Wineries of the Eastern Townships

Summer is (sadly) over and if you’re like me, now is the time to start dreaming of vacation plans for next summer, especially those that involve good food and wine.

May I suggest the Eastern Townships of Quebec?

The Eastern Townships is located about 90 minutes southeast of Montreal. We were lucky enough to spend a week in June checking out the beautiful scenery, little towns and local food and wine. Wait, local wine in Quebec? Yes, there are over 30 wineries in Quebec located in five distinct regions. Read on!

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Similar to the Ontario VQA system, Quebec has a “Quebec Certified Wine” designation to help ensure the quality and origin of wines from the province’s emerging wine sector.

The growing season in Quebec is short due to the cold winters, so lesser known winter-hardy hybrids such as Maréchal Foch and De Chaunac are the name of the game at most of Quebec’s wineries. Unknown to many wine lovers outside of the region, however, a small but increasing number of wineries are also now growing more well-known noble varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay.

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One of these wineries, recognized as one of the top producers in Quebec, is Vignoble Les Pervenches, about an hour southeast of Montreal, where they use geotextiles and hay to cover the vines in the winter. While I didn’t get a chance to try their highly lauded wines on this trip (had to save something for next time!) I did get the opportunity to sample a number of other wines from the region.

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One of these was Léon Courville Vigneron in Lac-Brome (Domaine Les Brome), located a short drive north of Sutton, Quebec. Léon Courville grows twelve different types of grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Vidal, Maréchal Foch and St-Pépin. I enjoyed several of them, but my favourites were:

  • Reserve XP version 6, made with De Chaunac grapes, dried appassimento style for 6-8 weeks.  Purple-orange in colour with intense dark plum, blueberry and dried fruit on the palate. I loved it!
  • Reserve Riesling 2014, half aged in stainless steel and half barrel fermented on its lees for 12 months. A very nice wine. Tasted blind, I would have never guessed it was from Quebec before this trip.

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We also made a quick stop at Clos Saragnat in Frelighsburg, just 1 km from the Vermont border. Owner and winemaker Christian Barthomeuf planted his first vines in the region in 1980 and is best known as the inventor of ice cider. Christian’s wife, Louise Dupuis, was a wonderful host while we sampled their products, our favourite of which was the Clos Saragnat Avalanche Ice Cider 2014. Deep amber, rich and delicious, with notes of dark toffee, caramelized sugar and apple.  Drink on its own for dessert or pair with cheese. I was also happy to see this is an organic product!

Clos Cider

Other wines I tasted on the trip that deserve a mention:

  • Domaine St-Jacques Reserve Red 2014. Made with Lucy Kuhlman, Maréchal Foch, and Baco Noir grapes. Fruity and smooth with notes of cherry and violet. Very good.
  • Union Libre Gewurztraminer 2016. Aromatic, tropical fruit and some ginger. Really nice, on par with many of the nicer Gews from Ontario.
  • Coteau Rougement Chardonnay La Cote 2015. Creamy, rich and balanced with good length. Would be great paired with many seafood dishes.
  • Vignoble 1292 St-Pépin Swenson 2016. Light yellow with a floral nose. First time trying these varietals and I enjoyed it. Always good to try new grapes!
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Of course there was excellent food to go with all of this wine. Restaurant Lyvano in Frelighsburg (pictured above) was one of our favourites, and just down the road from Clos Saragnat. They have a beautiful patio out back by a babbling brook and terrific food to match the peaceful atmosphere.

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While in town, be sure to stop by the Sucreries de l’érable next door for a slice of authentic maple syrup pie. And if you’re in the mood for a little shopping, walk over to Oneka across the street to check out their terrific organic hair and bath products made wild harvested herbal extracts without the use of parabens or synthetic fragrances.

Another place we really enjoyed was Bistro West Brome, located about 10 minutes north of Sutton, where we had a fantastic dinner. Lac Brome is famous for duck, so we had to try the duck confit while in the area and it did not disappoint.

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The combination of good food and wine, along with beautiful scenery and rolling mountain should be enough to make you look into visiting the area, but I would be remiss not to mention the that perhaps best of all, everyone was super friendly everywhere we went. Oh, and even though we went in early June, we didn’t see one mosquito the whole trip!

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Helpful links/if you go:

All photos by Adrian Berg.

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