Are you planning to go wine tasting in the Niagara Peninsula and want to bring your most favourite family member (aka your dog)? Well, I’ve got some great news to share! There are plenty of dog-friendly wineries in the Niagara Region of Ontario that you can enjoy together.
Our dog, Henry – a Vizsla, is a big part of our life. If you know anything about this breed, nicknamed the “Velcro dog”, you will know that where you go, they go. What you do, they do. So, I’m pretty much always on the hunt for dog-friendly places that we can bring him and find things we can do together.
So, after multiple day trips and many glasses of wine later, I have pulled together my list of the 5 best wineries, that just so happen to be dog-friendly.
The Niagara Region
The Niagara Region, also called the Niagara Peninsula, is a large area in Southwestern Ontario known for its prime area for growing grapes. In fact, it’s the province’s largest producer of wine. It stretches from Niagara Falls to Hamilton and is divided into two main regional appellations: the Niagara Escarpment and Niagara-on-the-Lake. With its mild temperatures and quality soil this area is ideal for growing more than 40 grape varieties, from Riesling and Chardonnay to Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
The wineries in the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation draw a lot of tourists. They tend to be the larger and well-known producers of wine. This area caters to tourism, with key attractions of Niagara Falls, a casino, the charming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake known for its cute boutique shops and eateries, and its own theater company. Being right near the American border, as well as, the close proximity for anyone living in and around Toronto, makes this an easy day trip or weekend getaway for both Canadian and Americans. If you are anything like me, seeking out places that don’t cater to tourism is where I want to be.
That’s why I headed to the appellation in the Niagara Escarpment which is a combination of three smaller appellations known as “The Bench”. This area includes Beamsville, Lincoln, Vineland and Jordan. It doesn’t draw the same number of crowds like Niagara-on-the-Lake does, which is the reason why it’s my favourite. Personally, I seek out the smaller, less publicized wineries. Those hidden gems that are a bit quieter, more intimate, and the ones you can only sample their wine by visiting their winery. So here is my list of the 5 best wineries to visit with your dog.
Rosewood Estates Winery
Rosewood lies in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation in the small town of Beamsville. Its impressive long driveway, past the pristine rows of the several varieties of grapes and a large pond leads you to the winery. The contemporary architecture of this winery acts as a gorgeous backdrop to the sizable stone terrace overlooking the bountiful vineyards. Here, are 10 acres of Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot. While another 20 acres lies in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation.
Inside the tasting room is where I hear about Rosewood’s love story. A promise between a newly married couple on honeymoon in this very area to one day own their own winery. It doesn’t get any more romantic than that! But also, it was the love of carrying on the tradition of keeping bees. As a third-generation beekeeper, Rosewood has 250-300 production honeybee colonies between Beamsville and Jordan. Rosewood definitely lives by their philosophy of earth to bottle. They are a winery that chases great flavour, and like the others, strive to protect the environment with their wine making practices.
Rosewood has a wide selection of wine due to the variety of grapes they grow. I decided to go with their ‘Night Moves’ Gamay. A light bodied red with flavours of black cherry and cranberry, with a hint of spice from white pepper. It’s aged for 11 months in French oak barrels and it’s light, juicy and easy on the palate. My husband went with the popular ‘Follow the White Rabbit’. This light, easy-going Chardonnay is well balanced with both fruity and floral tastes. Don’t judge, we choose wines on the lighter side as it was still early in the day. I would definitely return and sample more of their heavy-bodied wines in the future.
Go to Rosewood for...
- its Instagram-worthy setting and delicious honey (yes, a jar of their wildflower honey made it home with me)
- sample their Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc
- dogs allowed in their interior and exterior spaces
Distance from Rosewood to Kew is 4kms
Kew Vineyards Estate Winery
Kew lies in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation in the small town of Beamsville. It sits right off the main road (King Street) in the downtown, away from the wine routes. It’s not until you drive up the short steep hill that you will see the expansive vineyard sitting behind an elegant historic home built in the 1850s. The outdoor terrace offers you modern lounge seating or you may choose one of the many tables set up on the lawn under the canopy of trees. We opted for the lawn, an ideal spot for any dog to laze upon. Our greeter immediately provided a water bowl for Henry and after a few pats our server turned his attention to us.
Kew is known for their beautiful sparkling wines, which I am definitely a fan of. So the hardest decision was which one to try. I went with the 2017 Rosalie, a third vintage of their Pinot Noir Rosé sparkling wine. It was absolutely perfect for a hot summer’s day. A blend of strawberry and raspberry with a touch of rhubarb and red currant. It was crisp and refreshing. My husband decided to try the cider beer, as he is more of a beer connoisseur than wine, and loved it.
