Quebec’s vineyards concentrate in the Eastern Townships, and among the wineries the most picturesque is Chapelle Sainte Agnes in the Sutton Mountains. The terraced vineyards surrounding the chapel and winery reminds visitors of steep German vineyards along the Mosel River.
The winery is the brainchild of Montreal antique dealer Henrietta Antony, who initiated the planting of vineyards I 1997 with the help of Christian Barthomeuf, a respected veteran of Quebec viticulture.
This most modern-equipped winery is compact and specializes in icewine, and vin de paille (straw wine) a French specialty requiring grapes to dry in a well ventilated room on straw mats until they resemble raisin. The wines derived from these grapes are delightful, sweet, never cloying and balanced.
The Chapelle Sainte Agnes winery is designed to take full advantage of gravity principles. The wine is never pumped from one cask or container to another, but flows from above to a lower level. The wines are only clarified, and never filtered for fear of removing subtle flavours in the process, and delightfully sweet never cloying.
The south exposed terraced vineyard on a 30-degree slope and two ponds create a warmer microclimate than the surrounding area.
Quebec vineyards endure severe winters, and winterkill is common if growers neglect protecting vines suitably.
The Chapelle Sainte Agnes management ensures that each vine is wrapped with specially designed cloth cover. The snow covers the vines, and in conjunction with the insulation, protects them fully.
Other growers in the area bury their vines for protection, but this practice stresses the plant and reduces its productive lifecycle.
The vineyard manager insists on low yields and green harvests. Low yields make vines strong prepare them for the cold winter Quebec is famous for, in addition to early ripening. High density planting also helps reduce yield per vine, which is crucial for the plant to successfully struggle against the elements.
The chapel was created in 1993 as a centrepiece of the vineyard and is decorated with European artefacts from viticulture regions.
The stained glass windows originate from a 17th century German church and solid oak cellar doors come from Louis IV era in France. Many other embellishments from Medieval Europe add an interesting aspect to a visit.
Visitors must make an appointment prior to arrival, pay $ 20.00 and may taste two wines only.
A recent tasting of Chapelle Sainte Agnes wines of the 2001 vintage was revealing.
The 2001 vintage Vidal icewine tasted of dry fruits, was sweet but not cloying and finished with a long and pleasant aftertaste.
The grapes of this extraordinary wine were harvested at 36 brix, which resulted in a smooth, well extracted, and deeply flavoured wine.
The grapes for the 2001 vintage Vin de paille were harvested late and dried to achieve a sweetness of 36 brix resulting in an appealing wine smelling of freshly dried apricots, peaches, and pears. In the mouth the wine tasted refined and elegant, with a fine acidity to support sweetness and balance this smooth and seamless nectar.
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