Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Friday, September 30, 2011

September 22nd Day Eight: Breakfast and Voyage Home

Breakfast With Sebastian
It was a sad departure from the place that I called "Home" for over seven days. Platter House would forever be in my memories as one of the nicest experiences in my travels for three reasons. The first was that I actually stayed in one place more than one night. It was such a relief to have a place that I was familiar with and not to have to pack and unpack my clothes on a constant basis. The second was that I could leave my work on a table and go back to it without having to organize my "desk" every day. Most of all, the third and most important was that I simply fell in love with the building, the area, the sea, the birds, the tranquility, the smell, the silence------everything that was the Platter House. My whole hearted recommendation to anyone who is going to PEI for a visit is to check out this place. You will never be sorry!!!!!
Roy and I left the house around 8 AM to meet Paul Knox just outside of Charlottetown. Paul was going to drive and we follow to a restaurant where we were to meet Sebastian Manago for a final breakfast. We arrived in plenty of time to take a few pictures including one of me talking to a seated statue of John A. MacDonald. Funny!!!!!
We met with Sebastian and discussed the trip. The trip was amazing and Prince Edward Island certainly is one of Canada's beauty spots. The great things we saw and did would forever be remembered by both Roy and me. Sadly we only got six hours of footage compared to the 14 hours in Austria and Quebec but the footage was good and usable. Sebastian Manago deserves a great deal of credit for helping us achieve this goal and I will forever be indebted to him and the Government of Prince Edward Island.
Shortly before 9:30 AM Tara Jackson met us and we drove to the airport. Saying good-bye is never a pleasant thing because one never knows if future meetings will happen but in this case I knew that I would be in contact with Tara, Paul, Jan and Sebastian as well as Ken, Julie, Lynn, John, Mike, Sterling, Perry, Lucas, Melvin and all the others I met and made such friendship with.
We departed for Toronto at 12 Noon on September 22nd and somehow I left Prince Edward Island not feeling that I was from "Away" but from "Here"!
End Of Day Eight and Tour

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September 21st Day Seven: Last Full Day In Prince Edward Island

Off To PE Distillery
It was early in the morning when PEI Tourism representative Paul Knox picked us up at the Platter House. Tara Jackson was tied up with some work and he replaced her. Enthusiastic and full of excellent suggestions, Paul seem to be a veritable "go-getter" with an seemingly endless set of ideas. We were off to Prince Edward Distillery in Hermanville, not very far from where we were staying.
Owner/Distiller Julie Shore had a disarming smile that wouldn't quit. She greeted us like long lost friends making it difficult not to feel that we knew each other for years. I'm sure the others felt the same way. Julie and her partner Arla (who was away at the time) came up from North Carolina and decided to found a distillery based on potatoes.
They soon were making Potato Vodka and came up with the idea of making a vodka from wild blueberries. The result was that in 2009 their Potato Vodka won the Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Blueberry Vodka won the Silver Medal at the United Kingdom International Spirits Challenge.
Julie gave us a tour which revealed a very complicated and impressive looking Column Still and then showed us the aging equipment and explained the process of making highly refined Vodka.
The tour ended with a small sampling of the product. I enjoyed meeting Julie and left feeling good that such people exist such as Ken Mill of Myriad View and Julie Shore of PE Distillery. Good stuff and both great products.
Prince Edward Island Railway
Construction of the Prince Edward Island Railway started in 1871, my guess as part of the plan for P.E.I.'s entrance into Confederation in 1873. On entry into Canada, the railway came under government control and later became part of the Canadian National Railway (CNR). The railway served many purposes and was continually upgraded. Cars, trucks and even airplanes eventually proved the demise of the railway which was "abandoned" in 1989 and dismantled in the early nineties. In 1994 the government purchased the existing land that was used for the railway, making recreational trails and paths along the former rail spots.
Elmira Railway Museum
In 1975 the Elmira Station/Railway Museum was opened. A number of stations in P.E.I. are being restored for posterity though many of the stations and rail way cars have been scrapped. Lynn Morrow, Manager of the Elmira Train Station Museum, mention that there were seven such restoration sites in the Province.
The original train station had five railway spurs, a coal shed, barn, bunkhouse and separate waiting rooms for men and women. Only the wooden station house with its telegraph and separate rooms had been restored.
The restoration had many attractions and artifacts dating back to "railway life' in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A model train ran around a model Prince Edward Island depicting the extent of the PEI Railway. A portion of the actual track was on display as were items such as telegraphs, clothing, utensils etc. People could sit on he platform and wait for a train that would never show up but they would get an idea of how it felt in those days and try to imagine what the railway meant as a form of transport before autos and planes took over. It was a slower time but not necessarily an inferior time.
Known as the "end of the line" Elmira's tracks have become another kind of track but now it's for recreation with some 23 kilometres of hiking, biking and sight seeing trails known as the Confederation Trail. The Elmira Station has become regarded as the gateway to this "Rails to Trails" system with a "Track's End Takeout" restaurant located next to the station present for those travelers needing sustenance after a hard afternoon of biking or hiking.
The station also has a gift shop and restroom facilities but note----be careful---I understand from very good sources that a "witch" has been spotted in that little room -----probably making sure that visitors do not have a "ghost" of a chance in forgetting their Elmira Train Station Museum experience. The train station will be holding it's 100th birthday in 2012. I wish it luck for the next 100 years. Thanks to Lynn Morrow for her great tour and information.
Tuna Capital Of The World
We made our way to the North Lake Harbour, which is known as the Tuna Capital of the World. North Lake is situated in a sheltered inlet in the Northeastern part of Prince Edward Island where tuna boats can seek refuge from the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There were no tuna coming in that day, though the boats were out---no one called in with a catch but this is where the tuna were brought and considering some could be over 1000 lbs in weight, it did not take much to come in with a catch. Tuna are caught with rod and reel and there are limitations to how many can be caught. Paul suggested that we go to lunch and then go back later.
Lunch at Sandstone
Paul took us to the Sandstone Restaurant situated overlooking the water of North Lake.
The restaurant was an amazingly nicely decorated and very clean. The food on other tables looked great. I ordered "Scallops on a Bun" along with a chowder while Roy ordered a "Lobster Sandwich". Paul ordered "Fish and Chips" but when the meal came out it was apparent that the fish being served was the size of one huge fish!!!! Paul could not finish it.
After lunch we contacted North Lake Harbour but no fish were coming in as yet so we decided to move on to the Eastpoint Lighthouse and the Pirate's Galley Cafe!
Eastpoint Lighthouse and Pirate's Galley Cafe
The area around Eastpoint is said to be very difficult to navigate with the "meeting of three tides" (being the Atlantic, Northumberland Strait and Gulf of St. Lawrence) and "three reefs" just off the point. In 1883, the lighthouse was actually moved to a location which was more appropriate after a British War Vessel ran aground following erroneous charts the year prior.
The lighthouse was constructed in 1867 and was 64 feet high (19.5 metres).
Next to the Eastpoint Lighthouse was the Pirate's Galley Cafe which was a restaurant with a twist.
Owned by Don Spear, this restaurant/cafe was famous not only for its food and delicious chowder but also for Don's recanting of old ghost stories. For example there is the tale of the burning ship.
The three masted ship is often seen off the coasts of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia usually in October in the Northumberland Strait. One account had it that one clear night a person was walking on the shore of Prince Edward Island's Northumberland Strait when he spotted a burning ship of which he could make out its three masts and outline. He watched it for twenty minutes and then it disappeared. On another occasion, some men tried to get to the ship but it vanished completely before they could get to it.
The restaurant's owner went on to tell of pirate history in the area and of how pirates used to wait for shipping to come around the point and then attack. He said that the likes of Blackbeard, Bluebeard and Captain Kidd were familiar with P.E.I.'s waters and some made their homes in the area.
Whether you believe in ghosts and ghost ships or not, these incidents did happen and while explainable in one way or another, they are intriguing.
Basin Head "Singing Sands" Beach and Fisheries Museum
The beach harbours some intriguing "exhibits" one of which was the "Singing Sands" which seem to produce a singing sound as one walked on it. The sound is not fully explainable but is said to be attributed to a reaction of the quartz sand on the feet and on the other sand much like the rim of a glass when rubbed with a wet finger. The Fisheries Museum focused on the fishing industry and its evolvement during the ages. It had exhibits and artifacts as well as video demonstrations concerning P.E.I.'s fishing lifeline.
With that, Paul Knox took us back home to the Platter House where we would spend one more night and then be off to Ontario.
We did have some surprise visits and both were welcome. Ken Mill popped in and while he could not imbibe as he was on duty (on call with the Coast Guard) he did have a coffee and a bite to eat with us. We also had a visit from Melvin Ford who was taking care of Platter House. Nice way to say good-bye.
End Of Day Seven

