Entering the property through an arched trellis draped in vines, we headed through the leafy courtyard to the museum-cum-tasting-room, where I was greeted by Dave Tremblay, director of sales and marketing.
“You see these grapes,” said Tremblay, handling a fist-size cluster of white grapes as he walked me through fields interspersed with windmills to prevent cold air from settling over the fruit. “Try one.” I did. It was sweet and flavorful and juicy. “These will be ready to harvest next week.”
If Quebec’s vintners have enjoyed success it’s no thanks to the province’s rigid liquor board. In the early days, in the 1980s, said Tremblay, “You weren’t allowed to sell wine on site and you weren’t allowed to sell to restaurants.”
Still, Tremblay said, today they are more receptive to Quebec vintners.
“People are like wine,” he said, commenting on the slow but steady change of attitude. “The older we get, the less attractive we become, but the better we get with age.”
We felt hungry, so we headed to the postcard village of Frelighsburg, five miles north of the Vermont line. A walk in this town of 1,028 residents is like stepping through a door to the past. The old general store and grammar school still stand, repurposed as a bakery and an arts center respectively.
Like Dunham, this area is known for its epicurean dishes from the terroir. For a vegan like myself, duck confits, foie gras, and pâtés, however local, are out. So, at Aux Deux Clochers, which has a riverside patio, I had a veggie burger with fries.
Back in the car, we headed to Domaine du Ridge by way of a tunnel of trees along Ridge Road. From his vineyard, owner Denis Paradis can gaze upon Jay Peak, 30 miles away in Vermont, from his little slice of paradise in St. Armand.
A lawyer and politician, the affable Paradis initially planted 2,000 vines 15 years ago.
“I did it for fun, but my hobby became a passion,” he said from the sunbathed patio, as we looked out to the fields guarded by imaginatively-designed scarecrows.
The vineyard now yields 100,000 bottles a year, even producing champagne, or a rosé méthode champenoise, since “we’re not allowed to call it champagne,” Paradis said.
Twelve hundred bottles of Ridge’s annual yield are made by the ancestral foot-trampling method. He pointed to a large wooden tub on the grass. “But I only let the ladies do it,” he said. “And only with clean feet.”
Elizabeth Warkentin can be reached at email@example.com.