We usually drive through Vermont and cross the border via Interstate 89. It usually has less traffic (and the drive is more picturesque) than traveling on Interstate 87. Approximately 10 minutes after crossing the border into Canada, there are highway signs pointing toward “route des vins” (wine trail). I remembered this from our last visit to Montreal and knew we had to stop at a few Quebec wineries during our most recent trip to Canada.
When I started to research the Quebec wine trail, I noticed there is very little information written about the area. The most comprehensive resource I found was the official guide to the area: La Route des Vins. The website provides a very useful interactive map as well as a brief description and links to the wineries. Since I knew next to nothing about the area and its’ wineries, I researched those that were the closest to Dunham, Quebec. Dunham has a nice selection of wineries and is not a huge detour from our drive to Montreal.
The Quebec wine trail was a pleasant surprise. The countryside is charming with small towns and farms set amongst the vineyards. Also, we discovered that much like the New York Finger Lakes region, the wine tastings are inexpensive. The first winery we visited was Vignoble de l’Orpailleur. The website is in French. Using my high school French, I was able to figure out the tasting hours and see that there was an excellent selection of wine. For those without a French language background, the wine trail guide listed above has a great summary of the wines and visiting hours. The winery is one of the most established in the area. The grounds are attractive with a beautiful courtyard area and plenty of tables available to enjoy sipping on wine. The tasting room doubles as a museum of winemaking equipment. It was fun to walk around during the tasting to see the displayed items. During our visit we learned that due to the harsh climate, the grapes are hybrids developed to withstand the cold winters. Tom and I both enjoyed the white blend and I found the rose particularly delicious. The winery also produces red, sparkling, and ice wines. We felt that the white and rose especially shined.
The second winery we visited was Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise located a short one minute drive from l’Orpailleur. The website has an English version, so we had a little more information prior to arriving. The winery is the oldest operational winery in the region with vines up to 35 years old. Although many of the wines are produced from hybrid grapes, Cotes d’Ardoise produces the area’s only true Riesling. Tom and I, once again, were surprised by the taste and quality of the wines. The Riesling was particularly delicious. Normally, Tom doesn’t like Rieslings, but Cotes d’Ardoise’s Riesling is similar to a dry Riesling in that it is not sweet, it’s just delightfully complex and slightly spicy. The winery produces 12 wines ranging from a dry red to a sweet ice wine, including the region’s only rose ice wine. The grounds are striking with a gorgeous patio area and beautiful sculptures strategically situated throughout the property. It’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the scenery, and sip on delicious wine.
The diversion from our typical drive to Montreal through the Quebec wine trail is a wonderful example of taking time to enjoy not only the destination (Montreal) but also the journey. Just keep your eyes and ears open and we are sure you will stumble upon a great find. We had a fantastic visit to the Quebec wine trail and highly recommend a visit to the region!