Domaine des Côtes d'Ardoise Vineyard in Dunham
Distance : 180 km (112mi.)
Autoroute 10 leads directly from Old Montréal to the Eastern Townships (Cantons-de-l’Est) over the Champlain Bridge. Known simply as the “Townships,” this area is less than one hour away from the Canada – US border. In fact, the area was pioneered by United Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, and their influence on architecture tells the tale. The Eastern Townships is the kind of place where you just pick a road and discover what’s over the next hill – and that could be a covered bridge over a lazy river, a twelve-sided barn or a vineyard.
A. Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge/Mystic - The half-French/half-English name of your first stop in the Eastern Townships is typical of an area where the two cultures have intertwined so intimately for centuries. Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge looks like an old New England town, with its plain Protestant church and large, wood-frame homes. Nearby Mystic, with its mysterious name, is home to the large, twelve-sided barn.
B. Bedford - In August, this pretty town hosts the oldest agricultural fair in Québec, with tractor pulls, a demolition derby, animal judging and rides. Walk the Meules Trail along the Rivière au Brochet and through the town, or cycle the Circuit du patrimoine bike path. Wine connoisseurs will find several vineyards within a 10-km radius, while antique-car fans will get revved up over the AutoFest.
C. Frelighsburg, a genuine Loyalist town settled in the late 1790s close to the US border, is part of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec association. You’ll find a well-preserved mill, the General Store, the Grammar School, churches and other historic structures. It also lies at the foot of Pinnacle Mountain, which has magnificent hiking trails – not to mention apple orchards. Come Labour Day weekend, the town celebrates with Festiv’Art.
The L’Orpailleur and Gagliano Vineyards, Dunham - L’Orpailleur is a 14-hectare vineyard in the heart of wine country that has developed several labels in addition to its flagship L’Orpailleur, which means “gold gatherer.” The vineyard has guided tours, a museum, walking trails, wine tastings, a picnic area and a gourmet restaurant with a terrace. The Gagliano family bought Le Vignoble Les Blancs Coteaux and successfully applied their Sicilian know-how to our cold climate. They produce wine with both French- and Italian-named labels. Also, they offer guided tours, wine tastings, a boutique and, throughout the summer, picnic baskets, sandwiches and a special barbecue on weekends.
l'Orpailleur Vineyard, photo credit Michel Julien
D. Dunham - All Wine Route roads lead to Dunham, the epicentre of viticulture in the Eastern Townships, with a dozen vineyards within a 12-km radius. Apples and blueberries are two other fruits that are grown and celebrated in the area, with cider houses and specialty products to enjoy. La Clé des champs de Dunham, held every June in the picturesque and historic town, is the first gourmet event of the season to pay tribute to the bounty from the land.
E. Lac-Brome/Knowlton - The municipality of Lac-Brome comprises all the towns situated on the shores of Brome Lake, such as beautiful, historic Knowlton, another one of the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec, famous for its antique shops and boutiques. For one day in July, you can take the Knowlton House and Garden Tour of five homes and gardens. You can also take in a play in English, visit a lavender farm or jump in Brome Lake at Douglass Beach for a swim.
Who hasn’t heard of Brome Lake Duck? Known all over the world, this is the very lake where the waterfowl are still raised the old-fashioned way. The Brome Lake Duck Boutique sells a complete line of fresh, re-cooked, ready-to-serve and frozen products such as confits, sausages, smoked duck magret, pâtés and of course whole duck. In September the Brome Lake Duck Festival offers gourmet tastings, cooking demonstrations and entertainment.
F. Bromont - Bromont is the Townships’ major recreational town, with the Ski Bromont water park, mountain bike trails, regular bike trails, several golf courses, and hiking trails in the nearby Parc national de la Yamaska. It’s also home to the Olympic Equestrian Park, which plays host to some high-ranking equestrian events, such as The International Bromont, the Bromont Horse Trials and others. There’s even a chocolate museum and, of course, the Bromont Chocolate Fest!
G. Granby – Granby may be famous for its first-rate zoo, but it’s also an interesting town with a lot going on. For starters, there’s the International Granby Song Festival, then there’s the International Antique Car Show, events in the “Mondial du vélo” bicycle race, the Trout Fishing Derby and the Couleurs Urbaines Painters’ Symposium. The last vineyard on the circuit is Vignoble Côte des limousins, which also sells fine cheeses and meats.