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 20th Day Six: More Winery Visits and Deep Sea Fishing

Lovely Morning
In Italy I would wake up and marvel at the view from the top of Castelrotto, a high hill overlooking the valleys that make up Valpolicella. I have stayed in lovely Umbria where mornings sounded with the enchanting calls of song birds and a view that would speed up any heart. I have seen the mountain hills of Portugal's Douro region and the splendor of Styria in Austria. Added to this list of hypnotic beauty was the mystical and peaceful view that I would wake up to at the Platter House in Souris. Prince Edward Island. Everyone on a trip takes something with them wherever they go. For me it was this memory of mornings----and evenings at Platter House.
Hemingway had his Loire Valley in France....... I had my Platter House. Energized after a few minutes of meditation overlooking the dock and the water, I went into the building and soon Roy and I were off to our first visit.
Percy Hill, Montegue
The name Montegue is derived from the Montegue River which, in turn inherited from George Brudenell (later Montegu after 1st Duke of Montegu). The area has a claim to fame for being the first to have both a Wendy's and Tim Horton's cohabit in the same location. Apparently, the executives of both enterprises met and immediately liked each other and the rest is history. Percy Hill is the name of a cottage that is rented out to various individuals for private use. It lies atop a gorgeous hill with a view that rivals many resorts. The 3000 square foot cottage came with all amenities such as closeness to recreational facilities, view, Internet, television, 1.5 baths, four bedrooms and much more. I was very impressed at the location and the building but that was not why I was up there for. I was up there to see a new little vineyard just planted this year.
To my astonishment, the vines looked over one year old already and in top notch health. The vineyard was one of hybrid varieties which would do very well with the southern slope and excellent spacing. Apparently, a retired person was coming in on a regular basis and keeping the vines spotless. In addition a five foot brick wall that stretched about sixty feet along the width of the vineyard acted as a barrier for winter months.
I had brought a Sauvignon Blanc vine with me just to try out. The vine from Ontario had a full root system and was planted right next to the wall which also served to collect heat and keep it during cool evenings. With the heavy snowfall that PEI winters get and with the warmer weather (though this year was abysmal) that the changing climate seems to be bringing, it may survive if given tender loving care.
BoldRossignol Vineyard
Soon we were off and away from Percy Hill and were off to Rossignol Vineyard in an area called Little Sands just South West of Murray River. The vineyard overlooks the Northumberland Strait and the combination of vineyard and water makes a great looking view. We met John Rossignol at the front of his building and he showed us his vineyards of Lucy Kuhlman, Marechal Foch, Seyval Blanc, Minnesota 78, Valient (which suffered a bit from salt spray and will be replaced) and Muscat grapes.
The wine boutique also served to show some excellent artwork as well as "knacks" that one could buy and take home. Sculptures out front depicted various forms of wine enjoyment and a Pagoda in the vineyard seemed a very relaxing place to "escape into one's own thoughts".
We tasted John's wines and found all his blends, varietals and fruit wines delicious.
As I looked upon what John had accomplished, I thought to myself that it must have been both courageous and very hard/risky to be first. There were those probably with too eager a finger to point and say "see we knew you couldn't do it" or the others would come after and say "we don't like your stuff---why bother!" John probably heard it all but kept on going. Congratulations to a true pioneer who had the guts and fortitude to move ahead and keeps on going. Nice job! Nice Winery! Great Guy!
Lunch At Brehault's
We dropped in at Brehault's Restaurant and ordered some bites to eat. Food was good and the coffee was great. We then went over to visit a Bed and Breakfast called My Father's House which I had included in my book "Rendezvous For Dinner" in 2006. Unfortunately, Joe its proprietor was not there and did not return while we were in Murray Harbour so I missed him. I did talk to his wife however and I relayed a message to him.
Newman Estate Winery
Michael Newman is only 30 years old but his vineyard and ten acre winery in Murray River was full of activity. Mike was busy working on his vineyard, bottling his blueberry wine, building his almost 3000 square foot home/boutique/winery and if that was not enough, making plans for future expansion. The man was on a mission and I was so surprised that he was not overwhelmed. His lovely girlfriend Christie along with Mike's twin brother, Rob, were there to lend a hand. Rob was invaluable to Mike in his work around the winery and Christie was excellent as a host.
On the ten acre plot which is reputed to have the warmest temps in PEI, he grows Marechal Foch, Lucy Kuhlman with plans for Vidal and Seyval Blanc. At the time of the visit he was bottling his blueberry wine. Each bottle was hand labeled and painted. The wine was not the cloying blueberry that many make but a medium dry, medium to full bodied wine reminiscent of Merlot with nice berry and chocolate. It was a good wine and with that experience I could hardly wait for a future tasting of his grape wines. His vines were healthy though needed to be tied and pruned somewhat but his strength is time itself and he is young with good friends to help.
The young man was full of dreams and positive energy and what is important, he was shopping for ideas and seriously listening. Older than his years dictated, he definitely was a man with a mission.
We tasted his wine with some hor d'oeuvres and it went well with cheese, oysters and other combinations. We were given a tour of his winery and though spartan, it was in excellent condition. My only observation is that Michael was doing so many things at one time that he may in fact at some point become overwhelmed. Somehow, I was also sure that he probably had the resources to handle it and handle it well. Job well done Michael!
With Newman Estate Winery ended our visit to the wineries for that day but we had something truly special coming up and that was a visit and tour with Tranquility Cove Adventures.
Tranquility Cove Adventures
The minute we drove into Tranquility Cove I knew that this was going to be fun when I met Perry Gotell who was the "skipper" of the tiny ship. His mate Lucas was a mighty sailing man and I liked him too. We all set sail on a deep sea fishing tour----a three hour tour! But here is where the comparison to Gilligan's Island ends. The going did not get rough and the tiny ship did not get lost. A fearless crew they were but we were never in need of help 'cause the water was as smooth as glass and the weather was just fine.
We went out about five miles or so although that was just a guess. I was allowed to take the boat controls and must admit, it was fun. The depth indicator to my right was telling me the depth of the water and a gauge on the same side indicated life such as schools of fish at various depths.
The boat had anything and everything to make us comfortable: food, fruit and soft drinks. On the way we made several stops at points of interest: One was to a Rock Crab trap. Another was to a Mussel sock where live mussels were suspended on mesh like sleeves called "Socks". These socks were anchored to the bottom and gave the mussels a place to grow. The mussels were removed by a brush and the sleeves were reused. We then went to a Lobster Trap but the surprise was on us since the lobsters had broken out of the cage which showed signs of deterioration. I couldn't help feel a bit happy for the lobsters since the alternative could have been a cooking pot and a quick change of colour to Red Lobster.
We kept on heading out past the outer point. The Skipper finally stopped the boat and gave us fishing rods. We were fishing for Makerel! Me, I never had the patience to fish and much of the time, when I did go, I would last maybe half an hour at best. Roy on the other hand loved the whole idea of fishing and took to this like a ----well-----fish does to water!! The first catch was made by Skipper, followed by Lucas and Roy. The pattern remained until I exchanged ends with the Skipper. I then started catching a few but not many. I gave in and called it a fishing day after about an hour or so. Roy on the other hand was the last one to put down the rod.
The funniest thing that happened was while we were fishing and the Skipper was catching some nice sized fish. Every so often a small one would come in and be thrown back by Lucas. The Skipper caught several small ones in a row and then on huge sucker of a fish. Lucas was talking to Roy as the big fish was caught by Skipper. Lucas proceeded to unhook the monster and without realzing what he was doing-----he threw the fish back in!!!! Skipper went into a frenzy and jokingly saying, "Hey boy, what the %#@$ are you doing. You want your pink slip do yah! This was all in fun but I am sure he did not and will not let Lucas forget this for a long time to come.
The trip was a great one and on our way back we roasted some Mackerel on the ship's barbecue which was attached on the side. The fish were great but it was then that I wished I had a bottle of good Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc or L'Acadie Blanc on hand!
Tranquility Cove Adventures had other packages such as "The Cork Adventure" where by landlubbers can see what the life of a Lobster Fisherman's helper (Cork) does from early morn' until about Noonish. "The Highliner Adventure" is similar to the Cork but it includes all you can eat lobster---------"Have ya' ever been to see Billy?"
"The Giant Bar Clam Dig Adventure" is for those who like to visit private deserted islands and swim/snorkel/hunt for clams which are collected and then steamed. Finally for those who love Eagles there is the "Bald Eagle Adventure" where sightings are guaranteed.
The way back was as much fun as going out but the thing I will remember the most is Roy's face as he caught those fish and the Skipper's face when Lucas threw the "Big One" back. As for the experience-----I actually steered the ship for a very long and enjoyable time!!!
By the time we said our good byes to Perry and Lucas, the gravol that I really did not need to take started to take effect (I took three) and shades of the "I Love Lucy" episode on the ferry, I was going down for the count fast. The night was not a long one and the bed was very, very welcoming.
End Of Day Six

