I’ve been living in Western Canada for 11 years now, with only a couple visits to my homeland since I left. I can’t recall the last time I saw the autumn foliage of brilliant yellows, reds and oranges.
While the forests put on their autumn robes, the vines and orchards are ripe with fruits. Going back to Québec in the fall was the perfect time to embrace a burst of colours, aromas and flavours.
My mother and I have decided to spend our quality time together on the road. What a better way to reunite and catch up, then driving on the open road through a carnival of autumn colours. My mom is a great travel partner. She also organized this trip, and designed the itinerary. On the program? Wine, history, culture, exploration and mother-daughter shenanigans through the beautiful regions of Estrie, Cantons de l’Est and Montérégie. Did I mention wine?
WHERE TO CHEERS
Cep d’Argent, Magog
Nestled on a hill between Mt-Orford and Magog Lake, le Cep d’Argent offers authentic products made by passionate individuals. The winery was founded by 4 Quebecois, and 2 Frenchmen and the first vines were planted in 1985. They have been running since, offering quality products to the Quebec consumers. Le Cep d’Argent is known as the only winery producing champagne in the Eastern Townships, and the knowledgable staff will happily give you a champenoise guided tour to educate you on the meticulous process of making champagne.
WHAT TO DO
Ducs de Montrichard, Orford
This family and artisanal business is proud to create fresh products with high standards of quality. They produce 100% pure duck rilettes, and their terrines and gibiers are free of conservation agents. Pack Ducs de Montrichard products in your picnic basket with ice cider gelée and local cheeses and yum, yum, yum!
Chocolaterie Vanden Eynden, Orford
Real chocolate with 100% cocoa butter. Can’t go wrong with this. If you have a sweet tooth, Chocolaterie Vanden Eynden is a must stop before returning on the road.
WHERE TO STAY
Jouvence Centre de Vacances, Orford
I came here 28 years ago with my mother and brother for Christmas. My mom likes to remember those cold days of winter where children ran in the cobbled stone pathways covered in snow. Jouvence has been a magical place for families and a romantic getaway for couples. Located on a 194-acre site on the shores of Lake Stukely in Mt-Orford National Park, this holiday retreat offers an all-inclusive formula, offering overnight stay, meals and access to outdoor activities. We rented the old chapel, with magnificent views of the lake (yes, I slept in an old chapel and I survived!).
Cantons de l’Est (Eastern Townships)
WHERE TO CHEERS
Domaine Pinnacle, Frelighsburg
Situated on a heritage property near the historic village of Frelishburg, the Domaine Pinnacle is a family-owned orchard and cidery. Located on the 45th parallel (same latitude as the world’s renowned wine-growing regions), the orchard benefits from a microclimate that is advantageous for apple production. Good summer conditions paired with intensely cold Quebec winters make the creation of this delicious ice cider.
In 2000, Domaine Pinnacle created its first ice cider, ranking the cidery amongst the finest producers, and winning dozens of gold medals at important international wine competitions. Here at the Domaine, you can taste the sensuous ice ciders products before you savor a refreshful walk through the 430-acre apple orchard.
Clos Saragnat, Frelighsburg
Certified organic, Clos Saragnat prioritize on an ecological balance. Their production is limited by the complexity and amount of work required for these crops. Their employees consist of the 2 owners, a helper, 3 horses, a few gooses, chickens, insects and most importantly, nature.
Christian Barthomeuf is the co-owner and creator of ice cider in 1989 and pillar of the Dunham viticulture in 1980. He also developed the first ice wine of Quebec in 1989 and the first straw wine in 2000. Him and his wife Louise will have a pleasure to walk you through their vineyard and orchard and share with you their amazing story, build on passion, dreams and ecological vision.
WHAT TO DO
Alpagas du Pinacle, Frelighsburg
After working 13 years in the pharmaceutical field, Marie-France discovered the alpaca. Seduced by the South American camelid, she decided to raise the animal, and use its wool to create magnificient winter accessories. Stop by Alpacas du Pinacle, admire and learn about these soft and beautiful creatures, and visit the boutique. Perhaps you’ll wear a tuque from Bianca’s wool.
