The Express    I    December 17, 2008

By Erin Trompeter-

THE FROSTED REPRESENTATION of a golden retriever head on the door. Myriad black-and-white photographs of happy pooches adorning the walls. The jar of dog biscuits on the bar.

All signs send a clear message to Keyser, a 6-year-old golden: Dogs are welcome here.

But he hasn't entered the lobby of some fancy doggie daycare; he has walked into a winery.

Keyser has bellied up the bar (without tasting, of course) in numerous tasting rooms in Virginia, but Barrel Oak in Delaplane may very well be the dog-friendliest of them all.

Photo by Erin TrompeterNotice how the initials of Barrel Oak Winery spell "bow," as in "bow-wow"? Yeah, that's not an accident, according to Brian Roeder, who owns the winery with his wife, Sharon.

"We were trying to have fun with the name ... thinking of all this stuff," when they had an epiphany: What about Barrel Oak Winery. "[Sharon] went, 'Bow! Bow wow!' And it just worked out."

Barrel Oak's dog friendliness — and in some ways, the winery itself — was born out of the couple's desire to keep their two golden retrievers with them during the day. When patrons saw dogs on the property, they wanted to bring their pooches, too.

"It was always our intention to be dog-friendly, but we didn't know what that would look like," Brian Roeder said, adding that very, very few have complained about dogs in the tasting room.

The very structure of the winery lends itself well to the wear and tear of dogs: The Roeders left the floors unfinished to avoid their being scratched by claws. The tasting bar also features hooks on which to fasten leashes and an off-leash area on Barrel Oak's grounds allows dogs to run freely in the lovely hunt countryside.

Brian Roeder noted that Barrel Oak has held dog-centric weekend events, including a "Dog Days of Summer" celebration that brought in 120 dogs and their owners. Through Dec. 21, the winery features the work of Lee Anderson, a photographer whose black-and-white prints of smiling pups adorn the tasting room.

"It's been really nice having it on the walls," Brian Roeder said.

Barrel Oak also donates proceeds from sales of its wine and events to dog-rescue organizations.