Sitting at a picnic table, wine in hand, three gourmet tacos waiting to be eaten – it’s a relaxing Labour Day weekend outing with my dog Victor punctuated by the sound of gun fire.
Ok, not real gun fire but it seems like it – loud, random and constant booms echo across the wavy expanse of grape vines.
Why? It scares birds away from the vineyard.
Otherwise, our winery lunch is a perfect bucolic view of grape vines rolling toward the horizon, sun shining and random cars pulling into the small gravel parking lot while following the Niagara Region wine route map in Southern, Ontario, Canada.
There’s just no birds.
Specifically, I’ve got my dog Victor in tow while checking out one stretch of a much larger wine region: Mountainview Road in Beamsville – dubbed the ‘Beamsville Bench’ – home to at least five wineries in a row. This region along the Niagara Escarpment ridge was once covered in acres of fruit farms growing some of the country’s best peaches.
Now, it’s dominated by wineries and suburban sprawl. And even more wineries. (Check out winery dog-friendly events here).
Thirty Bench Winery
Lured by the promise of tasty tacos and wine, Victor and I start at Thirty Bench Winery (4281 Mountainview Road). Three weekends this summer the winery features two kinds of tacos with the wine tasting – today, one is chicken pesto and the other sweet potato vegan with white bean turmeric ‘mustard’ and corn chutney. (Guess which one I had. Here’s hint).
Thirty Bench Winery is also the most dog-friendly in the neighbourhood; staff encourage me to walk Victor through the vines (which he loved) and provide doggie water bowls at the door – necessary because it’s hot and humid today … again. Despite being September, summer’s still here.
Where else did we visit?
Next stop is down the street – literally. Organized Crime Winery (4043 Mountainview Road) is small winery with an equally small but nicely merchandised tasting room – “We are one of the smallest wineries, but we’re not new,” they correct me. “We’ve been here twenty years.”
News to me. It’s the first time I’ve tried their small batch wines and I leave feeling gangster carrying a bottle of light Pinot Noir (yes, there is such a thing) called Break-in Pinot Noir. Victor waits on the patio (sans water bowl). We walk a bit through the backyard overlooking the small slopping vineyard. Because we’re on the edge of the escarpment, every property has a view.
Fielding Estates Winery
Speaking of views, Fielding Estates Winery (further down the road at 4020 Locust Lane) capitalizes on the scenery, setting Muskoka chairs in rows along the slope’s edge, overlooking a small town and major highway just west of it.
At Fielding, the tasting room is large and inventory equal in size. Outside the pond attracts Victor – by this time he’s getting hot and yes, jumps in for a quick swim. No one notices. If they do, they don’t say anything.
The winery tour is $15 every day at 2 pm. No word on whether it’s dog-friendly, thought I doubt it. I head out with a bottle of Rose because I don’t want to believe summer is over and that’s my backyard warm weather wine.
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
Finally, we hit the grandmother of the ‘Beamsville Bench’ – Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery (5600 King Street). A Victorian estate dominates the view – the main house, built in 1885 and restored in 2000, is now a 65-seat fine dining restaurant. Next to that is the winery store with outdoor seating.
No one stops us from taking a dog-walking romp around the vines. There’s a water feature here too, but fortunately Victor can’t – or doesn’t try – to take a dive. I think he’s finally cool enough and wants to go home – I’ve collected enough wine, for the day anyway.