Kew has quickly become one of my favourite wineries to visit, not only because of the setting, but because of the incredible sparkling wine Kew makes.
Go to Kew for...
- its elegant and peaceful surroundings
- their beautiful sparkling wines
- dog-friendly interior tasting room (if space permits), as well as exterior space
Distance from Kew to Cave Springs is 2km
Cave Spring Vineyard
Cave Spring lies in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation in Beamsville. The tasting room is a modern red barn sitting in the middle of their 135 acres of vineyards. Yep, that’s right, 135 acres! And, that’s just one of three parcels of land this third generation of winemakers grow their grapes. The sweeping views of nothing but vineyards are simply incredible. I got a quick tour of the rooftop deck, typically held for event space, where you have views of Lake Ontario and all the way to the CN Tower in Toronto. Spectacular!
After settling into our comfortable spot on the terrace, Dee Dee, the Director of Sales and Marketing, stopped by to say hello.
She told us the story of the Pennachetti family. How the love of wine making has been passed through the generations. How their business has evolved and expanded over time.
The common thread to this this story has always been family. A family dedicated and passionate about wine making. That same passion was expressed by everyone we met at Cave Spring, making them amazing ambassadors for the Pennachetti family.
Riesling, Riesling and more Rieslings! There are other options of course, but you might as well have what they do best. I selected the Riesling Estate, which is produced from some of their oldest vines, ranging in age of 11 to 40 years. A classic choice, I’d say. My husband tried the Riesling Dolomite, named after the dolomitic limestone forming the crest of the Niagara Escarpment. Both of these wines come from their Beamsville Bench, and they did not disappoint.
Go to Cave Spring for...
- its exceptional customer service and their tasting room’s cool vibes
- their well-respected Rieslings
- dog-friendly in both interior and exterior spaces
Distance from Cave Spring to Featherstone is 7kms
Featherstone Estate Winery
Featherstone lies in the Twenty Bench sub-appellation in Vineland. As you pull into this winery, you will immediately notice the delightful white historic farmhouse sitting up on a gentle hill overlooking the vineyard. The large wrap around veranda, with its mix and match antique table and chairs adds to the casual charm of this winery. Equally as charming, is the warm reception you will receive. They make you feel like home.
Louise, the co-owner of Featherstone, graciously stops by our table and shares the Featherstone story with us. She started with her team – team of sheep that is. She told us that the sheep are used to thin the vines without any interest in eating the grapes themselves. It compliments their philosophy of finding environmentally sensitive practices that favour quality wine production over quantity. They also feature limited edition wines that you can only get when you pass through their winery.
For our wine selections, I chose the Sauvignon Blanc. It was fresh, zesty and punched with flavours of lemongrass, peaches and pears. My husband selected ‘Four Feathers’ which is a blend of their Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer. We both loved it so much we brought a bottle home with us.
They are offering little ‘nosh boxes’ of cheese, meat or hummus and olives as part of your tasting experience. How can you say no to that?
Go to Featherstone for...
- its charm and warm hospitality
- their Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Rosé
- dog-friendly interior and exterior spaces
Distance from Featherstone to Honsberger is 7kms
Honsberger Estate Winery
Honsberger lies in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation in the small town of Jordan. As you pull into this winery you can’t help but notice the century’s old red-brick farmhouse. It captures and keeps your attention, making you almost forget that you are at a winery. The Honsberger family has been farming their land since 1811. That’s 6 generations of farmers! That was until 2002, when the family made the decision to rip out the cherry and apple trees and replace them with Cabernet Franc and Riesling vines. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Keeping their farming traditions alive, they have incorporated the red barn into their winery operations. From November to April, the Small Barn, opens up as a restaurant and indoor event space. The inside décor of the barn is modern country, accented by candlelight and a roaring fire, it offers a romantic and cozy dining experience not to be missed.
From May to October, it is all about the outdoor experience. Featuring a large terrace with lots of seating meandering through their gardens. Taking center stage is the large outdoor pizza oven offering up a delicious thin wood-fire crust pizza. They even have a Gelato bar! Getting married and need a venue? Yep, that’s right they offer that too. Indoor and/or outdoor spaces perfect for couples who want that unique modern country experience.
I decided to go with their Cabernet Franc which is a dense fruity blend of blackberry and cherry. My husband tried their Riesling, a bright citrus taste with hints of crisp apples. I love how they are honouring their farming roots of using cherry and apple by infusing those flavours into their wines. Take note, if you’re a fan of their wine, it can only be purchased at Honsberger Estate or online.
Go to Honsberger for...
- the fun, lively experience
- their Cabernet Franc and Riesling
- dog-friendly exterior spaces only