Disclosure – This article is the result of a hosted press trip, whereby Tourisme Québec paid the majority of my expenses. This has in no way had any bearing on my review, which is my opinion only.
In case you’re interested, there’s a companion slide show of the Eastern Townships here on our site.
NMD - Rolling hills, gracious countryside, the lowing of the occasional cow or the soft bleat of a goat, barns bustling with activity, vineyards with grapes nearly bursting with succulent juices and a cheerful, “bon jour” as you enter each shop, restaurant or enticing inn. Relish in the warmth of their country inns with beds so soft and fluffy you never want to leave. Sounds wonderful, n’est ce pas? And who doesn’t want to visit the wine region of France?
However, this isn’t France, but the Eastern Townships of the Québec Province, ready to greet you with their flair for treating each visitor as an honored guest in their home, even if it’s a hotel. Also, a visit to the Eastern Townships is an immersion into the French culture without having to break the bank to do it. Affordable, transcendent and relaxing, there’s no reason to not visit the wine region of Québec, each time leaving with a promise to visit again and again. And you wouldn’t be wrong, because the Eastern Townships is an area that shows you something different every time you’re there. With airfare being a quarter of a flight to France, it’s a place to which you’ll want to return, again and again and again!
DISCOVER WINE COUNTRY
In the Eastern Townships, fresh is the focus in the practices of their agriculture-based businesses; the freshest cheese, meat, fruits and vegetables. While the grapes are fresh, their wine is aged to perfection and remarkable in flavor.
With a short growing season, a mere three months or so, the vineyards of the Québec Province had to devise growing methods for their grapes that defied the early, cold weathers yet still produced palatable wines. One such method was their using nets to lift the grapes from the ground, allowing the bitter cold to work in their favor. The wine produced using this method is called “ice wine” and it has a clean, crisp, very sweet flavor, suitable for serving with any course. As an aperitif, ice wine goes well with a variety of cheeses. With a main course, ice wine is exceptional when paired with spicier foods, acting as a contrast to the bite that comes with the heat of some seasonings and additives, coating the tongue and cooling it in time for the next bite. And for dessert, it’s best to pair this with a dark, bitter chocolate, creating a contrast of flavors.
It’s not just the sweet, crisp ice wines being produced there, though. There are several vineyards working with the local flavor to produce their own brand, such as Vignoble Cep D’Argent, located in Magog, Québec. Cep D’Argent produces fine wines and champagnes, using recipes handed down for generations from father to son, and the owners, Jean-Paul and Francois Scieur, maintain that recipe in their quest to produce a contender among their peers. As a side note, it should be explained that any champagne produced outside the Champagne region of France can only be called sparkling wine, rather than champagne. One of the more interesting aspects of the Cep D’Argent is they produce over 10,000 bottles of sparkling wine annually and each one is filled, inspected and corked by hand, including the wire basket sealing each bottle.
Another fascinating and must-visit vineyard would be the Vignoble De la Bauge in Brigham, Québec. The history of the vineyard is a beguiling one and a story that must be told. For decades, the farm on which La Bauge sits was once owned by the father of Simon Naud, the vintner.
Upon his father’s death, he and his three brothers split the acreage, about 350 acres total, amongst themselves and pursued their own interests, that seem to create a symbiotic relationship between them. One of Naud’s brothers is a goat-herd owner, creating his own fresh cheeses and line of dairy products from their milk. The whey that is left over after processing is sprayed onto the vines at la Bauge, which seems to encourage growth. Could this be the secret to the exceptional flavor of his wines?
While he was alive, Simon’s father raised wild hogs on the farm , supplying meat to the local restaurants, and the name of the vineyard is derived from this history, with La Bauge, loosely translated, meaning “Wild Boar’s nest”, as an homage to his father, who’d begun experimenting with raising grapes for wine. Simon opted to continue this by making La Bauge a growing concern.
As well as being scenic and sublime, La Bauge offers an affordable wine tasting filled with delicious handmade patés and sausages, locally made cheese and locally grown fruits and vegetables. As passionate as Monsieur Naud is about his grapes, his land and his family, another equally important facet of his tasting, one dear to him, is that his visitors completely understand the importance of wine, flavors and pairings. At de La Bauge, there are two types of tastings, one held in his tasting room as pictured here, the other a bit more intriguing and in-depth: a tasting that involves all five senses, on a platform in the middle of his vineyard.
The vineyards of the Eastern Townships offer memorable tastings and delicious wines, including a unique vineyard, of sorts; the Domaine Ives Hill de Compton create wines and cassis made of black currant. Their gift shop also has available for purchase an assortment of syrups and jams for your enjoyment. For a complete listing of the vineyards there, please visit the website for the Eastern Townships, where a map of their wine route is available for download and printing. Also on the map are the “Friends of the Wine Route” partners, nearly 80 assorted businesses specializing in accommodations, dining, agri-tourism, arts and culture events and outdoor activities, all designed to enhance your delight as you tour the region.
For some suggestions as to where to stay, please see page 2.