What happens when you combine a love for cider, wine, and dogs in Norfolk County? You get the most beautiful dog-friendly winery experience ever! Read on to find out more about Hounds of Erie’s award-winning doggy-themed hard ciders, wines, and why I think this is THE dog-friendly winery to visit in Norfolk County.
Today’s post will cover an in-depth guide of the various activities offered at Hounds of Erie Winery. In addition, I’ll also be covering our personal experience visiting this winery with Limone.
By the end of the post, I have a feeling you’ll probably want to spend a sunny afternoon there too!
Interested in reading about other dog-friendly places we’ve visited around Ontario?:
- Hike on one of the prettiest trails in the Dundas Valley
- Visit this European themed Village Square in Burlington
- Take a surprise getaway day trip from Toronto
Here’s what’s going to be covered in today’s post:
About Hounds of Erie Winery
Hounds of Erie Winery was the result of a hobby-turned-passion business for Mat and Melissa, the co-owners of this family winery.
Since 2007, Mat has been making hard cider and wine as a hobby. By 2012, this hobby blossomed into a growing passion. So, Mat and his wife, Melissa purchased this 23-acre farmland in Norfolk County to follow their dream of opening their own winery.
After nurturing and growing their own grapevines and apple orchards, Hounds of Erie Winery officially opened for business as Canada’s first virtual winery/cidery 3 years later.
The boutique winery and hard cider currently offered include:
- 4 hard cider varieties
- 3 speciality fruit wines including: pear, raspberry, and strawberry
- Rotating selection of hand crafted red and white wines
What makes this particular winery stand out from the rest of the Norfolk County vineyards is how committed they are to
- Welcoming humans and canine friends to enjoy their property
- Teaching and sharing their passion for creating hard ciders and wines with others
Since they first launched their award-winning hard cider in 2015, they have become a growing presence in the Norfolk winery industry. Their attention to detail and thoughtful dog-friendly additions are sure to attract many dog-loving, cider-drinking, wine-loving families to their location.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the details of this winery as well as our experience attending their annual Top Dog Photoshoot event.
Getting to Hounds of Erie Winery
Location, Operating Hours, and Distance from Major Cities
Hounds of Erie Winery is located southeast of Port Burwell, Ontario in the hamlet of Clear Creek. It is situated just north of Lake Erie.
Here are some estimated drive times for folks visiting from the following cities:
- From London, Ontario – driving to Clear Creek, Ontario is about 1 hour and 15 minutes
- From Hamilton it’s 1 hour and 45 minutes
- From Kitchener-Waterloo, it’s 1 hour and 40 minutes
- From St. Catherines, it’s 2 hours
- From Toronto, it’s 2 hours and 15 minutes
Address: 377 7th Concession Rd Enr, Clear Creek, ON N0E 1C0
Onsite Hours: Weekends from April – December 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM – additional onsite hours by appointment only
Dog-friendly?: A RESOUNDING YES
If you’re arriving from any of the cities mentioned above, you’ll likely be driving south on 7th Concession Rd. Hounds of the Erie Winery will appear on your right and as you arrive near the location, you’ll see its logo posted on signage nearby.
The main parking area is located by their boutique store, easily identifiable by their signage and umbrella picnic bench patios. There’s enough space for about 5-10 cars, but if you are planning to visit during an event day, you may need to follow the ‘Event Parking’ signage and drive a bit further south to park in the overflow area instead.
Note: A Porta Potty is located by the event parking area if you need to use the washroom upon arrival. There are no handwashing stations, so remember to use some hand sanitizer afterwards.
Things to do at Hounds of Erie Winery
Beyond just developing great hard ciders and wines, Mat and Melissa are also equally passionate to share their property and knowledge of wine and ciders with all who are interested. Naturally, this means that their property also has plenty of things to do to keep you occupied for a full afternoon or longer!
1. Book a Guided Tour with one of the Hound Pack Tour Guides
Stroll through the orchard and grapevines while sipping their award-winning hand-crafted ciders or wines. In the guided tour, you’ll learn about:
- the various ciders and wines offered
- the process of making ciders and wines
- the macro-climate of Lake Erie
- the 21 varieties of hard cider apples and hybrid grape varieties
- how the chickens, bees, and how the ALUS Program benefits the grapes and apples
You can book a guided tour by contacting Hounds of Erie directly.
2. Take a Self-Guided Tour
Take a free self-guided tour using any of Hounds of Erie Winery’s tablets, or with your own phone and data. You’ll be provided with a virtual tour video guided by winemaker Mat Vaughan, with marked stops along the property.
3. Shop and Relax at their Outdoor Boutique / Patio
Spend some time relaxing with other Hounds of Erie guests at their outdoor patio situated just behind their boutique store.