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 19th Day Five: Poritz and Matos Winery Visits and Rocky Shore Pemium Seafood

Trip To Historic Clyde River: The Poritz Vineyards
Sydney Poritz was a likable fellow. When Tara, Roy and I drove into his home/vineyard we did not anticipate setting our feet on such hallowed and historical ground. The house he lived in went back some 200 years plus to 1810 and, until 1989 when Sidney purchased the house. Part of the original farm is still owned by the great granddaughter, Doreen Pound still lives with her spouse.
Such history! So much must have happened and so much experienced during those years.
Sydney lived in the house for twenty two years and then about four or five years ago decided to plant a vineyard.
His land sloped down towards the south onto the river and is planted with newer vines on the southern end and progressing to older vines as one moves back and towards the west of the house.
I mentioned that the whole setting reminded me of the Blomidon Winery in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley area. The only difference was that the land at Blomidon sloped into salt water where as the influence at the Poritz estate was fresh. The scene otherwise is much the same though the Blomidon vines were much more progressed and older.
The grape varieties raised were Marechal Foch, Marquette, Frontenac, L'Acadie Blanc and Joffre vines.
The one thing that amazed me was that this man was basically doing the work himself and this included his netting which is a tough job to begin with. For a young guy this would be a chore but this man Sydney Portitz was 73 years old. All I could say was God bless him. His enthusiasm, humility and genuineness was inspiring and refreshing to say the least.
Having finished with the Poritz Vineyards we went to visit a completely different winery that was taking significant risks and accepting new challenges.
Matos Winery
In 2007 Jamie and Heather Matos bought 50 acres of land in St. Catherine's (P.E.I.) to plant with vinfera vines bought from Burgundy France. Prior to that Jamie had run a 'Brew Your Own' business and did it well for 20 years. He decided to follow a dream and looked for places to plant a vineyard. He settled on Prince Edward Island and now has vinifera vines growing----some 16,000 of them. He says that his soil is loaded with the best nutrients and that he cares for the vines with TLC (Tender Loving Care) giving them what they need to survive. The Gamay, Chardonnay and Rose. Apart from the Chardonnay being a bit light, the wines were quite palatable. One suggestion I had was to allow the Chardonnay to gain some complexity and reduce acidity by leaving the wine on its lees for a period. Just a suggestion! I am sure that Jamie and Heather know what they want.
The equipment was first class and top of the line. His vines seemed healthy and he used some natural and artificial controls for weeds etc. Jamie stated he had no real insect problems.
Vinifera in Prince Edward Island seemed a risky proposition but I have been proved wrong before and will be very happy to learn that the Matos Winery has had a string of successful vintages. Only time, hard work and good weather will tell the story.
After the winery we headed up to Victoria By The Sea and to the Landmark Cafe. This place used to be a Grocery Store called Craig's Grocery but was turned into a restaurant. The atmosphere had a tinge of the middle-east with some ethnic dishes and music. I had a delicious soup and meat pie. Soon it was time to get on the road and go to the Rocky Shore Premium Seafood company which was also known as the Tong & Shuck.
Here Ted Boutiller showed us how to shuck oysters. i am afraid that I was not that good but Roy seemed a natural. Tara did well also. I sat in the corner waiting for my dunce cap but Erskine Lewis called us out to go on an oyster hunt. Actually, he took us to the oyster beds were and you could see them on the bottom when the boat we were in went over the beds.
They use a natural method of cultivation whereby dime size shells or "Seeds" are placed in the beds which have constant exposure to the tides which results in big, cup shaped shells. These shells remain on the bottom for about three to five years and then they are harvested. Because of the way they are naturally treated, such oysters can withstand being out of water for a period of up to three weeks. In fridges, they tend to hibernate. This means good quality for the consumer.
Collection from the boat was by rake like "Tongs" which look like two rakes facing each other. These tongs are light and open and close via hand/arm manipulation. They "grab" at the oyster bed entrapping groups of oysters from the bottom and are pulled up via the handle of the now closed tong. They are then released into a container and sorted. It was interesting to see that young oysters or seeds can attach themselves to anything that will support them such as mussel shells, rocks or even other oysters.
With oysters now picked, we headed back to land and back to the car. It certainly was interesting and fun. Most of all I enjoyed tasting the fresh oysters. We then drove back to our abode of the week and relaxed with our paperwork.

September 18th Day Four: A Delicious Appleicious And A Drive Up The North Cape!

Some Facts About Apples
I never knew that apples were not native to North America. In fact they are an import from the Middle East. The fruit has a history of some 5o0o years and was known in places such as Ancient Greece. Normans brought the apple with them to the British Isles. The French also were responsible for bringing the fruit to Canada in the 17th Century. The rest as they say is history.
Apples have been part of PEI's history for over 150 years. Presently there are seven apple orchards in PEI growing over 40 varieties of apples.
On To Appleicious
Our drive that morning was going to be a long one---about 2 to 3 hours and would take us from Souris on the East Coast of PEI to Arlington on the West Coast. Since our scheduled time was to be around 11:45 AM we needed to hustle and were off on the road by 8:30 AM. The drive was a lovely one and of course took us through Charlottetown. We also made our way through the City of Summerside, Wellington, Richmond and on to Arlington. Though never lost, we did have to stop and get directions to make sure we were on the correct route.
Appleicious is part of the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, a month long culinary celebration which highlighted authentic island tastes and traditions in various communities throughout PEI. The celebrations included guest chefs, culinary tastings and competitions, games, songs and other attractions for both young and old.
Appleicious was held at Arlington Apple Orchards owned by Barry and Carol Balsom. On the property are grown some 31 types of apples plus seven types of plums and four types of pears.
There was some 35 acres with fruit trees close to the protective waters of Malpeque Bay.
The land which covers over 70 Acres has been in family for over 200 years and had gone through various incarnations from wood servicing and ship building.
Fun activities range from full blown events such as Appleicious and The Annual Shriner's Scarecrow Festival to Hay Rides and Farm Days when people come to look around and have fun.
Such things as Scarecrow making contests, pie eating, balloon animal making, face painting and
just plain old sausage and food cooking/tasting takes place. A portion of every thing sold goes to
a charity.
Open every day of the week from September to October and with apples available at various markets in Miscouche (Monahan Street) and Charlottetown (Ellen's Creek Plaza) from August to December. patrons can enjoy their fresh apples on a constant basis.
Guest Celebrities
Guest Celebrities included Chef Lynne Crawford known for her hosting of "Pitchin' In & Restaurant Makeover"for Food Network Canada and "Iron Chef Competition", Chef Crawford is always her humorous and gracious self. She has attracted much attention for her new restaurant "Ruby Watchco" and is the only female to have been crowned with the "Executive Chef" position at the Four Seasons in New York City.
Chef Crawford was a dream of a person and exhibited her gracious manner and humour in an incident when I was interviewing local Durham personality (and Appleicious Moderator) Christian Pritchard.
Coming over to the interview area, she asked to "shoot" the scene. We obliged and Roy gave her some points about the workings of the camera----not that she didn't know! She "shot" us and then turned the camera onto herself. It was fun and of course she graciously spent time with locals who had their pictures take with her. We couldn't resist either!!!!!
Christian and I who have known each other for some time now did a great "serious" interview about what was happening. He flew down every week of the "Fall Favours" month long celebrations and moderated/introduced for such celebs as Chef Curtis Stone, Lynne Crawford, Corbin Thomaszeski, Mark Mckwan and Thomas Moore.
Lennie Gallant a native of Rustico PEI and well recognized as a great songwriter was also on hand with his band. Mr. Gallant had nine albums and many awards including JUNO and East Coast Music Award nominations to his credit. Well known internationally, he had a great welcome at the event.
Also at the event Roy and I heard an opening series of songs by song writer/singer Norman Bowser who was excellent in both word and music. We got his permission to record him on the series.
The event went very well with other interview such as: Chef Jeff McCourt and his assistant Carolyn who gave us a great "Pork Belly" hors oeuvres and caterers "Two Friends Catering" with their delicious mussels and apple pie. The event, cooking, food, entertainment and all that went with it was fun. The only drawback to the whole event was the sneaky and insidious mosquitoes that didn't even have the courtesy of letting you know that they were going to land on your head and bite until you had been bitten. I got a couple but some got away!!!
With the event under our belt we decided to leave and make our way down the North Cape Coastal Drive which offered a unique and picturesque scenery and secluded beaches.
We also took pictures such as the bridge from PEI to Nova Scotia, French Cemetery and various
other landmarks.
We got back to Souris and decided to do some scenic "takes" of the area. First we went to the lighthouse and did a segment on it including mentioning the trawler heading out to catch herring. The lighthouse, a tall (14.3 metres) tapered, red and white building constructed of wood was built in 1880 and preceded the incorporation of Souris (1910). The lighthouse has been the symbol of the area ever since. From its top lookout that people can climb, one could see the Cape Breton Highlands on a clear day.
With the segments done and the day wearing on, we went back to the Platter House and spent a delightful supper and relaxing evening preparing for the next day.
End Of Day Four

