Dog, as most English speakers know, is God spelled backward, a connection that most dog-lovers will tell you is no coincidence.
Dogs, as most dog-lovers know, are perhaps the most loyal companions that roam the Earth. Again, no coincidence.
And while “nectar of the gods” does not necessarily refer to wine, Nectar of the Dogs most certainly refers to a young Simi Valley-based company that produces a limited but highly rated selection of red and white varietal wines.
Not — let’s be clear about this — for consumption by the aforementioned canine species, but very clearly for their benefit. Each year, Nectar of the Dogs donates a portion of its proceeds to nearly 20 nonprofit animal rescue organizations.
“Our mission,” says company co-founder and CEO Melanie Garibay, “is to spread the joy and love dogs bring to our lives by helping those in need find their ‘fur-ever’ family.”
And to do so through the production, sale and enjoyment of good wine, a product in which Garibay — by trade, a producer of high-profile beauty and hair trade shows — claims no great expertise, only great love.
“I’m not a sommelier, nor do I have a long background in wine producing,” she says. “I just know what I like to drink, and I simply try to share with others my love of wine, along with my love of dogs. And so far, we’ve done pretty well in a fairly short time.”
Which came first?
Born and raised in Texas, Melanie Garibay was the oldest of six who came to California in the early 1990s, working as a waitress and acquiring a taste for wine.
“One restaurant I worked in offered us, at the end of our shift, a glass of wine or a beer,” she says. “Well, I never cared for beer, so I became a wine drinker.”
That was around the time she acquired her first dachshund, Clyde, soon followed by a second, Connie.
“I am a little partial to that breed — they’re so fun with wonderful personalities,” smiles Garibay, proud to be known among her friends as “Weiner Momma.”
“Dogs were the one constant in my life during my 20s and early 30s,” she continues. “And as I got into the event producing business, my dogs always traveled with me.”
In 2002 she met Todd Sobleski, a production company executive, who owned a husky, Mika. After they married in 2004, Garibay and Sobleski soon welcomed their fourth canine companion, a little stray “doxie mix,” Floyd.
The wine operation started around 2015, when Garibay and her friend Donna Graves — whose affinity for Spaniels matched Garibay’s for dachshunds — “had an idea to create and sell wine to raise money to help dog rescue organizations.” They started working with friends involved in wine-producing throughout California, and that led to the creation of their first chardonnay.
Nectar of the Dogs Wine’s (NOTDW) limited production effort (56 cases) “sold quickly,” Garibay says, “and we raised $1,000 for All-American Dachshund Rescue and Bark Party. Our friends and family asked, ‘O.K., what’s next?’ And we were inspired. Maybe, we thought, this could be a legitimate business opportunity.”
Over the next few years, the duo developed limited edition varietal wines, with a portion of the proceeds supporting numerous animal rescue efforts. Today these groups are “Heart and Paw Partners,” who are guaranteed an annual donation based on NOTDW sales and, in return, promote NOTDW on their respective social media platforms.
The dogs who have since passed on — or, as Garibay says, “crossed over that Rainbow Bridge” — remain a source of inspiration and are represented on the company’s labels, as do Garibay’s current canine family members, Braunee and Moose.
Graves left the company in 2020, and Garibay currently is supported in NOTDW by longtime friend Monica Pontrelli, who handles marketing and PR, and husband Sobleski, “my biggest supporter,” plus assorted friends who assist in the wine creation process and occasional special events.
“We gather, we sample different blends, we take notes, and we decide,” Garibay says. “And it’s really an awesome thing to do wine tasting and research. The people in the wine business are always warm, welcoming and willing to share their experience, which is also what you find among people who love dogs.”
Hence the company’s catchphrase: “You’re never drinking alone when your dog is with you.”
But rarely do NOTDW product purchasers drink alone, if product ratings are any indication. Wine Enthusiast Magazine, for one, offered high ratings for each of the following:
—CCF MikMurphy: A red blend (80/20 Cabernet/Cab Franc) from Paso Robles’ Estrella and Templeton Gap districts (90 points).
—Rosé of Pinot Noir: 100% Pinot Noir Rosé from premium estate vineyards in Santa Barbara County (87 points).
—Chardonnay: Produced from a single vineyard in Lodi (86 points).
The Tasting Panel Magazine awarded 92 points to the 2017 “3 Dogs White” Vinnie’s Fave, NOTDW’s first white blend from Santa Barbara County (Viognier, Gewürztraminer blend and “a tiny kiss” of late harvest Muscat Canelli).
Also available are 2019 “3 Dogs White,” a new white
blend from Santa Barbara County featuring Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Muscat Canelli, and (for Wine Club members only) Rosé of Malbec, from 100% Malbec grapes in Santa Barbara County.
“Our approach is to work with boutique wineries in the Central Coast and sometimes elsewhere,” explains Garibay. “We focus on producing approachable, easy-drinking wines that you can enjoy with friends and family, especially as the weather warms up.”
The company distributes its wines from a small Simi Valley office, but over the next year Garibay hopes to open a
“After producing beauty industry shows for 25-plus years, it’s time to figure out the next step,” she says. “Right now I focus on building brand awareness and our mission of rescuing dogs, and it’s a journey that I am really enjoying. I’ve met some wonderful people, I’ve made some wonderful friends, and the older I get, the more thankful I am to be doing something I love — especially when it helps so many dogs enjoy a better life.”