Dog-friendly Event Winery Weekend: Top Dog Tasting & Photo Shoot in Norfolk, Ontario

One of the best things about puppies is firsts. Our first car ride, our first hotel stay, our first provincial park visit – and now our first dog festival … finally.

Hounds of Erie Top Dog Tasting Event

After a few false starts due to ‘you know what,’ Hounds of Erie Winery in Clear Creek, Ontario, Canada hosted The Top Dog Tasting and Photoshoot event August 14 and 15, 2021. Spread out through an orchard, vineyard and cornfield, the socially distanced outdoor event was exactly what housebound hounds and their people needed.

Speaking of vino, the winery featured their own – white, red and fruit wines including Strawberry, Raspberry and a Sparkling Pear, the latter surprisingly refreshing on a hot summer day. My favourite, though, is still the hard apple cider. I’ve tried Hounds of Erie products before and went home with more ‘Sassy Bitch’ and ‘Best of Show’ cider varieties both now and previously.

Pup Photo Shoots

The pre-scheduled timed photo sessions with Rebecca Sprau from Delhi, Ontario was the main attraction of Top Dog Tasting and Photoshoot event. Pre-paid participants had their choice of an elegant Victoria couch or downhome haybales set staged among the winery’s grape vines on either Saturday or Sunday.

Victoria went with the couch, of course, though haybale is more her speed considering she spent significant time transfixed by the chickens in pen behind the cider shed and rolling in who-knowns-what in the grass. Our shoot was quick – after Victoria ran in circles before grabbing the squeaky toy – and I’m looking forward to the results.

Update: Unfortunately, I don’t actually get a copy of the image but here are the results of the photoshoot.

Sprau offers wedding, engagement, maternity, boudoir, family and of course pet photo sessions starting at $50 a session. (Contact info in the Travel Guide below).

Vendors and Dog-friendly Tasting Flights

Vendors dotted the path to the photoshoot including Darwin and Friends Treats; Mr. Big & Tail; The Cottage Pet Collection of pet accessories, available at Franni’s Attic in nearby Port Rowan (more on that soon); and Brew’ed Biscuits, all-natural pet treats made from spent beer grains.

Brew’ed Biscuits offered pups a ‘tasting flight’ of three flavours of crunchy spent grain treats: apple cinnamon, peanut butter, and pumpkin sweet potato. As Victoria hunkered down in front of her three-cup ‘flight,’ she wasted no time.

Which was her favourite? All of them; unlike my previous pup, she’s not discerning and dove nose first into all three barely stopping to taste. I think she gave all two paws up.

Port Rowan Dog-friendly Patio

Port Rowan, about 20-minutes from Hounds of Erie Winery, is a small lakeside town of about 1500 residents popular with summer visitors who stroll the four-block long ‘downtown’ and scenic lookout facing Lake Erie, while eating ice cream from Twins Ice Cream Parlor.

Port Rowan is also the closest town to Hounds of Erie to convene and several people from the dog festival did – specifically at the dog-friendly The Boat House Restaurant, 10 Sea Queen Road beside Lions Club Park, Port Rowan, Ontario. The aptly named restaurant overlooks a working pier dotted with anglers and lined with active boat houses.

Nine bench-seat tables fill The Boathouse Restaurant patio where your (well-behaved) dog is allowed to join you. Plus, staff bring you a doggie water bowl when you sit down. So, that’s where Victoria and I stopped for a late lunch – her first patio café experience.

How did she do?

Victoria behaved very well, but she had the waterfront activity to entertain her and pieces of hotdog to keep her happy. I had a Hounds of Erie Top Dog cider to do the same for me.

Dog-friendly Hounds of Erie Winery

If you missed the festival, no problem. Hounds of Erie is open every weekend for wine and cider tastings and take-home bottles and cases. A wide trail is mowed around the cornfield, which Victoria ran twice.

Tucked behind the crops is a small ‘glamping’ cottage with outdoor firepit great for getting away with the dog – all summer until the end of September. The dog-friendly two-tier cottage (with no plumbing or heat) rents for about $150 per night (depending on the day) via Airbnb.


Both Port Rowan and Hounds of Erie Winery are in Norfolk County, Ontario – an area best known among dog travelers as home to Turkey Point and Long Point provincial parks. Norfolk County is located about equal distance between London and Hamilton (about one-hour drive from each city) along Lake Erie.

Hounds of Erie Winery, 377 7th Concession Road Enr., Clear Creek, Ontario. Open April to December, Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm.

The Boat House, 10 Sea Queen Road, Port Rowan, Ontario. Open Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 7:30pm and Sunday, noon to 6:30 pm.

Rebecca Sprau Photography, 139 King Street, Delhi, Ontario.


  1. ODELL Tufford · · Reply

    All very interesting enjoy the clips you show I only wish I had a puppy 🐶 I could take as I lost my best friend last summer 2020…

    1. Yes, so sorry. Penny is deeply missed.

  2. Sandy Weinstein · · Reply

    Victoria is becoming a world class traveler and seems to be taking it all in stride. so glad you found such an adorable little gal to travel with and have fun.

    1. Thank you so much!

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