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 17, Day Three: Myriad View Artisan Distillery, Cheese Ladies Gouda Cheese, Blue Mussel Cafe, Lucy Maud Montgomery, New Glasgow Lobster

Platter House Morning
Mornings at Platter House Retreat are something that one either dreams about or sees in the movies. The morning was silent and still on the large deck that surrounded the house. A wisp of wind would brush against my face ever so gently as I looked out across the little bay that separated the house from Souris and the causeway.
A Great Blue Heron waded in the shallow water as it looked for small fish and other food while on the dock Cormorants landed and took off much like at a city airport. Two Sandpipers tagged along with each other as they searched for their share of the goods and on the red sand that lined separated the beach from the water two Ravens lurched their ugly heads looking for any scraps.
In the air gulls of all types glided as if in an air demonstration just for me. Mornings at Platter House-----just like the evenings----were something very special and I had to drag myself away from the view as Roy prepared breakfast.
Breakfast in my tummy and with Roy getting the car ready, I made my way down the stairs of the two story Platter House and got into the car. Our first destination: Myriad View Distillery.
Myriad View Artisan Distillery Inc.
Driving from Platter House in Souris to Myriad View took only about ten minutes. Ironically the distillery was very easy to miss---not because it was tiny or hidden but because it had an enchanting and lovely view as a rival. One could get overtaken by Myriad View----a seductive scene overlooking the seashore and all it offered that the other side where the distillery was located got missed.
We did not get caught up in all this drama however and spotted the vineyard stretching down to the road and drove up the long roadway to the distillery boutique.

Six foot four inch Ken Mill was a very friendly, gregarious fellow. His enthusiasm was infectious and his sincerity unquestionable. We met Ken outside his distillery and he quickly went into a how he got started.
It seems that islanders have made distilled products or "Moonshine" on Prince Edward Island throughout most of its history. Ken was encouraged by his peers to make it on a legal basis and he applied for his license. He ordered a copper still which was held up at customs in Halifax until he could prove he actually had a license. He stated that superstitions run high in P.E.I. concerning making your own "Shine" for a wedding in your family. The best way you can tell who makes the best"Shine" is to see who people go to to make their wedding spirits since they did not want to take a chance of making a bad batch and ruining the event. It seems that Ken certainly must have been asked quite a bit since his "stuff" is so smooth.
The term "Moonshine" refers to the smuggling of illegally made liquor under the cover of darkness or under the illumination of the moonlight, hence "Moonshine". This happened a great deal when Prohibition was the day. Ideas of Al Capone types doing this in the 1920's and '30's came to mind but that was quashed because apparently Prince Edward Island was under it until 1948----longer than any other province.
Ken gave us a tour of the building and explained the spirit making process. While it seemed very straightforward, I imagined that there was more skill and talent that went into the business or else everyone would be into it.
Ken makes several products for sale: Strait Gin---made with triple distilled grain Vodka and distilled a fourth time with carefully wrapped herbs. Strait Lightening----made with double distilled sugar cane and high quality molasses--the end product ended up with a 75 proof for purchase. Strait Rum------made from cane sugar and molasses, distilled and available in two strengths----40 percent or 100 proof (57.1%) . Strait Shine----made with an alcohol level of 50 percent.
The other life for Ken is that he is a part of the Coast Guard which protects Canada out at sea! He is part of that all important group of people who continually protect and often put their lives on the line to enforce the law and protect those in need. Ken was to become a good friend and Roy and I felt privileged to meet this gentleman.
Blue Mussel Cafe
Roy, Tara and I then went for lunch at the Blue Mussel Cafe in Cornwall. I enjoyed the Smoked Salmon on a Bagel with the Seafood Chowder while Roy had Steamed Mussels and Tara had the Chowder and Quiche. The food was good as was the service from a hostess by the name of Gail.
Our tummies settled and fed, we made our way to Jan Holmes Vineyard located in Kingston. Jan with her husband Allan had an exceptional cattle/beef /sheep business but she also wanted to try her hand at raising vines. With experience at Grand Pre Vineyard and a degree in Plant Sciences from Nova Scotia Agricultural University she planted and keeps up a small vineyard with hardy hybrid vines. Her first vintage was in late September of 2009 and though this year was a tough one weather wise her hopes are to make fine wine from such vines as L'Acadie Blanc in the future. Her vines looked healthy and I was sure that with further good weather, her vineyard will flourish. Strictly organic! I am sure with all the sheep and cattle fertilizer will not be a problem.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
After lunch we were off to Cavendish to the house where famed Anne Of Green Gables author, Lucy Maud Montgomery was raised after the death of her mother from Tuberculosis. She was born in nearby Clifton in 1874 but at the age of 21 months was given to her grandparents by her father who moved to Saskatchewan. She had a lonely childhood but endured to achieve a teaching certificate. She achieved further university training in Literature at Dalhousie in Halifax Nova Scotia.
She later moved to Ontario, settled in Uxbridge but did move to several other areas including the Halton Hills and Swansea (Toronto). Lucy Maud Montgomery died in Toronto in 1942 at the age of 67. Her body was buried in Cavendish Cemetery.
She published some 500 stories and 20 books and became famous the world over for the story of a orphan child who became a teacher and a writer.
We visited her Cavendish home and then went off to the cemetery to find Montgomery's grave.
Her burial plot was simple by design with a chain barrier keeping idle curiosity seekers away. Buried at the same plot was her husband. We did several photo and televised scenes for the series and then moved to other areas of the cemetery. Also buried at the cemetery were her mother and grandparents.
Anne Of Green Gables House
After the grave we spent time filming at the representative house and barn. The Green Gable House/Farm operated by Parks Canada was located in Cavendish. A great public attraction, this home is the one Anne was thinking of when she wrote the famous book. It actually belonged to her cousins, David and Margaret MacNeil but ironically, was not used for the feature movie because its popularity made it impossible to film there. Instead, two separately owned houses located in Southern Ontario sufficed----Ah! The wonder of television!!
Filming there was great fun and touring the site with Tara and Roy was a special event since the connecting of such a historic masterpiece of both a tourist and literary concern and the world of wine was the concept I had in mind when I started this Trek in 2006 when I visited Fess Parker (Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone star) at his winery and filmed "The New Wine Frontier" series.
Lobster A Go-Go!!!
We made our way to New Glasgow, a tiny village located in Queen's County amongst some picturesque scenery of hills and with the River Clyde in the background. Originally supposed to be a fundraiser back in 1958 with a building that was transported from another community, the fundraiser started to take off---first once per week in 1963 to seven days a week in 1970 to a huge following that has kept them busy enough to run it as a business rather than a fundraiser.
In 1980 the remaining four partners took over the business and in 2008 after much expansion and many pounds of lobster later, the business celebrated its 50th year in business.
Sterling MacRae was as nice a person as you would want to meet. It was obvious that he loved his work and still, at almost 80 years of age, enthusiasm for life and his business was infectious. Sterling took us for a grand tour of the establishment which was operated by people from the community as well as managed by family members. The one thing I noticed was that they all had smiles and working like a well oiled machine but in this case the machine knew that it liked its job.
The customers had smiles also but it was not work that they were smiling about but the great food. You name it, there was all you can eat (delicious) chowder, soup, desserts, drinks and of course there was the main course of either lobster, salmon, chicken, ham or scallops. Everything was being done to perfection and the home made rolls were a delicious meal in themselves.
It was great looking at the process that went into obtaining the products and following them through the cooking and finally serving. As I said, the customers really seemed to be enjoying it.
After dinner, we were entertained by a young man named Jonathan Horrocks, whose piano talent was beyond his years and it seemed that this person was destined to develop into a celebrity some day.
We also met the Mayor of Summerside, Basil Stewart, whose distinguished career would be legend in most communities. Summerside was a community a couple of hours away and his very attractive family seemed to be enjoying the evening. It was an honour to meet him and in general----- it was a great day!
Then it was time to go back to Platter House and prepare for the next day.
End of Day Three

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 16th Day Two: Travelling Through Charlottetown!!