You may think that their boutique store only offers hard ciders and wines, but you can also shop for various other local goods and products including:
- honey products and goods
- doggie treats
- doggy-themed home decor items like coasters
- House of Erie merchandise
Their wines and ciders are very reasonably priced too! Ciders are priced between $5-$13 depending on the type and the wines are priced between $15-$18 per bottle.
4. Work on Socializing Your Dog with Chickens and other Dogs
Since the winery is open to public guests every weekend between April and December, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stroll through their vineyards and interact with other dogs too.
The winery can provide you and your dog a new way to socialize and meet new dogs. With an open field at the end of the property, and plenty of opportunities to work on walking in parallel with new dogs in between the grapevines and orchards.
As an added bonus, this dog-friendly winery can also provide a great opportunity to introduce and socialize your dog to plenty of chickens too! For my suburban girl, this was an extra plus to continuously introduce her to new sights and sounds.
5. Attend a dog-friendly event
Visit Hounds of Erie during one of their dog-friendly events like the Top Dog Photo Shoot event that we attended. During these events, the Hounds of Erie Winery transforms into a mini dog convention.
At these events, you can not only enjoy the wine and cider produced from the estate but also interact with various local businesses including:
- Have your photo taken by Rebecca Sprau @rebeccasprauphotography
- Eat one of the best burgers and shakes in Norfolk County from Andy’s Drive-In
- See if your dog has the potential to be the next lure course champion by trying out the lure course hosted and run by LALIBERTEFARM
- Shop for cute accessories, clothes, from various local dog-friendly vendors like:
- Treat your dog with locally made biscuits and more from:
- Meet with puppies and support Second Chance Auction Animals Rescue (SCAAR)
6. Stay overnight at Hounds of Erie Winery
Looking for dog-friendly camping or glamping experience at a winery? Hounds of Winery offers 2 options:
- Camp overnight at a roofed campsite at the vineyard
- Stay overnight in a private cabin on the property
Book your overnight stay at Hounds of Erie Winery
Note: If you don’t have an account with Hipcamp – feel free to sign up here and get a $10 credit for your next booking. Note: it’s entirely optional to sign up with this link, and if you do – thank you! I get a $10 credit with Hipcamp as well to help towards our future adventures as well 🙂
Upcoming Developments for Hounds of Erie Winery
Although there’s already a lot of activities and things to do, Hounds of Erie Winery are continuously looking to improve their dog-friendly experience for everyone visiting the property.
Here are a couple of future plans that you may see if you visit Hounds of Erie in upcoming events:
- Doggy guests will eventually be able to try out an Agility Course in future events
- Increased local dog vendors at events
- Dog training services, and sample trainings at events
Our Afternoon at Hounds of Erie Winery
A couple of weeks back, I happened to see a post from social media for something a little different than the usual camping and hiking posts that I like. Hounds of Erie Winery was hosting a “Top Dog Photo Shoot & Tastings” event.
For just $25 we would get:
- A mini photo shoot with our dog at the winery
- 1 stemmed glass for tasting their products
- 3 free tastings of Hounds of Erie Winery products AND
- a goodie bag with dog treats
Seriously!? All that for only $25? I was already sold with just the photoshoot alone! Angelo and I RARELY get the chance to be in the same photo together, let alone a photo with Limone! Not only were we getting a staged photoshoot at a winery, but we were also allowed to taste test some super adorably named wines and ciders!?!? This was too good of a value to pass up.
I immediately booked a ticket without even asking Angelo if he was free that day. He’d have to reschedule whatever plans he had so that we could go to this winery asap pronto.
Our Experience with Mat and Melissa
Overall our experience with Mat and Melissa was very positive. When we first signed up for the Top Dog Photo Shoot & Tastings event, we were scheduled for a 12:35 PM photoshoot session. Unfortunately due to several collisions on the highway, we were delayed by more than half an hour.
As soon as we saw the change in our ETA, we gave a call to the Hounds of Erie to give them advance notice that we would be running late. Melissa answered the phone and was super accomodating with our delay! Thank goodness for that! I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was to receive a sunny and cheerful voice on the phone saying everything was going to be alright!
I’m so thankful that we not only kept our photoshoot session but were welcomed warmly despite our late arrival! Our sign-in at the winery was also handled by Melissa. She provided clear instructions as to what was available on-site, where the photographer would be, and also gave us a brief description of each of the vendors and dog-friendly activities at the winery that day.
Unfortunately, I was not able to interact with Mat during the afternoon as a winery hopping tour also arrived during our visit and he was busy guiding the new guests around the property.
