Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog
If you love greyhounds—and we’re talking the sleek, willowy racing dogs not the coast-to-coast bus line—and crisp, fruity Finger Lakes wines, the Grapehound Wine Tour is definitely for you. The Tour is a self-proclaimed “four-day wine-tasting celebration of greyhound adoption.” It features nearly thirty wineries, several breweries and distilleries, music, the Finger Lakes, and Taughannock Falls. This year’s eleventh annual event is July 20 to 23, and for the second year in a row, and fourth overall, home base will be Atwater Estate Vineyards on Seneca Lake’s east side.
A large tent will be set up there where some of the main events—including an ice cream social (vanilla yogurt for all the dogs) and a blessing of the hounds—will be held.
And of course, the stars of the show are those classic hounds, the only dog—according to Grapehound organizer Larry Bowersox—mentioned by breed in the Bible, allowed in Arabian tents, and beloved by rulers from the Egyptians to the British royals.
“It’s a unique event because greyhounds are the center of it. They make it dignified,” says Larry. “They are very gentle, not hyperactive. If you walk them once a day, they’re very happy. They sleep for hours on big soft pillows on the floor.”
Known for approaching speeds of forty-five miles per hour while breathlessly chasing mechanical rabbits around dog racing tracks, Larry says that off the track, greyhounds are docile and gentle and affectionately called “forty-four-mile-an-hour couch potatoes.”
The breed’s use in racing, in fact, is a large reason Larry and his wife, Susie, started the Grapehound Wine Tour, all the profits of which are donated to greyhound adoption groups. The Grapehound is registered in Delaware as an IRS-approved 501c3 charity that has raised and donated about $100,000 over the years to those groups.
“The whole thought here was that many people start greyhound adopting groups to help these dogs,” explains Larry. “They’re coming off the racetrack and they’re basically orphans. They don’t have anything going for them. The adoption group has to find them a foster home or pay off a kennel, vet the dog, transport the dog, usually from Florida, and it gets expensive.
“So many people with really good hearts start adoption groups and find out they don’t have enough money. So, we stepped in.”
The Grapehound draws 300 to 400 folks with their stately four-legged companions. Because of their sweet dispositions, many area B&Bs and even hotels allow greyhounds, often not allowing any other pets the rest of the year. Their gentleness also helps keep the event low key. “It’s a place where people can relax with their beautiful dogs and share time with other greyhound adopters,” Larry says.
A ticket to the Grapehound is thirty dollars, which includes ten tasting passes at participating wineries, a commemorative wine glass, and other souvenir items in a tote bag. Participants come from all over the East Coast and as far west as Chicago.
“The dogs are so well mannered, it is beyond comprehension,” says Atwater owner Ted Marks. “We can have 300 dogs there and we don’t hear a sound. It’s unbelievable. They sit right next to each other and they all get along.”
That’s no surprise to Larry and Susie Bowersox, whose family includes four greyhounds. “It’s all about the dogs,” Larry concurs. “The other aspect that I’m real big on is that we promote the region. We bring people to the Finger Lakes with their greyhounds who would never come but for this event. They all need hotel rooms. They all buy wine. It’s a small event, but it’s a nice economic boost for the Watkins Glen, Geneva, Waterloo areas, you know?”
“I would be less than honest if I said that I don’t sell a lot of wine during the whole thing,” smiles Ted Marks. “It’s an extremely good winery group of people.” He agrees, though, that the dogs are what make it.