The Cider Route / La Route du Cidre

Some of the apply delights available for tasting at Michel Jodoin. Photo: David Musgrave

Some of the apply delights available for tasting at Michel Jodoin. Photo: David Musgrave

On my first visit to Canada in 2003, I went to Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake wine region, and tasted ice wine for the first time. Appropriately, I sipped while looking across the snow-covered vineyard at Inniskillin, a pioneer of this style of dessert wine that involves harvesting grapes frozen on the vine.

When I moved to Montreal, I discovered that Québec has its own take on this Canadian innovation. While there aren’t many grapes here, there are a lot of apples, so about 20 years ago someone invented ice cider. Like ice wine, it’s a viscous, sweet and delicious dessert wine.

I’ve enjoyed many a glass of ice cider over the past few years, as well as the quality sparkling cider that’s made in these parts, but only recently did I make my way to some of the cideries that produce it. Turns out there’s an official Cider Route in the Montéréregie region, which is directly across from the island of Montreal. Finding myself in pleasant countryside, tasting good cider at the source, less than an hour’s drive from downtown, was a very pleasant surprise! Continue reading

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Quebec’s sweet temptations / Tentations sucrées du Québec

Fried taters, cheese curds and gravy - what's not to like? Poutine and Quebec craft beer at La Banquise.

Fried taters, cheese curds and gravy – what’s not to like? Poutine and Quebec craft beer at La Banquise.

We’re between seasons here so for a change I’ve nothing to say about the weather (or, more specifically, the remarkable pleasures it brings, from blazing autumn colours to ice hotels). Indeed, as the last snow melts and spring’s first shoots and buds appear, Quebec would be a dull, grey place if it wasn’t the ‘sugar season’. At this time of year, in the province that produces most of the world’s maple syrup, maple sap is harvested, transformed into everything from maple butter to maple tea, and inspires Quebeckers to stuff themselves lumberjack-style at les cabanes à sucre, or sugar shacks.

As I grabbed the huge jug of maple syrup, and poured it over the endless feast at a cabane à sucre not far from Montreal last weekend, I marvelled anew at the abundance of this divine syrup here. Elsewhere in the world, it’s expensive; the worst thing about that is not the absence of bottomless jugs of the stuff, but the abomination that is ‘maple-flavoured syrup’. It got me thinking about other tasty treats on Quebec’s table, some of which were unknown pleasures a year ago …

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