We are nearing the end of our journey to Québec City. It has been an exciting adventure, and the longest time we’ve ever been away from home. We are both fortunate to have jobs that allow us to check into work remotely, and that Colette, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel travels so well!
One of our primary goals in taking this extended trip, a variation from the standard American two-week vacation, was to immerse ourselves in a different culture and, as best we can, “live like a local.” While 30 days clearly isn’t sufficient time to fully integrate, particularly when one does not speak the local language with anything remotely approaching fluency, we do feel that we settled in nicely and got to see the goings on beyond the typical tourist. We quickly found a local, independent café, and within a few days the barista had memorized my wife’s order. There are few things that make one feel more like a local than having a barista or bartender recognize you when you walk in, and immediately start making your drink for you.
Past vacations for us have typically encompassed only one weekend in a locale, so we were only able to experience the events of that Saturday and Sunday. By living here a full month, we had the pleasure of watching weekends come and go, and the variety of activities with them. One weekend, a BBQ Fest popped up literally across the street from our condo. Another weekend, we encountered an outdoor circus a few blocks away, and we enjoyed watching as children learned how to walk a tightrope or swing from a trapeze. We were here to help the province of Québec celebrate her 408th birthday one weekend, and then participate in the 149th Canadian national Independence Day the following weekend. We got to see all the sights, museums, and attractions we had planned, without rushing or concern for the weather. If it was raining on a day we planned an outing, we just changed our plans. Québec is a great walking city. Everything we wanted to see was within 3 miles or so, albeit much of it uphill! The upside (pun intended) is that the walk home was mostly downhill!
Of course, there’s wine! Small but emerging, the Québec region is producing some interesting, high quality wines. Relying mostly on hybrids and clones, local winemakers are making tasty table wines; both reds and whites. Fruit forward but not jammy, these wines are structured and balanced. They tend to finish with an earthy, musky, funky essence, which I suspect is terroir-driven. Native grapes have been described as “foxy” tasting, and I think that may be similar to the funkiness I find on the finish. Those who like a hearty, earthy Pinot Noir will really enjoy these wines. I strongly encourage anyone who is interested, to seek out Québécois wines and give them a try! If your local shop can’t procure them (most Québec wines are consumed locally), you’ll just have to make the trip to this enchanting province!
A discussion Québécois wine isn’t complete without mentioning their wheelhouse wine product. The Ice Wines and Late Harvest wines are spectacular! These are the wines that put this region on the wine map, and we enjoyed them a lot. Both Ice Wines and Late Harvest wines are very, very sweet. They are enjoyable as after-dinner quaffs, and a little goes a long way! Fortunately, many of these are widely available in the U.S.
As I mentioned in Québec City, Week 1, other than at restaurants or bars, most wine (and all liquor) must be purchased through the government owned and operated SAQ (Société des alcools du Québec) stores. I got to be something of a regular here, too. Store sizes vary, but in the larger stores, selection of European and Southern Hemisphere wines is pretty impressive. I was a little disappointed in the representation of wines from the U.S., but then, I can get those at home. The prices of the U.S. wines were surprising, too; some nearly double what I pay in the states. However, European and Southern Hemisphere wine prices are quite attractive! During our time here, in addition to the Canadian wines, we’ve enjoyed wines from France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Argentina, and Chile. Only a couple of the wines I bought here are available at my home Total Wine & More or BevMo stores, so we’ve definitely made the most of our travels! I’ve included reviews in each of my weekly posts. Here’s what we enjoyed during Week 4:
Pfaffenheim Alsace Cuvée Bacchus Gewurztraminer 2013
I’m no Gewürztraminer expert, (my reference is Fetzer) but I one is the best I’ve had.
Soft, golden straw in the glass. Aromas of apricot and honeysuckle. On the palate, honeysuckle, elderberry, and floral dominate. The acidity is soft and the mouthfeel, oh so smooth. The apricot is there, just below the surface, with gooseberry and pear. More sweet than spicy. The finish is medium long, with just a bit of classic spice, and that soft, smooth honey. Yum.
4.5 stars (92-94 points)
SAQ Store, $19.95 CAD (approx. $15.25 USD)
Vicente Gandia Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo Utiel-Requena 2012
Rich, dark, Ruby color in the glass. On the nose, an explosion of ripe cherries and spice! This continues on the palate, along with some raspberry and cedar. Tannins are a little edgy at first, but soften with exposure to air. Acidity is balanced, creating a wine that pairs with food, but is also pleasant to drink on its own. On the lingering finish the cherry continues with hints of black pepper and oak.
4.0 stars (88-91 points)
SAQ Store, $12.95 CAD (approx. $9.90 USD)
Fleur de Sauvignon Bordeaux 2014
Gold color in the glass. Aromas of apricot and white peach, some pineapple, with a hint of herbs. On the tongue there are flavors of apricot, peach, pineapple, and honeysuckle, as well as fresh-cut hay, and a little green bell pepper. Very dry with minimal sweetness, but bright acidity. The finish is brief, with some tropical fruit and herbal notes.
3.0 stars (82-84 points)
SAQ Store, $14.90 CAD (approx. $11.39 USD)
Carone “Venice” Cabernet Severnyi Reserve 2012
My favorite of all the Québec wines I tried! A Cabernet Sauvignon clone, originally bred to withstand the harsh Russian winter, it does well here as well. According to the sales rep at the Farmer’s Market, this is the only 100% Cabernet produced in Québec.
Deep purple color in the glass. Classic Cabernet aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, and oak. Medium to full bodied with smooth tannins with balanced acidity. It’s lighter than traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, but still has all the flavor and structure. The lingering finish is enticing with dark berry, vanilla, and oak. This wine pairs well with steak, or any other rich, juicy meat.
4.5 stars ( 92-94 points)
Marché du Vieux-Port Farmer’s Market, $28.00 CAD, (approx. $21.62 USD)
Frescobaldi Pater Sangiovese 2014
Bright ruby color in the glass. Aromas of fresh raspberries and cherries. On the palate, those flavors mingle with blackberry, plum, soft oak, and spice. Tannins are soft and smooth, and balanced with fresh acidity. A solid offering from a reliable producer, this paired very well with Farmer’s Market fresh basil pasta and marinara sauce.
4.0 stars (88-91 points)
SAQ Store, $15.95 CAD, (approx. $12.31 USD)
Graffigna Elevation Reserve Red Blend 2012
A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tannat, and Bonarda. Deep, brooding purple color. Aromas of dark berry and smoke. Flavors of blackberry, black cherry, raspberry, blueberry, and oak. Firm, chewy tannins with lively acidity. A perfect pairing for grilled flank steak. Long, smoky finish with lingering dark berry.
4.0 Stars (88-91 points)
Auberge Louis-Hebert, $8.50 CAD per glass (approx. $6.59 USD)
Caliterra Reserva Carmenérè – Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Deep purple color. Initial aromas of blackberry, bramble, and baking spice. Flavors of blackberry, cassis, cherry, and oak. Sharp tannins, with medium acidity and medium body. The finish is black fruit and black pepper, with some vanilla. The wine has good flavor and structure, but needs a little more time to allow the tannins to soften.
3.5 stars (85-87 points)
SAQ Store, $12.95 CAD, approx. $10.07 USD
As we wrap up our trip, we are off to Montreal for a few days. Then it’s back home to reality once again. Thanks for following along!