Hurricane Alley
The night was peaceful but the wind she howled and the rain it fell in torrents! The day began cloudy and rainy as the Hurricane that was heading towards Newfoundland gave a swipe at the island. We were right on the shore so we felt more of the effects. Morning was peaceful enough and Roy and I prepared to meet Tara Jackson.
Charlottetown was a lovely little city with a plethora 0f unique and older buildings depicting the architecture of a gone by era. The city seemed a monument to the history of Prince Edward Island and Canada and it seemed very apropos that the Canadian story began here.
The Confederation Centre Of The Arts
Our first stop was at the Confederation Centre Of The Arts which was built in 1964. It of course was a tribute to the "Founding Fathers Of Confederation" but it also was a tribute to all that is cultural, intelligent and precious to Canadian ideals, social endeavours and the human saga!
The "Centre" was erected on the location where the old Charlottetown Market was and consisted of several lovely theatres, art gallery, Mavor's restaurant and a gift shop.
A superb courtyard, in the middle of the building housed a large Magnolia tree and two Hawthorne trees. Not far, near the gift shop stood a complete copy of the "Anne of Green Gables" house made entirely from sugar and donated by a fan club in Japan.
Art Gallery
The exhibits at this gallery were amazing and done in great themes. The one thing that really caught my interest was a huge painting done in three parts and exhibited midway to the second floor at the steps leading to the Art Gallery. The painting done by Native artist Jane Ash Poitras, is powerful, inspiring and emotional. It tells the story of Native People in Canada in art form.
Jane Ash Poitras was raised by an adoptive mother after her mother passed. She attended university obtaining a BSC degree and later obtained degrees in fine arts. A talented artist, she reconnected with her native culture and began painting symbolic art such as the one that I was looking at.
The piece that affected me so was or seemed to be a depiction of historic events combining both native and non native events and the effect that they had on both. To say that this magnificent piece was an important work to all Canadians is not doing it justice. It was and is a piece that the whole world and human society in general can learn from----very powerful and moving!
However, the Art Gallery at the Centre had more than native art. There were exhibits from famous Canadian Artists such as Robert Harris known best for his painting "Fathers of Confederation" but his other works such as "Local Heroes" and "The Studio Boy's Private View" have impact on a part of Canadiana gone by---but in many cases a part of human emotion and interaction that is common to all us now. Other art in this exhibit included self portaits by native and non native artists, art depicting community life in northern communities and photographs of such.
The above art was part of a thematic presentation called "Depictions" which looked at Canadian artwork from various artists linked in a common thread of the diversity yet commonality of all peoples within this great country. It showed that the representation of ideas of/about culture had many forms of expressions but always reflected towards one very human goal or attribute.
Throughout the Confederation Centre included many abstract items such as a question to "what is or what is not art?!" Example: A ceramic engine of a vehicle in an exhibition called "Rural Readymade". Could everyday objects have a place in the world of art? Could they be classed as artistic? My take on this was that art is in the eye of the beholder. I have seen many things that are of everyday use which I could call artistic. For me the arrangement of produce in a grocery store in many cases was a work of art. Could a comb, a pop bottle or similar piece be "art".
I can only draw your attention to the many museum pieces of everyday life exhibited world wide and their classification of "ancient art" to help answer the question.
Other interesting exhibits featured at the Centre Gallery were "Guestworks" by Aganetha Dyck and featured a live beehive and works of art featuring bees.
What did all this have to do with wine and what "Two In A Vineyard" was filming within PEI or anywhere for that matter. The expression of wine as art in both the abstract sense and the organoleptic sense has been part of reason for this series from day one. At the Confederation Centre Of The Arts relationships and themes have shown the importance of art as part of contemporary everyday life. Wine, with its far reaching effects on civilization from the agricultural aspects in the vineyard to the blending of grapes by the winemaker to the depiction of the wine in a bottle and finally to the enjoyment of wine by the uses has been and will always be a form of art. Thus the comparison and inclusion of all the above in the series.
The Confederation Centre For The Arts had more than just the Art Gallery. Theatre in the form of plays and education in acting, singing, dancing, sculpting is dedicated to the next generation through camps and school programs. There are performance areas in several theatres such as the Homburg Theatre, The Mack, Studio One and Two and the Aphitheatre with many theatrical and musical events.
After our visit to "Confederation Centre For The Arts" we went to the "Shellfish Festival" where famous chef Curtis Stone was giving a demonstration in cooking shellfish and shucking oysters. It was a fun time and one that was particularly enjoyed by the female sector of the audience both for the cooking and-----Curtis Stone. On hand to help out was Durham celebrity Christian Pritchard who is a chef in his own right and host of the popular Rogers television program "Daytime".
We then had lunch with Sebastian Manago and Jan Holmes of the Prince Edward Island Tourist
Board/Culinary Alliance at a restaurant called the "Gahan House" which was an 1880's home of John Gahan. We then visited "Province House" and took many pictures of the place where the "Fathers of Confederation" met in 1864 to hash out the Articles of Confederation. We saw the exact room and chairs that they used.
We also saw the area where the Legislative Assembly meet and where they sit. One interesting fact came out was that the ruling party was supposed to sit to the right of the speaker but in this case the ruling party traditionally sits to the left. Why? Because when they first met in 19th century, the stove was on the left hand side of the room and that is where heat was. Winner's prerogative eh!!???
By the time we finished our tour of "Province House" we were off back to Platterhouse and made ready for the next day to come.
End Of Day Two

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 15th Day One: Hello Prince Edward Island!

Leaving Pearson One More Time
It is no secret that I hate airports and being cooped up in a plane for any amount of time. Only a couple of weeks ago I had arrived from Quebec and now I was away with Roy on yet another adventure. This time it was to Prince Edward Island. Why PEI? Of course the show was called "Two In A Vineyard" so what does PEI have with wine or vine?
The fact is that grapes have been grown and wine has made in this area. However, as mentioned before, my concept of wine is more than the sum of wine's parts. Not a heck of a lot of wine has been made in PEI but if one takes a historical and geographical perspective, the fermenting of many products has been a part of the provinces history for many years and that fact includes wine in the mold.
Historical Perspective
Named after the Duke of Kent and Stratheam who was the father of Queen Victoria. PEI is the 104th largest island in the world. It is Canada's smallest province with a population of 143,000. The island consists of deposits first made by streams some 300 million years ago that deposited the silt, sand and gravel into the area. This was added to by glaciers in the Ice Age. When the glaciers disappeared the land rose to form the island.
The island usually had cold winters and moderate summers with lots of precipitation. Weather varied depending on the other weather patterns from other regions but was usually moderate.
The island was settled by Mi'Kmaq people and first "discovered" by Jacques Cartier.
The island was obtained by Britain from the French as part of the "Treaty of Paris" in 1763.
In 1798, the island's name received its name of Prince Edward Island(which was St. John's) to distinguish it from other places with the same name. In Mi'Kmaq the island is called "Abegweit" or "Epikwetk" meaning "land cradled in the waves."
The island is also known as the "Birthplace of Confederation" due to its hosting (1864) of the meeting that designed the "Articles of Confederation" and eventually led to the formation of Canada in 1867.
Arrival Charlottetown
The jet landed in Charlottetown airport around three thirty in the afternoon. Waiting for us was Tara Jackson. Soft spoken with smile that would charm the most grizzly of characters (moi) she introduced herself and went to get the car. The weather was warm----around 24 Centigrade and it was sunny-----a far cry from what we left in Ontario. However we were told that this wasn't typical weather for what was happening this summer in PEI. If fact, it was supposedly one of the coldest and wettest on record with average daily high temps barely making it into the upper teens.
By the time we left the airport grounds it was getting on to dinner time so we stopped off in Charlotteown to have a bite at a restaurant called "The Merchantman Pub" before we treked to our home for the next seven days----Platter House next to Souris Bay. We chose a great little restaurant in the downtown and then proceeded to our Platterhouse destination.
One Super Place To Shack Up!
We arrived at the Platter House located in Souris Bay. The South East part of Prince Edward Island is certainly full of lovely homes all stately in manner. Not far from the house is a magnificent Light House that is still functioning. The Platter House itself was huge! Five Bedrooms, a huge living area, an even larger dining area complete with a board table and chairs, many closets and laundry room, five bathrooms and a monstrous eat in kitchen-------just for the two of us!!! The house also had a wrap around balcony and was on a lovely red beach that faced Souris. I looked outside and the fog was rolling in----could this be a sign of things to come??
I sat out on the balcony and looked around me. Nature was everywhere. The clouds reddened by the setting Sun seemed to hang as if suspended and timeless. The reddened blue sky "back grounded" the feeling of quiet solice as sea birds: Gulls, cornets and ducks flew silently and effortless in the air---landing and taking off at will. One lone Heron hunted in the shore below me.
The Sun itself transformed Souris with all its buildings into a glowing Mediterranean port---aglow in the luminous light surrounding it. Shortly after the image was slowly replaced by the cool blue of a darkening sky and then---darkness.
Then it was Souris' turn to light up the shoreline with diamonds of light sparkling. The sky had its own sparklers shining down and decorating the night sky and the Light House spoke its warning to any on-coming ship. I lit up a cigarette as I do from time to time when I ponder the day and the events. A fog was rolling in from outside of the bay area. Could this be a sign of things to come??

