Yes, that’s correct! Quebec has a growing wine industry that many folks don’t know about, and indeed I was quite ignorant about. Maclean’s magazine happens to have just published a comprehensive guide to wines in Canada, and a featured piece covered many of the spots we would visit. I’ve included it here for reference. They claim 107 wineries in the province, and although we would see only a small portion of them over our extended weekend, I can say they all share a common theme – passion. To grow grapes, let alone vinifera varieties in a province as cold as Quebec takes a certain “je ne sais quoi”…possibly a touch of craziness, a lot of nerve, but definitely passion!
Tastecamp 2013 decided to descend on Montreal as a base for this years event. Tastecamp is an informal group of wine bloggers and writers who get together once each year in a different location to immerse themselves in the wine and food culture of that region. Started by Lenn Thompson (and Evan Dawson I think) of the New York Cork Report, Lenn relies on locals in each region to help organize the events. Remy Charest, David Santerre, and Julien Marchand took on the task of coordinating the three day event on our May long weekend. We had attended the Niagara version in 2011 and missed the Virginia version in 2012 so we were really happy we could join in the education again this year. My wife Debbie and I also had Debbie Trenholm of Savvy Company carpool with us for the weekend. It was going to be Debbie’s first Tastecamp and after she had heard me talk about it so much, she was intrigued to see just what a Tastecamp is like.
Day 1 was a pretty simple agenda (or so we thought). Get ourselves to Carone Vineyards northeast of Montreal by 11:30. Having picked up Debbie # 2 and hit the road before 8:30, we thought we were in great shape. And if it hadn’t been for that missed turn right before the Lafontaine tunnel, we likely would have been early. Finding ourselves almost in Saint-Hyacinthe, we suddenly realized that we were 20 mins early but in an area 40 minutes away from where we were supposed to be. Luckily we arrived within 15 minutes of the start of the event, and managed to avoid the lovely Sûreté Du Québec, unlike some of our friends from the US!
Carone Vineyards (Vignoble Carone)
Vignoble Carone, in Lanoraie, Quebec is located just on the outskirts of the small village, at the end of a side street. It seems an unlikely place to grow grapes, but this theme will repeat itself through the three days of touring Quebec. There is a micro-climate in this area that makes it more suitable for grape growing than the surrounding areas. But make no mistake, the winters are brutal here and even with burying the vines, an early spring frost such as hit Carone this year can have brutal consequences, as Anthony Carone explains that the recent frost to hit his vineyard has wiped out about 70% of his 2013 crop. Brutal indeed.
I’ve read several articles on winemaker Anthony Carone and while he’s been touted as everything from the devil to the saviour of Quebec’s wine industry, it is clear that he is a bundle of energy. He has set an extremely high benchmark in attempting to grow vinifera grapes in this region, but he believes that until the entire Quebec wine industry embraces this direction, the industry will stagnate. He then walks us through a tasting of his wines on offer.
2010 Rosso Classico: Anthony explains that this is his most-sold product and the mainstay of the restaurants he supplies. A delicate blend of Frontenac, Landot Noir, Landal Noir, Cabernet Severnyi, the nose is dark cherry, red cherry, spicy pepper, and a hint of spice. The palate shows a bit of astringency and the spices are enhanced – cinnamon and nutmeg. As I warm the sample I detect some light dried fruit notes as well. Would be a lovely wine to pair with Italian food. $18 taxes in.
2010 Venice Pinot Noir: At a much smaller production of 2500 bottles, this $36 Pinot is actually a blend. Anthony was not happy with the colour, and blended 15% Landot Noir to add some intensity. The nose is both delicate with light strawberry and raspberry notes, and masculine with cherry liquer and some American oak influence (75% American oak). Due to the season they had in 2010, they also had to chapitalize, but they mention they didn’t need to in 2012.
2011 Venice Cabernet: 90% Cabernet Severnyi and 10% Frontenac. I can’t quite figure this wine out. There’s raspberry liquer notes but my nose is having a hard time getting much past that other than a few oak-related notes. I’m sure hoping palate fatigue has not set in because I have a lot of tasting in front of me. The wine finishes round and a little sharp – would be lovely paired with the aged cheddar or parmigiano cheese.
2009 Double Barrel: This wine is literally aged in two different barrel types – the first 12 months in American oak, the next 5-6 months in French oak. A blend of 92 % Cabernet Severnyi, 8 % Sangiovese, the wine is another interesting contrast in flavours. There’s a lot of influence from the American oak, with vanilla, sweet spice, and smoke. The jammy fruit announces its presence clearly, yet on the palate the wine is fresh, juicy, and exhibits smooth, round tannins as you would expect from the French oak. $55
About this time, a representative from the local food coop joins him and explains that all the food products we will be tasting today are local, having been prepared from ingredients in this region. We are taken upstairs where several of the other producers in this same micro-climate region are offering their wines in a “grand tasting” format. The food is provided by the Conseil de développement bioalimentaire de Lanaudière, featuring all local Lanaudière products.
Vignoble Le Mernois
Vignoble aux Pieds des Noyers
Ferme Guy Rivest
Vignoble CARONE Wines
Les Ruchers du Troubadour
I taste some interesting wines as the lovely food samples are served including a sparkling mead from Les Ruchers du Troubadour, and a hybrid blend called Terratabac from Vignoble Le Mernois. On the way out we purchase a couple bottles of Classico from Carone. I can’t wait to try them with food!
LoftC Craft Beer Tasting
We wrap up early in an attempt to miss the traffic and get checked into our hotel and home-base for the weekend, Hotel Zero 1. The chic-style hotel offers basic amenities in a super-convenient location. On tap tonight is a craft beer tasting at 7pm, so we don’t have a lot of time to relax after checking in. Some of the gang find the 5th floor balcony with the gorgeous view of the city and manage to soak up a little sun before we walk over to the beer event. We’re told it includes dinner and craft beers from the following breweries:
À l’abri de la tempête, Ïles de la Madeleine.
Trou du Diable, Shawinigan
Le Castor, Rigaud
Le Naufrageur, Carleton
Dieu du Ciel, Montréal
Brasseurs sans gluten, Montréal
Brasseur de Montréal
We manage to taste just about all of the beers during the course of the evening. There was about 2 hours tasting before dinner started, and then as each course came out at regular intervals, we were offered one of the beers from each vendor paired with a course of delectable morsels. I have to say that in terms of gluten-free beer, the “Glutenberg” series of beer were indistinguishable from the other craft beers – amazing taste and body, and great for those who can’t or don’t want to have gluten in their diets! Next, the guys at Trou du Diable (from Shawinigan) are onto something. Almost every one of their beers left me wanting more…thankfully I live close to the border and a couple of great craft beer outlets where I can find these again. Medal for the brewery furthest from the event went to À l’abri de la tempête, Ïles de la Madeleine. Look them up on a map…yes – there’s a brewery there and they are making great beer. The friendly folks at Le Castor, in Rigaud make good enough beer and were super friendly to chat with – we’ll be taking a road trip there this summer. Le Naufrageur, Brasserie Dunham and Brasseur de Montréal rounded out the event and I was impressed by all the beers on offer. Unibroue and Dieu du Ciel didn’t have reps at the event so while the beers were poured by the LoftC staff, they weren’t able to add any details about what we were drinking. It’s great to see craft beer taking off across the continent like it is and I’m so glad we were able to sample these…there was lots of chatter that maybe we should add this to the Tastecamp events in the future (gets my vote!).