by MARK CARLSON | San Diego Pets
Luck often plays a role in our lives, and never more so than when a special animal comes along.
This was the case for Marilyn and Steve Kahle (pronounced Collie) of Ramona, who own a small winery called Woof’n Rose. The label tells part of the story but not all.
It hints at the remarkable story of how a dog, actually several dogs, inspired a couple to find happiness in a vineyard, spurred on by their furry partners.
After meeting in college in Missouri in 1968, Marilyn and Steve were married the following year. Marilyn, who goes by the nickname ‘Woofy’ freely admits to being a dog lover.
“Steve learned I was an animal lover because I always petted and played with them whenever I was around one,”
Marilyn said. “He gave me a puppy for Christmas.” Marilyn’s mother, upon seeing them bringing home the new dog, said to Steve, ‘I was going to tell you about her and dogs.’”
This was Steve’s first clue to what he could expect in the future.
Several other furry friends joined them over the years, including an AKC registered red dachshund named Anastasia Alexandra.
The Kahles moved to Poway before buying land in Ramona to raise their family in the 1980s.
After a trip to the Napa Valley, the idea of a vineyard took root, so to speak.
“We were just enchanted by the beauty of the vineyards and decided to try growing grapes here,” Steve commented. “We just planted some and sure enough, they grew.”
Their small vineyard eventually expanded to include Grenache Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Alicante Bouschet grapes. When asked about how they learned the business of making wine, Marilyn said, “No matter where we went we found people willing to help us learn. There’s really no ‘dog-eat-dog’ in the winery world,” she chuckled.
The family’s dogs played a pivotal role. The name Woof’n Rose was born with the first fifty grape plants in 1995.
Rebelle, a black Labrador/Cocker Spaniel mix who looked like a black Irish Setter was a staple of Woof’n Rose.
“Rebelle was always down in the vineyards with me,” Steve said. “She was right next to me while I was digging and planting. She licked my ears or lay in the sun.”
“She was more a vegetarian than a carnivore,” Marilyn observed. “She loved grapes, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, whatever. We knew dogs shouldn’t eat grapes but she never had a problem.”
Marilyn’s artwork of Rebelle adorns their label.
“Our son Ehren’s chocolate Labrador Kona actually helped dig the holes,” she said. “He was an old dog. And when he passed, we put his ashes in the vineyard.”
The dogs were part of the land, and on hand for plantings and harvests.
In 1999 came Liberty and Champagne. “I went into town to pick up some Liberty Ale. But I came back with two puppies,” Marilyn said unabashedly. “They were sisters, white German Shepherd and Yellow Labrador mixes. I got them from a box in front of K-Mart. Liberty was more my dog than Steve’s, and when she died in July of 2010, I was very down.”
But sometimes salvation comes in furry packages. “One morning in September we were watching the news and at the end of the broadcast they showed this dog at the Humane Society needing a home. We took off and were at the Humane Society before the dog came back from the TV station. She was a beautiful Shepherd mix and hopped up to my lap and gave me kisses. That was love at first sight. I saved her life and she saved mine.”
They named the new dog Syrah, a dark flavored wine.
Woof’n Rose Winery has a long history of canine paw prints among the grapevines.
Visitors are sure to see dogs running happily around the yard, welcoming them as they sample the excellent vintages.
Besides Syrah, one of them would be Tawny, a Yellow Labrador. “Her full name is Tawny Miss of Woof’n Rose,’ Marilyn said. “Her name comes from Tawny Port, another wine.”
Their successful rescue of dogs and giving them a warm and unique home has reaped benefits even they can’t describe.
Liberty, Champagne and Kona live on in the rows of verdant vines ripe with the golden pearls of sweet grapes.
“One of our blends is called ‘Puppy Love,’ while our Eglatine is a variety of Briar Rose, grown in Europe. Its Latin name translated into English means ‘Dog Rose.’”
Is it pure chance that Marilyn and Steve found their happiness among the grapevines? Being adventurous and loving the land helped but they can’t ignore how luck in the form of canine love led the way.
The couple plan to release a year-end wine called ‘Happy Tails’ later this year.
For more information, go to: www.woofnrose.com
Mark Carlson, 51 lives in San Diego with his wife Jane and his Guide dog Musket. A docent at the San Diego Air & Space Museum and aviation historian, Mark writes for several national aviation magazines. He is a featured speaker for many local adult education programs. His first book, ‘Confessions of a Guide Dog – The Blonde Leading the Blind’ is a humorous memoir about the adventures of life with Musket. It is available in through Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and iUniverse.com. You can reach Mark and Musket through www.musketmania.com.