Photoshoot in the Vineyard with Rebecca Sprau
As soon as Melissa signed us in, we made a beeline to the photographer and her photoshoot setup. This was IT – we were finally going to get a family portrait photoshoot together and it was going to be in a vineyard! Honestly, I was just so happy to envision a photo of us standing together looking all cute between grapevines with a photographer snapping away. So, I was THRILLED beyond reason when I found out that our photographer Rebecca was:
- A professional portrait photographer in the Norfolk County (I mean look at all the beautiful photos on her instagram)
- A fellow corgi owner and Winnie, her corgi was there to join in on the fun (she was such a sweetheart and definitely very well socialized with many other dogs – Limone unfortunately didn’t seem too fond of her so we weren’t able to interact with Winnie for long)
- We had not just ONE, but TWO set ups to choose for our photoshoot! One was a fall/barn themed hay stack, and another was a glamorous heart-shaped loveseat. I mean.. WHAT!? I was just excited to have a family photo. I was literally crying inner tears of joy and excitement
Again, I can’t stress how much of a great value this $25.00 event is. Portrait photography from a fellow corgi lover AND wine and cider tasting? I was mentally pinching myself from disbelief – and this was before we even had the full experience!
Rebecca was really friendly and accommodating as well. While we were originally scheduled for the 12:35 PM timeslot, she had no problems taking us in at 1:35 PM for our shoot as well. Most shoots only took a couple of minutes, but Rebecca spent a few extra minutes with us because we had trouble keeping Limone focused on the lens. I really appreciated the extra effort to ensure that we were all facing the same way.
While all dogs needed to stay on leash while visiting the property, there was one opportunity where we were allowed to take her off-leash. Close to the parking lot, was a basic lure course set up for dogs of all sizes and ages to give it a try.
Lure coursing is a sport where dogs chase a mechanized lure. The lure is attached to a cable pulley and can be set up to take sharp angles and long distances for dogs to chase. For dogs who love a good chase, this is an especially great way to work off some physical and mental energy.
While Limone loves to play fetch, she hasn’t always been a huge fan of chasing things, but we figured we would give it a try. Ultimately Limone did not complete the course and rather than chasing the lure, ran back to me for assurance.
However, during the duration of our stay, we saw dogs of various sizes including chihuahuas and Great Danes happily take to the lure course with ease. I definitely recommend giving this a try at least once!
As part of our event purchase, we were provided with 3 drink stubs that allowed us to taste-test the various hard cider and wines.
Ok – ok, before we dive too far into this portion, full disclosure, I do not regularly drink any type of alcohol. I even go so far as to usually avoid wines like the plague because I’m a wuss against the flavours of tannins. Angelo isn’t much of a wine taster either, so our thoughts and opinions are most certainly our own!
If you’re interested in ‘experienced taste testers’, aka reviews from folks who do enjoy ciders, wines, and beer, check out people’s review on UNTAPPD – I literally found this as I was writing this review – but it’s basically a Yelp exclusively made for bars, breweries, and beers!
These are the drinks that we tried during our visit:
Hound & The Hare – 2020 – White Blend
Here’s the white wine’s description from the website:
The Hound and the Hare is a select blend of hand-picked Riesling, L’acadie Blanc and Frontenac Blanc grapes. The wine’s journey starts in the rich sandy loam soils of beautiful Clear Creek, Ontario, where the warm summer sun helps ripen the grapes to perfection.
The 2020 Hound and the Hare blend is a medium-bodied, off-dry Riesling dominant wine that is packed full of minerality, and lime zest with hints of pineapple and peach, with a smooth petrol finish.
What did we think? Um…. it was good!!!! ? If I had to drink wine, I’d like to be fruity, but not too sweet. I’ve tried dry white wines that leave my tongue feeling almost… fuzzy? from the dryness. This one was certainly not it! I thought it went down pretty nicely and coming from a non-wine drinker, is a very beginner-friendly entry white wine to try.
Sassy Bitch Cider
Here’s the cider’s description from the website:
Sassy Bitch is fermented in very small hand-crafted batches using only two ingredients: Apples and Raspberries! Sassy Bitch exhibits tantalizing, ripe raspberry and apple aromatics and flavours that are perfectly balanced to deliver a world-class hard cider experience. Sassy Bitch is made from 100% Golden Russet apples, and our estate raspberries! Enjoy Hounds of Erie Sassy Bitch year-round and let your taste buds dance.
I’d have to 100% agree with the description. This was a delicious cider. We noticed that many other guests chose to purchase this cider to take back home with them after sampling. Given that I’ve mostly only tried canned cider purchased at the LCBO (looking at you Strongbow), this cider was a delight to my tastebuds. I happily drank the entire sample in under 5 minutes. Coming from someone that nurses ciders and beers for 2 hours at a time (I know! I know! that’s gross and horrible but I can’t drink much regularly), I’d have to say this was very delicious!
