I don’t drink a lot of wine before noon, but duty called when I saw a sign for a vineyard near Labelle while pedaling south last week on the P’tit Train du Nord, Quebec’s most beautiful bike path.
The sign said Vignoble and I couldn’t ignore it. I have cycled past vineyards in the Niagara (too early in the morning to stop). And I have done a wine-tasting tour (also by bike) of vineyards in Ontario’s Prince Edward County. That was also before noon.
But this place, Vignoble Spirit Léonard, was well north of those areas. It is in the Upper Laurentians beyond Mont Tremblant – not an area known for its vineyards; mountains, forests, lakes, cottages and skiing, yes. But not for winemaking. And so I was intrigued.
As I pulled into the driveway to take a picture of the sign, a woman came walking toward me and motioned me to come into the yard.
She turned out to be Chantal Gaudreau and she showed me the vines covered in sheets of plastic to protect the plants from the overnight frost. There have been regular frost warnings in the past couple of weeks keeping her busy covering and uncovering the plants with the plastic.
Winemaking in this part of the world is a tough row to hoe.
Beside the vineyard of 6,200 vines is a greenhouse full of vegetables including cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, radishes and echalottes. Chantal and her partner Gilles Lecavalier have been growing vegetables for 15 years and began the vineyard six years ago.
They have nine varieties of grapes and five are producing well enough to allow them to make, bottle and sell the wine. They received a vendor’s permit in February.
In the tasting room Chantal opened four bottles and I tried a dry white table wine, a sweet white aperitif, a dry red and a sweet red aperitif. Just a thimble full of each.
My preference is for the dry wines.
The reputation of the vineyard, a very unique beacon in the region, is growing with people showing up almost daily for a tasting and more on the weekends.
The vegetables are sold at the farm which is well known in the area. It’s the kind of farm that you used to see in your childhood. It has a pony, a pot-bellied pig and hens and chickens pecking around in the yard.
In all, Chantal and Gilles have 149 acres with about a third under cultivation and the rest forested.
It’s not an easy life, but Chantal and Gilles are showing the kind of pluck and adventurous spirit that led to the settlement of the Laurentians more 100 years ago.
Good to Go:
Vignoble Spirit Léonard
592 Montée des Paysans