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 9th Day Ten: In The Laurentians----Last Working Day In Quebec!

The Beginning Of The Last Day!
I woke up early---too early but knew that this was the last day. Pierre who had stayed over was going with us but not staying over as he was to meet some other journalists later that evening. Pierre was the king of guy that you immediately developed a nice rapport with. He was humourous, flexible and organized. Pierre was also very sensitive to the needs of a film crew. He really appeared to be enjoying his work with us and of course we loved having him around.
We were soon off to our first visit of the day which was an interview and tour with Jean Pierre Belisle
Vignoble la Roche des Brises
We drove to the above winery and were met by Mr. Jean Pierre Belisle. He introduced himself and when I asked him of his occupation he retorted "Wait and try to guess! I will tell you later! But first, I will ask you what you think I am!"
That is how the relationship between JP as he asked me to call him and me started. I knew immediately that JP was no man's fool and his calm appearance hid a strong aggressiveness that was both competitive and yet methodically intelligent.
The man took us to his vineyards where he had been experimenting with a computerized weather/seasonal warning system which home base was in Austria. This system warns of temperature fluctuations and potential harms allowing vineyards to begin preparing for such things as frost. With wires 30. 60 and 90 centimetres above and below ground, temperatures can be closely monitored thus giving data to the main computer in Austria. Compared to the wind turbines that circulate the air above the vineyards, the twenty five thousand dollars for installation the wine turbines are far more expensive. There was only one occasion to use the computer so far but it worked and worked well.
JP took us and showed us his remarkable vineyards in top shape and full to the brim with clusters of grapes. "Look at these grapes!" he said with a passion that was infectious, "They prove that I am on the right track. Why spend a fortune when one only needs to use this technology!" I could not disagree. Results show! We then went to his wine boutique and tasting area to sample his wines. We started with his whites.
Fourigole: Made from Giesenheim 318 grapes nice apple and citrus with a refreshing acidity. Winner Gold "Coupe Des Nations".
Maribriand: Made from Marechal Foch and Lucy Kulhman. Nice red with strawberry/field berries. Integrated with nice acidity. Long finish. Gold medal winner.
Ste-Croix: Made from 100% Ste-Croix grapes. Toasted oak and cherry flavours with smoke and pepper spice. Gold cup winner.
Rosee du Matin: Made with Marechal Foch and Ste-Croix. Strawberry/Raspberry flavours with a touch of sweetness.
Derniere Danse: Made with Geisenheim 318 fortified with alcohol. A nice aperitif with appricot and peach flavours with secondary apple and pear. Gold Medal Winner.
Ete Indien: Made with Marechal Foch and Lucy Kulhman. A port style wine that is fortified with alcohol nutty and full of ripe dark and red fruit. Figs and chocolate. Gold Medal Winner.
Vignole Vents d'Ange
We went to visit our last winery called Vents d'Ange and owned by Andre Lauzon. Andre is an innovator as are many of the Quebec wineries. He believes in natural only and does organic farming. He also uses grapes not normally used in wine making such as the table grapes Montreal Blues.
In some of his wines he uses a blend of 70% Montreal Blues and 30% St. Croix. In another he makes a Rose of 100% Montreal Blues and yet in another he uses virtual unknowns Kay Gray and Prairie Star in a 50% blend. Yet in others he uses the 100% Kay Gray---such as in his Ice wine.
Andre had a long discussion with me over good coffee and explained that his passion is from the heart as compared to his pocket book. I wish him well.
A Meeting Of The Bees At Intermiel
Pierre Bessette took us to a Mead Winery in an impromptu venture. What resulted was an amazing experience with me interviewing a fully clothed Bee Keeper while I was still in short sleeves and light clothing. The company makes honey wine and even has a distillery to make liqueur type honey products. The result is a luscious drink that comes in a variety of taste levels.
The company also produces Royal Jelly, bees wax, Apiflore, natural honey and honey products.
The owners Christian, Eleonore and Viviane Macle are a family operation.
Look them up and if you have a chance---go there.
Adieu Quebec
With this ended our visit to Quebec. The next day we would be heading to the airport and fly from Pierre Elliott Trudeau to Toronto Pearson. I would certainly suggest that you visit and try a first hand visit to the wineries in these great wine regions. Some use grape varieties not known or should I say not used in Ontario or some other areas but a good wine is a good wine. In addition, the people, the scenery the diversity, the cuisine, the encounters, the fun and the relaxation as well as the history, the geography, the science and the culture all are part of one great province. Quebec.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 8th Day Nine: Off To The Laurentians!!!!!!

Good-bye Eastern Townships and Auberge & Spa!
Breakfast was good and as usual the staff quite helpful. We befriended Kim Whittier who always had great suggestions and in addition was very attractive---intelligent, charming and good looking----some guy is very lucky!!! This made our stay much more pleasant but it made it also very difficult to say good-bye!
The two and a half hour drive to the Laurentians took us through Montreal and then north. We did not have a problem getting there but one thing----our GPS drove us crazy! "Turn right in 800 Metres!" the female voice would say! "Turn Right!" It would come on again. "Turn Left, then right and then left! Turn now!!!" It usually was accurate but being told what to do by a machine on a continual basis did have its drawbacks.
We arrived at our first destination Aux Cassis D'Argenteuil early and were met by Paul Hebert. Paul was a very nice person who had great pride in his establishment. In 1995 he purchased 32 acres and planted it with various forms of grain on a rotating basis to give the land back some nutrients. His first planting of Black Currants took place in 2002 with disease resistant plants.
Black Currants
Black Currants are a very hardy type of plant indigenous to the the Northern Hemisphere. They have a great many health aspects such as having a very high vitamin C content plus many Omega 3 fatty acids. Their anti-oxidant level is also quite high. Being hardy, they grow quite well in the cold climate of Quebec.
We were invited in to taste some of the products and what we tasted was quite good. His first product was called "Ruby". The sweet wine was quite tasty and an excellent accompaniment to things such as pate, cheeses and foie gras. I was also under the feeling that it would go well with fruit such as figs etc. The "Rastel"reminded me of Port in a distant way and it should since it, like Port was a fortified wine where alcohol is added to stop fermentation. Again it was a nice wine with aged cheeses and chocolate. Again sweet fruit also was on the menu. "Creme de Cassis" was excellent also and a match for such things as ice cream, cake, waffles etc. It could also be matched with fruit and other drinks.
Other products such as Jelly, Chocolates and Gift Baskets.
At that time our guide and tourist representative, Pierre Bessette came to meet us. Looking very athletic the good looking fellow was charming and I knew that we would get along well during our stay. After our visit to the winery we went to town and ate lunch at a Thai Restaurant.
Then it was off to Vignoble Des Negondos where we met with Carol Desrochers, a very attractive winemaker/owner who although shy in appearing in front of the camera, did a great job talking about her wines. She did the interview in French and was articulate that it was no problem of understanding what she was talking about.
The winery was started in 1993 with her partner Mario Plante. The vineyard had about 10,000 vines in gravelly limestone rock soil. The winery was certified organic and produced a group of eight wines. Wines are made from Seyval Blanc, Chambaudiere, Cayuga, Geisenheim, Vidal, St. Croix, Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Marquette, Baco Noir, Dechaunac and a unique grape called Kay Gray which was developed by a grape breeder called Elmer Swenson in the 1980's. The plant is female and requires a pollen source. It is exceptionally hardy.
The wines from dry white to dry red were all superb but our favourites where The Rosois a rose wine that would go especially well with appetizers, salmon, cold cuts and pork loin, the Suroit which would go very well with red meat, spicy Italian and cheese and the the Chesnaie which I would like to try with game, duck and/or lamb. For a dessert the port type wine called Nirvana would go great with dark chocolate, figs or soft cheese such as Brie.
We interviewed Mario Plante who came in during the discussion and then we were on our way. Great people all round.
Pierre suggested that we try a garden exhibit called Angelica where Lucilia Albernaz met us for a tour. This non profit venture was the initiative of a group of 16 professionals who purchases 94 acres which blended a group of theme gardens: One was something that reminded me of an English Country Garden reminiscent of a walk in the country. This led into a Fairy Garden which allowed one to dream and go back to his/her childhood with ideas of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell----at least that was what I thought of. The Pavilion Observation deck was a rest place where one could listen to the music and/or sounds of children piped in or just look out on the garden items themselves. The Discovery Garden was full of shapes and other art.
Soon we were in the Bird Garden which had numerous birds attracted by the many berries planted especially to attract them. Another one was similar to some of the formal gardens seen in Versailles or Austria with the shaped bushes and lovely plants. The Grass and Rose Gardens followed and were pretty well self explanatory with their various varieties of superb items.
My favourite was the Zen Garden complete with waterfalls, ponds and statues of Buddha which served to recharge one's energy after a hard day at work. The final item on the tour was another English Garden dedicated to the young adults from Mirabel in 2009.
Other activities were the availability of flowers to be cut and taken home as well as Children's Garden, a new berry picking area, wedding planning and execution, corporate parties and much more.
While this place was not on our itinerary, it is a place that should be visited if you are in the area. Look them up at .
Gite La Capucine
This was our last hotel and place of rest until we were due to leave for Toronto. It was a Bed and Breakfast operated by Julie and Acide in an English style manor house at a little town called St-Placide. The place was clean and well decorated in period (19th Century) work and had spacious rooms with very comfortable beds. The reputation of the food is what brought the folks from all over to stay. Julie is a chef that worked with some of the best chefs in the area and her meals are to absolutely die for without question. You must make reservations for dinner but it would be more than worth it----take my personal guarantee.
We were in for a very interesting stay. Our hosts were the greatest.
End of Day Nine

