For many Vermonters, the end of snow-covered roads means more trips northward to Montreal. Zipping up Route 133 to Autoroute 35 takes you past a swath of the eastern townships called the Brome Mississquoi region.
The area also has an Wine Route, located just north of the Vermont border.
Val Caudalies sits just a few miles south of Dunham, Quebec’s town center. The winery is ringed by beautiful ridge lines stretching from Mont Sutton to Jay Peak.
In the tasting room, Guillaume LeRoux, one of the vineyard’s three partners, pours samples of the winery’s products.
“At Val Caudalies Winery and Cider Estate we grow our own grapes and apples to make different wines and apple ciders," says LeRoux. "Mostly white wine, very refreshing and aromatic. And using our winter cold to make ice cider, sweet apple wine, late harvest wine. This is something that Quebec can make very well. So let’s taste."
As he pours a tasting glass of wine, LeRoux says, “First of all, the white wine. We grow about 20,000 vines, about 12 acres of vines, which doesn’t make us the biggest winery in the area, but there are smaller, too. So, everyone has his specialty and for us it is growing a variety called Vidal. So, it’s a French hybrid and very perfumey. This is what is great with the Vidal. You have a lot of expression. So very round and a little bitterness that recalls grapefruit at the end that gives a nice freshness to it. So, it’s a very easy and nice summer wine."
LeRoux places the next glass in front of his visitors. “This one here is a late harvest so we’ll pick the grapes at the beginning of December. Compared to the white wine that was picked mid-October. And here we’ll just press the grape below the freezing point. Very aromatic as well since the grapes are very ripened and will concentrate the sugar. So you’ll have a honey aromas. Very characteristic to the variety.
“We like to use apple. We’ll end the tasting with the apple ice cider. Just a drop. It’s very sweet. We will use mostly the Liberty apple that we’ll press frozen. And that will give a nice caramelized apple aroma.”
After tasting the wines at Val Caudalies, you are invited to hike through the beautiful rolling vineyards. This is just one of 21 wineries that are currently part of the Route.
Guylaine Boudain, the marketing advisor for the Brome-Mississiquoi Development Center, notes, “The wine route is marked with the blue signs placed along the route. It’s written Route des Vins, which is in French, with the big grapes in the middle. I would say it varies from three to 13 different kinds of wines that the winery produces. You’ll have the rose. You’ll have white or red wines. You’ll have sparkling, fortified, late harvest and more. We’re very proud that some wineries are very well known for their ice wine and have won many awards.
"It’s impossible to visit all 21 vineyards in a day or even a few," says Boudain. "We do suggest three vineyards in a day. You know, of course, because at each stop you’ll want to be tasting the vineyard’s creation, we strongly suggest that you think of having a designated driver. Definitely.”
The Quebec Wine Route is located between Provincial Route 133 and Lake Memphremagog.