One of the highlights of my recent visit to Niagara was meeting husband-and-wife Louis Engel and David Johnson at Featherstone Winery. They, in turn, introduced me to one of their hawks, Zeke. He was an adorable little fellow that we took out into the vineyard with us.
I noticed that as we walked down the rows of vines, the birds went silent. That’s because Zeke is a hunter, trained to go after the number one enemy of ripened grapes: starlings. Other birds, such as robins and orioles, also attack the fruit, but starlings cost the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop losses every year.
Louise is a licensed falconer, meaning she can fly Zeke and other hawks on her own property to hunt these pesty birds. To watch Zeke in flight and to see his wing-span is lovely.
We also visited the farm where Louise gets about 40 lambs every year in July to nibble on the grass between the rows and then to prune some of the leafy cover from the vines. This is also part of the winery’s natural approach to making wine. These little wigs with short feet are adorable!
You can find my reviews of Featherstone wines here: stunningly delicious Riesling, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.