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 7th, Day Eight---Last Day In The Eastern Townships----And A Full One!!!!

Off To Sutton, Quebec!
We had a great breakfast at the Auberge & Spa West Brome, there is one thing I truly enjoyed about this place and that is the genuine & friendly manner of the staff from the desk clerk right to the chef/cook. Most of the places that we stayed at were exceptionally fine but the Auberge seemed to go beyond just being professional and pleasant. They were disarmingly charming and so very helpful in all that they did and what we required.
Le Rumeur Affamee
Kelly and Wayne Shanahan met us at the door of their gourmet store which was located in a former general store which itself was part of a historical building. They handled a wide range of products including 150 types of cheese---over half (including some from Abbaye de St. Benoit). In addition they served a variety of tempting bread (not that my stout belly needed it!) and special maple pie baked on site. In the summer they also served a famous Bilbouquet ice cream.
Kelly seemed to be a friendly but no nonsense individual who managed the store. Wayne seemed lay back but under that friendly exterior was the businessman who spearheaded Boston Pizza's successful venture in Quebec. He did what others failed to do by knowing his potential customers. Such things as his increasing the amount of wine labels from a mere 8 to 25 indicated that he was in sync with the traditional needs of his clientele. He furthered this by making sure that cheeses were incorporated into the menu. His success as Executive Vice President of Marketing for Boston Pizza was understanding his clientele. This obviously followed him to his present ownership of Le Rumeur Affamee with his wife, Kelly. Together they made a greater whole.
Roy filmed Kelly making cookies and I spoke to Wayne somewhat in awe of his accomplishments and that resonant voice of his. It was great meeting them but we soon had to be off to our next meeting.
Domaine de Bresse
Not far from Sutton on top of Draper Hill sits Domaine de Bresse. This winery and beef farm was not on our list to visit and indeed we basically just went and took a quick look see since we were under a time constraint but enough people mentioned them that they were worth inclusion in this blog. However, an informal visit is better than none. The place looks great and very well kept. To the best of my understanding, they have approximately 15,000 vines planted with St. Croix red hybrids and Vandal-Cliche white. Their cattle are totally naturally kept and meet the highest government standards of keeping.
The domaine has just made it to inclusion on the vine route of the area and now has rooms available for persons to stay. It seems like a great place to stay and my thanks to Kim at the Auberge & Spa and Kelly at the Le Rumeur Affamee for suggesting it.
Chapelle Ste-Agnes
Driving down the winding road to Chapelle Ste-Agnes, I did not suspect that I was going to come upon one of the most scenic as well as most interesting sites that I have ever seen. Picture this,
A small chapel designed in traditional field stone construction sitting amidst the splendour of the Green Mountains of Appalachia. From the Chapel, one can view high rolling hills full of trees that carpet them as far as the eye can see and then some more.
"Over there are the Green Mountains of Vermont!" said owner John Anthony as we looked above the eighteen or so terraces one atop of the other----each supported by stone walls and harbouring lovely vines. The almost three dimensional effect of us looking down at the terraces was only eclipsed by the three dimensional effect of us looking up from below. At the bottom of the terraced slopes were two ponds which had an effect on the temperature as did the stone walls which heated up during the day and released the heat at night. All this created a micro climate that extended the season enough for vines to ripen and develop the sugar they need.
It came to no surprise to me to learn that Christian Barthomeuf was involved initially with the vineyard's creation as the whole structure of the vineyard has his mark. The fact that no synthetic materials or artificial fertilizers and a totally organic method was used certainly was Christian Barthomeuf. It is no surprise to me that the sweet wines and ice wines made here are so very very good. The wines had been entered in many world wide highly reputed contests and came out on top.
The vines are cared for in a very special manner. Each vine is carefully pruned in a vertical manner and insulated once the harvest is done. Again there is the Barthomeuf approach.
One thing however, while there is certainly a touch of Christian B. in the vines and wines, the building is all Henrietta Anthony a former antique dealer who had the chapel built in 1993.
The Romanesque structure was built to last. Many antiques were used in its construction such as the Louis Fourteenth Doors main doors, 17th century stained glass windows. paving stones from Quebec City's founding in the 17th century.
Within the Chapel were antique religious artifacts from various countries in Europe. The cellars of Chapelle Ste-Agnes descended some twenty feet where the temperature and humidity was a constant. The cellar--though constructed in modern times---had an air of medieval times around it. It was multifaceted with different levels and tasting rooms as well as a press room gallery where the photographic history of the cellar project was kept.
I was so amazed at the whole "picture" that I forgot that there was wine to taste. One could get lost in semantics.
We tasted some very luscious wines that were prize winners in international competition. These wines made from Riesling, Geisenheim, Vidal and Gewurztraminer are some of the best sweet wines that I ever tasted. These wines were award winners in competitions such as the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) winning Silver and Bronze as well as Decanter World Wine Competition winning Bronze.
In addition they offer a wide range of other products such as gift sets, glasses, icewine chocolates, coaster as well gift certificates.
Time went by so fast at this location that we did not notice that we were over one hour late.
Cafes de Village
The cafes de village is a select group of cafes that offer local coffees, seasonal and local products and a relaxing charm. This is what is offered but if there ever was a stressful period in our whole trip, it was this one AND it was my fault!!!!
Here is what happened. After we left the Gourmet Shop in Sutton, I noticed a Cafe next door. It was a Cafe de Village. The street was rue Principale. I made an assumption (you know what "assume" means----something as ass of u and me!!!) that that was the place to go. I wondered why we had to go all the way back to Sutton. Did I check the itinerary---of course not!!!
Thinking that the cafe in Sutton was the actual place we had to be in, we drove back and looked for number 16 because the cafe I went to was 14. We drove up and down. Up and down the street to no avail until I decided to look at the itinerary which gave the real name and town.
Right street name and similar cafe de village but----no cigar. Our cafe was on the other side at a town called Frelighsburg.
We got to Les Sucreries de l'erable for lunch but neither the assistant nor the owner (who was not there). We had a delicious lunch and pie and then we were on our way. Considering that we did not spend much time at the cafe, we were now on time for our next visit.
Domaine Pinnacle
We arrived at Domaine Pinnacle about a half hour to forty five minutes late but it could have been worse. I apologized and after I ate a bit of crow, I met with Charles Crawford who owns it with his wife, Susan.
Charles had a vast amount of food in the form of cheeses, nuts, fruit and bread ready for our tasting. He also had a large amount of wine. We stepped to the bar for a food matching tasting. We tasted his Ice Cider which was made from a blend of different apples and made with no additions. I preferred it with goat or blue cheese. We moved on to his Sparkling Ice Cider which was he world's first sparkling ice cider. It struck me as a fine dessert wine or with figs etc.
The Signature Reserve Special Ice Cider, which had a warm caramel flavour as well as that of a baked apple went very well with a nutty fruit cake that was over one year old. The Reserve 1859 Domaine Pinnacle was a blend of ice cider and apple brandy. It also was excellent with pecan pie or fruit or nut cake dessert. The two following Maple products were also great. The Coureur des Bois Maple Cream. To make it Maple Syrup, fresh cream and grain alcohol/rum are used. The Coureur des Bois Maple Cider, also had a following and the wine came out with great integrity. It could accompany nuts. various cheeses and other sweet deserts. These are truly great dessert and aperitif wines and as a testament to how great they were thought to be, when I told my mentor and good friend---travel, food and wine writer Alex Eberspaecher about my Quebec adventures, the one winery in the Eastern Townships he asked about was----Domaine Pinnacle!
Charles also told us a bit of history behind the house next to the winery. It was built in 1859 and it was used in those days to keep an eye on Vermont and as time went on it was used to keep an eye on smugglers. The house has been kept in good shape.
One of the last things that Roy and I did was to take some closeup shots of the house.
Clos Saragnat
Christian Barthomeuf was mentioned previously as one who makes great wine and cider. He used to work totally organic and did not skimp on the organic utensils. When he bought the land which is on the southern edge of Mouth Pinnacle in the Appalachian Mountains and about one mile from the Vermont border. He and his partner Louise purchased the land that had lay fallow for some years----which was okay with him since he wanted the land in in its natural state so as to employ his own organic/bio dynamic techniques. Christian was well known to the area as a great winemaker. He started the first vineyard at Cote d'Ardoise in the early '80's and created the first ice cider. We have already mentioned his work at Chapelle Ste-Agnes. Barthomeuf was also once employed by Domaine Pinnacle. Christian is highly thought of in the community and seeing what he did and how he did it, I could understand. In order to be successful his way, one must be committed to a great deal of hard work.
Christian does not do anything half way. He uses his horses to spread their manure in the fields as well as in tilling the soil as in times of old. He insulates his vines in the winter and depends on nature to take care of his vines in the summer. I recall that he mentioned at least a dozen birds that he calls his helpers. They eat the insects that hurt his vines.
Christian's wines reflect this and we tasted some of his icewines which were quite special. He considers Clos Saragnat as a research facility for his vines and fruit based products. He hopes that he can leave his mark on Quebec wine making. I think that has already done that and more.
This visit marked an end to a very, very long day. On getting back to the Auberge, we were too tired to eat at the restaurant (although true to form in being considerate, the restaurant called to see if we were coming.) so we opted on purchasing some bread and cold cuts at the grocery store and had it later with some wine. I think it was a bottle of "Cep d'Argent'!
Then---it was bed and an early rise the next day.
End Of Day Eight!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 6th, Day Seven: Eastern Townships One More Time

