Embracing Wine and Spontaneity in Quebec’s Eastern Townships
The Eastern Townships of Canada, also known as Quebec’s Wine Country, is one of the most beautiful, unique, and surprisingly underrated regions of North America. This group of about 90 towns is one of the largest wine producers in the Northeast, with an emphasis on the production of rosé and iced wine. Being a huge wino, I knew I had to go there. My boyfriend and I decided somewhat spontaneously to take off to Quebec for a few days, as his family is originally from there and we had a last minute opening in our schedules.
We would soon learn that sometimes not having an agenda actually leads to life-changing experiences.
Normally when I travel, I try to plan out as much as I can before I leave, as an unexpected lack of wifi, phones/computers randomly dying, and other factors outside of our control have taught me to always have a plan. Because this was so impromptu, I did not have time to plan our trip more than just booking a hostel, and we left for Canada feeling somewhat nervous. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we would soon learn that sometimes not having an agenda actually leads to life-changing experiences.
We set off each morning of our trip with no exact destination in mind except the thirst for adventure (and, of course, delicious wine). Our hostel had conveniently left free maps of the Route des Vins, which perfectly outlines the amazing local vineyards, what each offers/specializes in, and how to get to each one. With no other resources but this handy little map, we bounced from vineyard to vineyard with no problems. Most were along the same couple of roads, so by parking at one, we were able to access 4 or 5 more within about a quarter of a mile walk. We noticed many people biking to each vineyard, and wished we had rented bicycles instead of driving.
Embracing Wine and Spontaneity in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
One might think that after visiting 15 vineyards in two days that they would all start to blur together, but in reality each vineyard was so unique that it is impossible to forget their distinct personalities. Some were more active and lively, such as the Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise, which had an outdoor art walk that wound its way through thousands of rows of grape crops, while others were more relaxing and featured the best views in the region, such as the Domaine les Brome or the Clos Saragnat.
The main aspect that surprised me was that the majority of the vineyards offered much more than just award-winning wine. This area of Canada is also known for creating iced cider, which is essentially hard cider made from frozen apples (in other words, the most delicious thing you will ever taste). Having the opportunity to mix in such an unexpected delicacy was one of the best parts of the trip and made each wine tasting even more special.
With no other resources but this handy little map, we bounced from vineyard to vineyard with no problems.
Despite each vineyard’s unique flavor, they all had two things in common: they demonstrated how much people love sharing their stories, and how small the world really is. Every vineyard owner we spoke to lit up as soon as we asked about their history and what sparked their wine interest, and their passion was absolutely infectious.
Each one became even more alive when we mentioned that we were from Vermont, as they all knew vineyard owners from our area and a connection between us was instantly made. Despite all coming from very different walks of life and therefore possessing very diverse interests, we left each vineyard with a new sense of direction and even some new friends.
We spent each evening driving around the very quiet backroads near our hostel until we found the perfect hill to enjoy the sunset from, and the very smooth Ellie Goulding serenaded us as a thousand colors were painted across the sky. It felt inappropriate to end our days any other way than by purely being witness to all that our world has to offer.
Watching the way the sun dipped below the mountainous horizon and turned everything to shades of gold made me feel calmer and more humbled than I have ever felt. It brought more meaning to everything we had tasted and experienced that day, understanding the way the sun kisses the grapes and their earth goodnight at the end of each hard day’s work.
Watching the way the sun dipped below the mountainous horizon and turned everything to shades of gold made me feel calmer and more humbled than I have ever felt.
Traveling without an agenda allowed us to discover the true magic of the region. If we had booked an existing wine tour, we wouldn’t have stumbled upon the Domaine Pinnacle, whose vibrant owner patiently taught us several French words and gave us our first taste of iced cider. If we had perfectly mapped out each day, we wouldn’t have left time to stop at Vignoble Val Caudalies, whose shop manager pointed us in the direction of the most fabulous poutine I’ve ever had.
Giving up my painstakingly meticulous planning habits and becoming vulnerable to what the universe wanted to show me was difficult, but the reward was so worth it. To this day, I crave the warmth that my body and heart felt while we were there, and I refuse to travel any other way.