WHERE TO STAY
Log cabin rental, Frelighsburg
Frelighsburg is a municipality located in an area historically considered to be part of the Eastern Townships in Quebec. Home to just over 1,000 inhabitants, it is recognized as one the ”The Most Beautiful Villages in Quebec”. Nestled in an apple-growing valley on the Pike River and at the foothills of the Mt Pinacle, the classic Loyalist settlement is home to many farmers and artists.
My mother and I rented a log wood chalet at the foothills of the Mt Pinacle. Surrounded by superb natural settings and submerged into the fall foliage, the chalet helped us to completely unwind while living the ultimate bucolic experience. No wifi, no service, just the company of a mother and a daughter, great books, a fireplace, and food and wine.
WHERE TO CHEERS
Chapelle St-Agnes, Sutton
Chapelle St-Agnes vineyard was established in 1997 by Henrietta Anthony, a Montreal antique dealer (although born in Czech Republic). It is located in the Sutton mountains of southern Quebec. Chapelle St-Agnes, named after a 13th century Bohemian saint, is a beautiful stone structure with a Romanesque style. It is home to many ecclesiastic artifacts that Mrs. Anthony collected over 45 years.
The vineyard is built on a steep hillside, protected by an impressive forest.
Largely cultivated by hand, the vines are planted close together in an Alsasian manner. No chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides or synthetic fungicides are used.
The vineyeard’s climate is cold enough to produce high quality ice wine every year, and its endoclimate extends the growing season, allowing the grapes the time they need to attain the proper level of maturity needed to create delicious dessert wines.
Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise, Dunham
The Domaine is the oldest still operational vineyard in the province. The first plantations was in early 1981 and the first bottles to sell, although illegally at this time, in 1983. The permits were issued in 1985 and 3 years later, Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise was earning the first medal granted to a Quebecois vineyard.
After the informative tasting of 11 whites, reds, ice wines and ice ciders, we took a walk in the garden hosting an impressive exhibition of sculptures from 80 different artists. The sun filtered through the fall foliage, leaving a perfect light on the carpet of colourful fallen leaves.
We sat on a picnic table and admired some 25,000 grapevines. The company was precious, the scenery was serene and the rosé was nice and fine.
WHAT TO DO
Velo-Montagne, Au Diable Vert, Sutton
Unfortunately the weather conditions were not in my favour the day I planned on going, but I decided to still mention it. Au Diable Vert offers access to many outdoor activities such as kayaking, SUP, and hiking trails. The most interesting one is their Velo Volant (flying bicycle). Unique in Canada, Velo Volant is an innovative and ecological activity, allowing you to meaning through the treetops on a suspended bicycle along a mountainside, and passing through ravines and waterfalls. This 1000m circuit is the highest of its kind, an experience that will surely take your breath away!
Restaurant Fourquet Fourchette, Chambly
I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, is when I travel to a new place and try their reknown local brew. Here in Chambly, it is a must to stop at one of the establishments and try a bottle of Unibroue, a brand that is rooted deep in Quebec culture. In a windy and cold late afternoon, my mom and I stopped at Fourquet Fourchette, a laid-back restaurant along the Richelieu river. As my mother tried the Ephemere Apple, and noted hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, I went ahead and tried the classic Blanche de Chambly, and tasted subtle spices, coriander and citrus. None of us are beer enthusiasts, however, we finished the last sip of our glasses.
WHERE TO STAY
Auberge Appalaches, Sutton
Rustic and country inn style, the Auberge Appalches is located right next to the Massif of Mt-Sutton. Here you can sleep and eat. My mother surprised me for a dinner and blues show, as part of the Sutton en Blues Festival.
A La Petite Scene B&B, St-Denis sur Richelieu
Located on the Chemin des Patriotes and on the shore of the Richelieu, A La Petite Scene is a cultural Bed and Breakfast and is also known as the small town concert hall. Hostess and owner, Manon, invites everyone to grab an instrument and sing along in the living area. Sometimes she hosts music bands, sometimes young filmmakers. She is very inspiring to converse with and will make sure you’ll have a memorable stay.
This is where our flavourful and colourful road adventure ends. It has been an amazing week driving through the autumn colours of the southern Québec countryside, tasting an astonishing variety of wines, discovering ice ciders and indulging in produits du terroir.
But most of all, thank you mom for being the greatest partner!