One Great Scenic Spot!
The Eastern Townships of Quebec have already been described as reminiscent of Austria's southern province, Styria. The lovely green mountains and many lakes enable one's spirit to roam at will through the space of fresh air and imagination. That's what I felt looking out at the top of the high mountain hills. The night before I watched the retreating Sun fall behind the mountain's huge bulk. Now the Sun was shining on top of the mountain----its rays reflecting the multi-faceted colours of the huge fold.
Vinoble de La Bauge
We were on our way to Vinoble de La Bauge located in Brigham and not far from the Appalachian Mountains. Here time seem ed to stand still and visions of Ichabod Crane came to mind however it also occurred to me that I soon would be standing on the same spot that was occupied by the Champlain Sea and before that another ocean millions of years ago. "Stand Still" alright. Change is the only unchangeable truth.
The name La Bauge is taken from the original concept of what the winery was to be----a place where wild boars lived or their lair. Initially the winery was going to be a supplier of boar meat to the local people of Brigham and area. In 1987 grapes were planted. The vineyards and a growing menagerie of animals including the original Swedish boars was inherited by the son of Alcide and Ghislaine Naud, Simon, continued in their path. When we visited the winery Simon took us out to the vineyards which now had over 26,000 vines planted. The menagerie of exotic animals had also grown from just boar and cattle to include: Yak, Obelix,Llamas, Emus, Deer, Mountain Goats and Jamaican Goats, exotic cattle etc. He had also introduced experimental vines and made some very special wines. They take agro-tourism to a new level offering guests a chance to experience Nature by visiting these exhibit animals while enjoying a chance to experience the art of viticulture and winemaking.
Wines range from dry whites made from Seyval Blanc and dry reds made with blends of Chancellor, St. Croix, Sabrevois and Frontenac to sweet and semi sweet wines made from both single and blended wines. The fortified wines are also very excellent.
Vignoble Les Pervenches
We left La Bauge in Brigham and drove over to Les Pervenches in Farnham. This was a unique place in that many of its vines were of vinifera stock. Chardonnay and Zweigelt as well as French Hybrids: Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch and Frontenac.
The vineyard is not huge but it is certified organic and bio dynamic. The owners, Veronique Hubin and Mark Marler purchased the property and business in 2000 though the property has been in production since 1991.
When we arrived, the netting was just being placed over the Zweigelt Vines to protect them from birds. Veronique and Mark met us and discussed their philosophy of wine in Quebec. They dismiss the idea that grapes of a vinifera calibre cannot grow in this region primarily because they know that good grapes require work and sacrifice as well as the fact that many areas in the Eastern Townships have micro climates that are conducive to the growth of good grapes. They believe that they have it at Pervenches.
Mark took us in to taste some of his wines and I must admit, his Chardonnay was magnificent and his red wine was not far behind. Mark and Veronique did not propound theories or talk a great deal but they just let their wines do the taking for them. The place may not be big but man this is a case where big things come in small packages.
Vignoble del'Orpailleur was our next stop and if Pervenches was small, then l'Orpailleur was gigantic in comparison, This vineyard is one of the oldest in the Eastern Townships and Quebec. The name means gold referring to the prospecting for gold in the many rivers in the Eastern Towns. Dunham. where the winery is located. is a gorgeous area and was known as the centre of wine in Quebec.
We were shown around the large complex which had now over 100,000 vines planted consisting of Seyval Blanc, Seyval Noir, Vidal, De Chaunac, Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Geisenheim and New York Muscat.
The winery is a cornucopia of activities that range from the excellent restaurant and decor to the vast tasting boutique. guided tours, special catering events and the Economuseum which houses written, photographic and physical exhibits depicting the wine trade, wine making and the historical aspect of wine and l'Orpailleur. The name itself reflects a piece of history as it was a name given to the first wine from the first harvest in 1985 by Gilles Vigneault. The name means "Gold Gatherer"!
L'Orpailleur was one of the first wineries established in the first township (1845) of Lower Canada. Dunham became closely entwined with wine---being the first to have large vineyards growing in it and the first to win international awards. It is by far the largest winery.
The founders of the winery established ways of "hilling up" areas around the vines thus protecting them from the ravages of winter. They borrowed this technique from vintners in Northern Europe and the then Soviet Union. To many in Canada the method became known as the "Quebec Method" and has been used in new areas such as Ocala Winery in Port Perry and more recently in the region of Prince Edward County of Ontario. Other areas in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are familiar with this method which has inspired many to proceed with wine making in areas that would otherwise not be productive.
They have a lot to thank the founders of L'Orpailleur who had the conviction and intestinal fortitude to move ahead when others probably told them to stop.
The rest is of course history and l'Orpailleur is still going strong with its various wines ranging from dry white Seyval Blanc to a delicious Rose to an excellent dry Red blend. The other success story is of course Icewine which l'Orpailleur produces from Vidal grapes. It is a challenge being first! The challenge comes from the major risks taken both financially and physically as well as the challenge to maintain success once established with the inevitable competition from late comers. L'Orpailleur it seemed to us had not only met the challenge but seemed quite able to move forward in the future. After a delicious lunch served in the restaurant we moved on to the next winery.
Vignoble Domaine Cotes d'Ardoise
The oldest winery in Quebec is Vignoble Domaine Cotes d'Ardoise founded in 1980 with the first plantings in 1981 with Marechal Foch, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Noir. Further plantings followed with Chardonnay, Gamay, and more Pinot Noir. The winery was a trail blazer since when it was established there were no rules or regulations to cover the growing, marketing and selling of wine products in Quebec so technically it was illegal. However, common sense prevailed and at a meeting in 1984 a group of government officials showed great surprise at the quality of wine being made. The first licence was issued in 1985 and the first medals awarded to it in 1987.
Today the winery has some 30,000 vines planted on roughly 8 Hectares of land. It produces wines from Gamay Noir, Riesling, Foch de Chaunac, Chelois, Lucy Kullman, Seyval Blanc and Noir, Vidal and Aurore.
The wine products cover a range from Dry white and red to sweet dessert and Sacramental wine made by a Portuguese method of adding alcohol to the grape juice. An icewine is produced as well as a rose icewine made from blending the wines of red and white icewine.
The winery is reputed to have the oldest vines in Quebec with an age of 33 years.
We were taken on a tour of the facilities by Linda Barabe the Boutique Manager. Here we saw marvellous sculptures from various artists as well as amazing photographs. The art was displayed throughout a self guided tour path and was for sale---some of the objects costing in the thousands of dollars. Vignoble Domaine Cotes d'Ardoise is still trail blazing its path.
With that tour, Roy and I headed for Auberge & Spa West Brome. The hotel was welcome to us as it had spacious rooms, a fine balcony and superb accommodations.
We had a delicious steak dinner courtesy of the hotel and Quebec Tourism.
End of Day Seven