Toast the Coast: Norfolk County Long Weekend Dog-friendly Road Trip

among the vineyards at Burning Kiln Winery

Sassy Bitch and Perfect Pear are now my two favourite craft brewed ciders, and not only because they’re dog-themed. Combined with Top Dog and Best of Show, they make up Hounds of Erie Winery’s four hard cider selection.

On a weekend road trip with my dog, we had to veer off the beaten path to find Hounds of Erie Winery, one of the newest additions to the Toast the Coast Trail, a self-guide tour of Norfolk County wineries in Ontario, Canada. April 2019 marked the opening of Hounds physical outlet – a free-standing building next to the owners’ home.

But first, our Norfolk County dog-friendly road trip this civic long weekend.

Stop One: Burning Kiln Winery, St. Williams, Ontario

The rural road was calling, but this time closer to home along Lake Erie. Burning Kiln Winery hosted an annual outdoor show, Crafts at the Kiln. About 50 high-end makers gathered adjacent to the winery building selling everything from bath bombs and soap to silver jewelry from recycled silverware; marsh mellow squares to bamboo fabric frocks.

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The winery is dog-friendly at the best of times, but today pups including my Victor wandered the grounds checking out the pet vendors such as Murphy’s Treats (Victor insisted on is fav: dried beef lung). Cat toys, doggie bow ties and pet print kitchen gear was represented and so was local Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary (check out our previous visit here). Attend its Watermelon Fundraiser August 31, 2019.

Stop Two: Turkey Point Provincial Park

Four minutes away, Turkey Point Provincial Park is open for camping but not much else. Day use is limited to some grassy sections with picnic tables and trails (at least the ones we found) are short. Being a long weekend, the park office was over-run with large groups of visitors, so it was difficult to get directions. (Check out our previous provincial park adventure here). But there is a golf course.

Dog in the vineyards at Burning Kiln Winery

After a short walk, we headed to the beach … the highlight of Turkey Point town.

Stop Three: Turkey Point Beach

Where not to go with the dog on a hot long weekend? The beach. The lakeside shore of Turkey Point was over-run, crowded and impossible to find a parking spot. Plus, there are ‘no dog signs’ in some locations that I don’t remember being there five years ago. Beach-side bars have become stridden about the ‘no dogs’ on patios bylaws (due to some customer complaints, apparently).

Civic holiday weekend especially, Turkey Point is not dog-friendly.

Hounds of Erie, however, is another story…

Stop Four: Hounds of Erie Winery, Clear Creek, Ontario

A twenty-minute drive from Turkey Point to the end of Highway 24 and beyond, we found Hounds of Erie Winery – only a few months old as a site open to the public and is still under renovations.

Founded in 2015 as a virtual winery/cidery, Hounds is named after the area’s history of hunting with dogs … and the founder’s Great Dane. Owners Mat and Melissa Vaughan grow apples and grapes onsite, because Hounds was first intended to open as a winery – Fox and Hound, an estate Marquette blend, is the first wine released just this year – but cider grabbed attention first thanks to trends.

Top Dog hard cider, a natural blend of six heritage Ontario apples, was first in 2015, followed by Best in Show (currently sold out), then Sassy Bitch – my favorite with a hint of raspberry and pink to boot – and finally Perfect Pear. One dollar from every bottle of Perfect Pear sold goes to the local SPCA.

Perfect Pear is my choice and, according to Hounds of Erie founder Mat Vaughan, pears are a challenging base for cider, so this might my best opportunity to try it. Plus, a firefighting Dalmatian meets a law-enforcing German Shepard on the label so what’s not to love?

Uninterested in tasting cider, Victor strolled freely around the property, never meeting the host dog, and oddly taking no interest in the pen of chickens producing free-range eggs for sale and helping keep insects in check. The scampering chickens captivated me. But that might be the Sassy Bitch talking.

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