Fox & The Hound – 2018 Reserve Marquette Blend
Here’s how the website describes this red wine:
The Marquette grapes start in the rich fertile soils of the Lake Erie basin in Clear Creek, Ontario where they ripen in the moderate lake-cooled summer heat. The grapes are handpicked and sorted where only the best bunches are kept for our Marquette reserve. Once fermented, the wine spends at least a year in French oak barrels where its aromas and flavours are concentrated to perfection.
The wine’s deep garnet colour is complemented by aromas of cherry, blackberry, vanilla and pepper. The medium to full-bodied wine benefits from a smooth entry with rich flavours of ripe dark fruit which boasts a long palatable finish.
For our final sampler, we decided to try their red wine. Why the red wine if we weren’t fans of red? Why not try another one of the ciders instead? We figured variety and constantly retrying things we don’t like provides us with an opportunity to challenge and change our minds to things we like to eat or taste. So, after trying their white wine and cider, we finished with a glass of red wine.
So how did I feel about the red wine? I need to stress here that I normally avoid wines like the plague, especially red wines because the tannins are so strong it causes involuntary facial twitching ‘blegh’ muscles to form every time I take a sip. So when I gave this wine a sniff and a small sip, I was wholly expecting myself to grimace from the tannins.
Unbelievably, the wine’s description was true to its promise. This was a medium to full-bodied red wine with a smooth entry. VERY SMOOTH. I didn’t even wince once from the tannins and I was able to take more than just a sip. I’ll take that as a win!
Angelo surprisingly also enjoyed this red wine and happily finished our last sample without leaving a single drop in our glass.
We ended up staying at Hounds of the Erie Winery for a lot longer than expected. Each of the activities listed above lasted no more than 15-20 minutes but we somehow managed to extend our time here for almost 3 hours!
The winery offered plenty of seating around the property. Ample picnic tables and seats are available by the boutique and additional seats were set up at the back of the vineyard for guests to relax and watch the lure course. We ended up spending a lot of time watching all the other doggy guests try out the lure course. It was such a nice little community! Everyone cheered and clapped for every puppy and dog who took to the lure enthusiastically.
Also! Because we visited on a Saturday, the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society even had a puppy playpen set up to promote fostering and adopting 8 Shepherd x Lab mix puppies and a 2-year-old Chihuahua (they were provided plenty of shade in the open playpen thanks to a tarp that covered some of their space!). They had a booth set up with more details on the society, other dogs available for foster and adoption, as well as past success stories too.
Unfortunately, Limone is leash reactive to unfamiliar breeds of dogs, and puppies are not an exception! Angelo and I had to visit the puppies separately while we kept Limone at a far distance away from the puppies. Thankfully, we seized this opportunity to practice desensitization and packed plenty of hot dog bits with us. We were able to keep Limone calm 5 metres away from the puppies. This might seem far for many other dog owners, but for us, this was considered a HUGE success. Her previous reactivity would be triggered within eyesight (anywhere from 25-100s of metres away!) so we took this as a very solid win and left the estate in very high spirits.
The rest of our time was spent walking around the estate actively training and rewarding Limone for good behaviour. Treats for looking and not barking at the chickens. Treats for staying down or in a sit position as dogs pass by. Treats for loose leash walking beside dogs as we walked up and down the grapevines and orchards. Treats for sniffing apples and leaving them.
I think it was safe to say that Limone also had a great treat-filled day too!
Hounds of Erie does several things SO SO right. To recap:
- They make great ciders and wines
- They make it while all the while practising sustainable argricultural standards
- They make you and your dog feel so welcome
While you can certainly support the business and purchase their hard ciders and wines online, I really do recommend spending at least a half-day driving to the estate and enjoying a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon there to really appreciate the full experience.
After attending the event, I can confidently say that the event went above and beyond our expectations. Not only were we offered the photoshoot and the tastings, but we were able to do so much more. From touring the winery, trying out lure coursing, socializing with other dogs, perusing goods from other vendors, to even supporting rescue societies. We ended up spending more time at this venue than we expected.
In terms of things to improve? This one is really more for the introverted folks like me out there!
- QR Code for self-guided tour at sign-in or provided at email confirmation
I was really interested in taking the self-guided tour when I visited! But since it was such a busy day on the estate I felt awkward seeking out Mat and Melissa to ask about the tablet. I would have really liked to have just received the QR code as part of our ticket or scanned it at check-in so that we could enjoy the self-guided tour without bothering Mat or Melissa!
Other Things to Do Near Hounds of Erie
Interested in extending your afternoon into a day trip after visiting Hounds of Erie Winery? Here are several additional dog-friendly activities in Norfolk County that are worth checking out!
We actually ended up visiting Long Point Provincial Park – check out our quick preview of our entire day in this video!
- Spend some beach time with your dog at any of these nearby dog-friendly beaches:
- Enjoy a nice easy boardwalk at one of Ontario’s classic summer beach towns: Port Dover
Have you visited Hounds of Erie Winery? Let me know in the comments below!