rate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but more recently, the Yarra Valley’s sparkling wines, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and lesser-known European varietals have started getting a name for themselves – such as Savarro, Tempranillo, Gewurztraminer and Sangiovese.
Your Tour Options
Being your own small private tour, Jeff and Helen are keen for you to get the most out of your day, so the enquiry questionnaire on their website asks you what you’re after – whether you’ve visited the region before, if there are particular wineries you’d like to visit, do you want to just try wines or mix it up with gin, beer or cider tastings. They even offer a half-day tour option mid-week – so they try to get to know you (and your dogs) so they can ensure you have the best experience. They even add in a visit to a superb deli if you’re staying locally, so you can take home delicious regional supplies to enjoy for supper back at your accommodation.
It seems they’ve thought of everything – especially when you read about their Dog’s Bollocks option. We got Jeff to tell us a bit more about what it includes… Helen is from England originally and in the UK the expression ‘the Dog’s Bollocks’ means something is the absolute best and we thought it would be an excellent name for our premium tour – it includes an upgrade from lunch at a dog friendly café, to a sumptuous lunch at a dog-friendly winery. We shout you a bottle of local Yarra Valley wine too and even write a blog after your tour from your dog’s perspective. I know – heaps of fun – for our guests and for us writing them too!!’
Celebrating a Special Occasion?
And if you’re celebrating a special occasion, they’ve got that covered too. Jeff is a chef, and he makes a sublime chocolate cake on request, which is brought out at one of the wineries during your tour, with candles for you to blow out. Jeff leads the singing (did we mention he’s had a career on the stage too – I know – he’s a man of many talents) and everyone in the cellar door joins in! The cake is then cut and served with local strawberries and cream and glasses of sparkling wine! What a way to celebrate a special occasion. “The cake is often a surprise for a member of the group, so we love keeping that secret!”
What Others are Saying!
The best business ideas are often the ones that are no brainers. The ones that prompt people to say, ‘That’s so brilliant, I can’t believe no-one else is doing it!’ and that’s the reaction Pooches & Pinot is getting everywhere they go.
Time Out magazine wrote about them, Where To Melbourne did a video promo on them without them even knowing and Rob Dolan Wines contacted Pooches and Pinot and asked if they would consider including their cellar door on their tours and then organised a press shoot – the reaction has been quite overwhelming. To the point, they have had to buy a second touring vehicle so they can both do tours on the same day. “We’re both self-employed and have run other businesses before, but none have had this sort of growth or response,” Helen explained. “We’ve been going just over 6 months and are wondering when our off-season might be if indeed, we will have such a thing!”
When asked how they came up with the idea for their business, Jeff explained that their friend Gillie St George who runs Wiggley Bottom Farm, Healesville’s most gorgeous pet-friendly accommodation, asked Jeff one day if he would do a tour for 4 of her guests. He’d been tour driving for other companies so readily agreed and when he went to pick up the guests, he saw they had a dog with them, so rather than leave it at the B&B he suggested they bring it. He was in his Mercedes van, and his own dogs travel in the back of it every day, so it was set up ready for dogs.
Jeff made a few phone calls to check with the cellar doors he had in mind that they were happy to have guests with a dog and that was the beginnings of Pooches and Pinot. That was in March 2019, and they haven’t looked back!
Dogs with Special Needs
“Our own dog Henry is a rescue Koolie who is highly strung and has anxiety. He wouldn’t cope with being on tour with other dogs, but equally wouldn’t want to be left at home, so we modelled our business idea around dogs like him and his needs. It’s surprising the number of people who comment on how perfect a Pooches & Pinot tour is for their dog. In fact, one of the first dogs we took on tour with us Penny had gone blind three years earlier, and her owner was thrilled with our service as it meant that either she or I was with Penny the whole time throughout the tour which worked beautifully for her.’
And you should see the response they get wherever they go, whenever people see their vans or their logo on their jackets – everyone, without exception has remarked on what a great name and business idea – especially loving the fact that the tours are private.
So – what are you waiting for – get in touch with them today – and check out the fabulous mid-week deal they are offering in conjunction with Wiggley Bottom Farm and fabulous pup-friendly Healesville café, My Little Kitchen.
Coming Soon | K9 Traveller | Dog Travel Adventures
K9 Traveller is a website and dog travel blog connecting dog lovers to dog-friendly tours, accommodation, adventures and doggy gear needed to keep your K9 safe, comfortable and in good health. The K9 Traveller website is under construction, but you can connect with the K9 Traveller on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. For more travel blogs from around the world, subscribe to Progressive Traveller newsletter.
Progressive Traveller recognises Pooches & Pinot’s contribution to tourism and promotion of the Yarra Valley region.