An autumn day is the perfect time to visit the Cantons- de-l’Est or Eastern Townships, in Quebec, Canada, just an hour and a few minutes from downtown Montreal, the country’s second largest city.
Villages and valleys mingle with rivers, lakes, and mountains. The year-round population was once predominantly English and is now mostly French. Conversations in shops are in both languages. Visitors and locals share a pace that allows time to linger over a coffee or a glass of wine, to appreciate the fresh air. Lakes turn every vista into a photo opportunity. Farmers’ markets and road side stands overflow with fresh produce, especially apples.
Benoit Hebert & Amelie Dube, Kava Tours
Another option for slowing down the pace
For our first time experiencing the Eastern Townships we joined eight others to travel the countryside in a minibus on a wine tour with Kava Tours. The short growing season of Canada’s northern climate means winemaking in Quebec is challenging. Vintners are constantly working to develop grapes that are appropriate to the unique weather and soil.
Veronique Hupin, Vignoble Les Pervenches
At Vignoble les Pervenches, out of a love for agriculture and working the land, Veronique Hupin and Michael Marier discarded city jobs to grow grapes.
White grapes are trellised for more sun exposure
Their certified organic and biodynamic grape clusters are large, the grapes plump and hardy.
Perfect on a hot, humid, autumn day
Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise riesling
Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise is the oldest operational vineyard in the province of Quebec.
More than grapes at Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise
A diversity of materials in the outdoor sculpture exhibition
After lunch of smoked meats and sips of riesling, we strolled among the sculptures of more than 80 artists. Classical music drifted along with us.
Acres and acres of apples
Crisp and sun-kissed
Cider has been produced in the Eastern Townships since the apple was introduced in the early 1600s.
Mother Nature working her magic
The use of frozen apples, products of Quebec’s cold winters, produces ice cider. The naturally concentrated sugars in the frozen apples results in a higher alcohol content than cider made traditionally.
Bottles of apple nectar
Sweet & salty accompaniments to fire cider
Union Libre Cidre & Vin is a leading producer of fire cider which is made by the fermentation of heat-concentrated apple must.
A farmhouse with a history
The farmhouse on the property at Domaine Pinnacle, built in 1859, overlooks the state of Vermont. Its proximity to the US border made it useful in the time of the Underground Railroad and later on during Prohibition.
We sampled a cider aperitif made with pure maple syrup
Domaine Pinnacle produces still cider, ice cider, sparkling cider, sparkling ice cider, and apple cream.
Sommelier Benoit LaJeunesse at Bistro West Brome
Benoit entertains us by opening a sparkling wine with a chef’s spoon
The bottle intact and ready to pour
Our day among the vines and apple trees ended at the Bistro West Brome. We wandered the chef’s garden, a postcard perfect scene of sunflowers and herbs, of tomatoes, leafy greens and ready-to-pick peppers and zucchini.
Chef Ugo Mariotti in the Bistro West Brome garden
When Chef Ugo Mariotti appeared in the garden with an oversized colander we tried to guess what creation he had planned for us.
Gaspacho du Jardin
The vegetables appeared at our table, transformed into table decorations and a chilled, uncooked vegetable soup.
Flowers and vegetables
Platters enhanced by the late afternoon sun
Nasturtiums garnished plates of antipasto. Garden vegetables. Fresh bread with homemade Portugese ham.
Duck is a popular entree in Quebec
White wine accompanied homemade gnocchi with duck leg and wild mushrooms that were picked just an hour before we sat at the table.
The sun set and candles came out as we continued our meal. Our day in the Eastern Townships was complete.
The Cooking Ladies were guests of Tourism Cantons-de-l’Est.