Friday, September 21, 2007

The Battle For The Cellar -- Moakie (Our Winery Cat) vs Benoit (Our Winemaker)

There’s been a lot of interest in winery cats lately, so let me tell you the story of ours...

Moakie, our Winery Cat

Our small, black cat is as much a part of the heritage of Olympic Cellars as the historic barns which have become our winery homes. When the winery first began it was housed in a dairy barn in Sequim. Our current home is also a huge, historic former dairy barn built in 1890 between Sequim and Port Angeles.

Moakie was born sometime in the early 90’s. Her Mom was the FIRST Olympic Cellars Winery Cat and reigned over the Winery barn in Sequim.

As the story goes, Moakie’s mom went out prowling one night and never came home, forcing Moakie to take over her duties at a tender, young age.

A winery’s cat job description is extensive, and includes but certainly isn’t limited to the following (after all, we all know cats do whatever they please regardless of the rules):

  1. Keep the mice out of the barn and oversee the cellar day and night.
  2. Meow in that irritatingly loud cat-voice the moment our car pulls up at the winery reminding us we only have minutes to get the winery open for business (no, we’re not late, just dang close)
  3. Greet guests by softly drawing their attention for a head-pat by rubbing around their legs (I’ve told Moakie many times, no tripping)
  4. Sun herself on the patio encouraging guests to stop and enjoy the sunshine, spectacular scenery... and maybe a glass of wine.
  5. Pose at all the picturesque places in the winery for guest photos (what a ‘ham’)
  6. Check out every barrel, regardless how high it is, to make sure the bungs (those are the things that plug the hole in the barrel) are secure (Well, maybe not really so much check the bungs as to leave “hair balls” especially in the spring just so we get into all the high spaces for our spring cleaning)
  7. Improve our “hide and seek” skills by hiding in every impossible-to-find spot in the tasting room right before closing so you can’t set the alarm ‘til the cat is found.
  8. And, of course, score double job points when delivering her “ultimate present” on the floor right behind our guests at the bar. “What present?” you ask. All of us who work at the winery know the sound of that meow, and more importantly the crowd gasps of “Ugh” and “Yuk”! We’ve practiced our sprint from behind the bar, pulling off a wad of paper towels without breaking stride, diving to cover up the “headless” mouse while praising Moakie in a crowd-calming tone, softly telling all… “This is really a good thing”! After all, see rule #1.

I met Moakie in 2001 after purchasing the winery. She definitely was a barn cat, aloof and arrogant. She had a “don’t mess with me attitude” and only submitted herself for petting when she wanted something… to get out, to get in, more food, whatever.

Her meow could stop a boisterous and happy wine tasting crowd dead in their tracks, all heads turning because Moakie was speaking.

I’ve never been a “cat person.” I grew up with dogs so there was much to learn.

Like the changing seasons, Moakie’s habits change.

Summer sun brings out the frisky side while cold weather brings her more loving side. Cuddled up on the couch, she dares me to put her out in the cold of night. Of course, we cave... usually finding a warm spot in the cellar just for her.

Winery life happily went along until Benoit, our VERY French Winemaker, joined the team in 2004.

Who Owns The Cellar…The Winemaker or The Cat?

Benoit is pretty dang particular.

And like a lion guarding his pride, the Cellar is his domain... or so he thought.

Benoit didn’t like having a cat perched on whatever barrel suited her fancy, taking a nap on top of his wine tanks, or yes, leaving those unwanted “hair balls.”

It didn’t take long before we noticed an abrupt change in Moakie’s demeanor. Most obvious, she would leave the room when Benoit entered.

Then the proverbial “cat poop” hit the fan.

Trailing the sound of very loud French cursing, Benoit enters the tasting room…. “Kathyeee,” he says, “Moakie has got to go. She “sheeeit” in zee middle of my cellar. I will not have thiessss.” (You have to practice your French accent here!)

Now, I may have grown up with dogs but I’ve come to know that cats are very smart and understand exactly what they’re doing.

Molly, Libby and I were all in the winery that day and almost simultaneously we ask, “Benoit, what did you do to Moakie?”

“Nothing”, he says, still bristling with anger.

Sensing we haven’t heard everything, we press on, “Are you sure?”

“Well”, he says, “I just make a face, hiss and hold my hands up like a mad cat every time I see Moakie,” demonstrating this action. Voila! (We are learning a few words of French.)

We explain to Benoit that Moakie has “left him a present” on purpose, just to get back at him.

Although he didn’t believe us then, we know he tested our theory because miraculously, Moakie went back to her cat box!

The cellar is now quiet... AND CLEAN.

There’s an unspoken truce between Benoit and Moakie. She does seem to spend more time in the cellar when Benoit is playing French music… so maybe they’re getting along. Or maybe she’s just trying to understand the French culture.

Yesterday I hung the pictures you see of Benoit and Moakie in the cellar to remind them...

The Cellar IS Big Enough For Two!




1 comment:

Omma said...

I have been a critter person for 69 years, admiring all kinds of them. Cats do require some understanding. Evidently Benoit has discovered the secret: treat a cat as you would a beautiful but quite independent French woman. Admire her, do not expect unreasonable things of her, finely wine and dine her, acknowledge that Cats Own Everything. Smart man, Benoit.