Sommelier Roundtable: Wine-Inspired Pet Names

We asked 9 wine pros if they have dogs, cats—or kids—they named after grapes, regions, wine labels (or snacks) that are close to their hearts
Sommelier Roundtable: Wine-Inspired Pet Names
Chenin, Wine Spectator assistant editor Emma Balter's cat, ponders tonight's selection. (Emma Balter)
Dec 28, 2018

With year-end lists of the most popular pet and baby names coming out, we hoped to see the Millennials taking their love of wine into consideration when christening, now that they're becoming parents (or at least dogparents). And while the top names for newborn boys and girls in 2018, according to, were "Jackson" and "Sophia," respectively, we suspect the inspirations for those were not the beloved barrel-fermented Chardonnay and California canned fizzy wine. "Syrah" rose to No. 7,877 in popularity for girls, though "Chardonnay" dropped to No. 12,550.

And among pets, wine-inspiration ran equally dry: It's all Charlies, Bellas and Lucies among's most popular names (although a vinous case could be made for "Cooper").

But among those who live, work and breathe wine and food, a somewhat different picture emerges. So we asked nine wine pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners

Wine Spectator: Do you have any pets (or kids!) with wine- or food-inspired names?

Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, wine director at Award of Excellence winner Allora in Sacramento, Calif.

I do love horror movies and shows (the more gore the better!), so my dog is named after a character from AMC's The Walking Dead. Her whole name, however, is wine-inspired: Michonne Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Mandalou! Only when she's in trouble does she get called that.
Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou
Michonne only gets called a second-growth when she's been bad.

Carlin Karr, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colo.

I do! A golden retriever/red lab mix named Coche (after Coche-Dury, of course).
Carlin Carr
Coche practices the 5 S's of dogs: sit, stay, sniff, slurp, savor.

Sabrina Schatz, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J.

I don’t have any pets or children, but my sister-in-law has a Bernese Mountain Dog named Chunk. I call him "Two Buck Chuck" for fun.

Richard Nielsen, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Angel Oak at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, Calif.

I live my life on the fly at the moment, so unfortunately no pets or kids yet. I would like to have a Border Collie named Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine) or an Australian Shepherd named Victoria, if a girl.

Cedric Nicaise, wine director at Grand Award winner Eleven Madison Park in New York

I have a Shiba Inu named Bacon, and I love her.

Richard Hanauer, beverage director for Chicago-based RPM Restaurants, including two locations of Best of Award of Excellence winner RPM Italian and RPM Steak.

My dog's name is Porcini (after the mushroom).

Nancy Oakes, chef and co-owner of Best of Award of Excellence winner Boulevard in San Francisco

My husband got to name the dog, so it's Peanut—so it's food, not wine.

Seán Gargano, wine director at Award of Excellence winner The Legal Eagle in Dublin, Ireland

Definitely not. My wife would kill me.

Emma Balter, assistant editor at Wine Spectator in New York

When I adopted my cat four years ago, I chose the name Chenin, for Chenin Blanc. It's my favorite winegrape, and Chenin [the cat] is white with ginger markings—it was meant to be. The person who found Chenin, in the nearby beach town of Long Beach, N.Y., told me at the time that my weeks-old kitty was female, which I didn't think to check because why (and how) would I? One day, after an embarrassing amount of time that I will not disclose, Chenin rolled over during a play sesh and revealed to me that my adorable little princess had, erm, grown in certain places.

After a totally appropriate number of stages of grief, I accepted my cat's new gender identity and wondered if I should change his name. After all, Chenin sounds a lot like Shannon, which is what everyone thinks I'm saying when they ask me his name. A colleague of mine suggested Pineau d'Aunis, a French grape whose synonym is Chenin Noir. But in the end, I decided to keep his name, because it's the 21st century, dammit, and why should a name be gendered anyway? Although I still have to say on the reg: "No, not Shannon, Chenin. C-H-E-N-I-N. Like the grape."

Emma Balter
A boy named Chenin

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