A Pawsitive Impact

Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery helps animals in need

Cruising along a twisty Ramona road, you might glimpse the silhouette of a rearing stallion with a stocky companion at its side. “People stop to take pictures of our ‘sculptures,’” says Teri Kerns, owner of Ramona Ranch Vineyard and Winery alongside her husband, Micole Moore.

“They are confused when the smaller one has disappeared as they drive back past the winery.” This is not a pastoral ghost story — just a goat trying to get quality time with a horse statue. “That’s why we called him Einstein,” Teri laughs. “He thinks the statue is his best friend.”

Einstein is far from the only quirky critter residing at the winery. The brood includes a steer, a horse, two miniature ponies, two goats, two dogs, and a smattering of cats and chickens. A great many of the winery pets are rescues.

Teri and Micole aid local nonprofits with fundraising, including holding events for the Labrador rescue group from which they got their lab, Peppermint Patty. Additionally, they give all proceeds from winery logo T-shirts sales to SLAP Equine Rescue. Their ponies, Thelma and Louise, are recent rescues from a feedlot in Arizona.

“Louise is a real character,” Teri says. “She loves to chase our steer, T-Bone. She’ll jump up on his back and nip him, with no thought to his 1,000 pounds versus her 200.” Another pint-size animal with a lot of personality is their terrier, Ruby. “Ruby runs around the tasting patio and greets people,” Teri says. “She keeps watch and checks on how everyone is doing — humans and other dogs alike.” Companionship and funny tales are far from the only benefits that come with owning winery pets. Teri and Micole are working on a sustainability certificate for the ranch, and their pets play an integral part in that process. “We use zero pesticides on the property,” Teri explains. “The goats and chickens are perfect composters; they eat all the weeds and clippings from the vineyard. A balanced ecosystem is essential in our work. A healthy ranch means a healthy vineyard; and this leads to better grape quality, which creates the best wine possible.”

Paula and Greg Maness, owners of Maness Vineyards/Casi Cielo Farm and Winery in Jamul, have similar thoughts on the advantages of keeping animals at a winery.

“As farmers, we use the fertilizer from the animals for our crops, which increases production, and feed crop leftovers to the animals, which increases the fertilizer. It’s a pretty sym-biotic relationship,” Paula says. “The vineyard pets have many uses at the farm and winery,” Greg adds. “The goats help with brush and grapevine clearing. The chickens provide fresh eggs daily; and since they are free range, it means that they eat all of the bad bugs and spiders around the area and help deter snakes.

Our alpacas are very alert and have great sight, smelling and hearing capabilities, which they use to warn our dogs of coyotes in and around the area.” Paula and Greg also share the Ramona Ranch Winery owners’ love of rescuing animals. After taking in two goats 10 years ago, they have since played host to two pigs, 14 goats, a variety of birds and upwards of 30 dogs and cats.

They have seven playful pups, including the sassy and exuberant Taylor Swift, who requires attention from any human males in the vicinity, and Sergio, who has claimed the swimming pool for himself and figured out that he can charm cheese and crackers out of most guests in the tasting room.

Their alpacas (Gilligan, Mary Ann and Ginger) have “become one herd” with their goats (Huey, Chubby and O’Doyle), which has led to games of evening tag and some very disappointed dogs.

“The alpacas have taught the goats how to surround a predator and work as a team. Jordan [one of their dogs] does not appreciate this skill, since he has been caught more than once sneaking in to eat the alpaca feed and had to wait for one of us to come rescue him,” Paula says with a laugh. Becky Cullen, owner with her husband (Joey) of Cactus Star Vineyard at Scaredy Cat Ranch in Ramona, has found that hu-morous times with their pets can be quite inspirational.

Their ranch’s name was born from her reluctance to get back on their horse Ringo, who had bucked her off, inspiring Joey to state, “I’m living here on Scaredy Cat Ranch. You’re afraid of him, he’s afraid of you, and I’m afraid of you both!” Their Two Dogs Barking wine label got its name in a similar manner. One of their neighbors started calling Becky “Two Dogs Barking” after the ruckus that their two wire fox terriers often made.

Though a little quieter, the winery’s current dogs, Star and Rowdy, are just as boisterous when it comes to greeting vineyard guests. A few other wineries in Ramona allow you to get some petting in with your sipping as well. Eagle’s Nest Winery and Cottage keeps a flock of Olde English Babydoll Southdown miniature sheep to help maintain the vineyard in an environ-mentally friendly manner.

The breed is known for exceptional fluffiness and friendly, smiling faces. Milagro Farm Winery has a mixture of wild turkeys, chickens and flouncing peacocks that stroll the rolling estate. There also is a camel farm across the street, which can be seen on the way into the winery.

If you’re looking to bring your own furry friends with you for a day of wine tasting and merriment, you can check out Dog Days of Summer (Aug. 5-6). The annual event, which is hosted by the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association, boasts discounted treats for owners and pets alike, as well as such classic events as the owner/dog look-alike contest.