Tasting Quebec's Cider
If you are in Montreal for more than 2 days then I highly suggest that you get into your car and hit the Montérégie’s cider route. Located at only 30 minutes away from the busy metropolis, the region feels like a rural retreat full of gourmet stops and cideries. There are other well-known cideries scattered through the province but we will be focusing on the ones near Montreal.
Through this article, I will talk a little about Quebec's cider, why ice cider is a must-try after what, we will go through the route of some of the best ciders in the region. Spoiler alert, we do some foodie stops along the way.
The sad, sad story of the Quebec's cider
When French settlers came to the Americas, they brought with them apples and they planted the first orchard back in the 1600's. With the orchard, came, of course, the culture of drinking cider as the drink surely became a success. However, in the 1920's when the SAQ (Quebec's government monopoly on the alcohol) was created, they had forgotten to add cider on the list of legal alcohol and just like that, all cider production in the province became illegal. It wasn't until the 1970's that cider became legal again. During these dark years, the cider production was still made but was bootlegged for the most part. As if the story wasn't sad enough, when cider became legal again, the demand was very high and the producers started to produce enormous quantities of cider without being careful of the quality. As the really bad quality of cider flooded the market, people stopped consuming ciders because of the horrible taste. Therefore, people stopped drinking cider, yet again. Luckily, since the 2000's, cider production burnish its lawful place between awarded alcohols. Since then, Quebec cider is becoming more and more trendy and a drink of preference to many.
What is Ice Cider and why is a must-try?
Just like Ice Wine, Ice Cider is a Quebecois speciality and we thank this deliciousness to the horrible Quebec winters. Ice Cider is a “reserved appellation” which means that is a product that can only be found in Québec. Ice Cider is extremely sweet and it is mostly drunk with desserts. Think about it like the Porto of the ciders, a little sticky but paired well with appetizers, cheese or dark chocolate. The sweet taste comes from the dehydration of the apple with the cold making the fruit very concentrated in sugar as it naturally parts from the water.
The making of the ice cider has been romanticized over and over as producers explain that they let the fruit to freeze on the tree and then pick it. However, this method, called Cryoextraction, is not optimal and very time-consuming. Nowadays, most of the producers use the Cryoconcentration method. This second method harvests the apple on the regular cider, around September and October but are pressed during the winter which makes the same process. This is an extremely quick explanation, if you ever have a chance to visit the region, the cideries will explain to you the process in a more detailed way ;)
The scenic route takes you to the agricultural lands filled with corn, strawberries, apples and pumpkins. All the cideries have paid tastings that are around 4 and 5 dollars for 3-5 of their products. Through our journey we learnt that you can choose any variety of apples to do the cider, contrary to wine.
Pss: Don't forget your reusable water bottle, you will thank me later ;)
Start your day at the Denis Charbonneau orchard and have brunch. Trust me, with all the tasting you will do, you would be glad that you had a hearty meal! The orchard is very popular almost all year round as they are also a Cabane a Sucre (the cabane a sucre a quintessential Quebec tradition, learn more about it here). The orchard has a restaurant which specializes in Breton crepes. I ordered the sausage and apple one with maple syrup and it was delicious! Pair your crepe with a nice dry cider. You can also ask for a tasting so you can try most of their products. I personally enjoyed the sparkling cider, which is just sweet enough.
Our second stop was at Coteau Rougemont. This cider house is also a winery so you will be able to taste both of their product variety. The magnificent hillside estate gives beautiful views of the vineyards as well as the apple and pear trees. Due to the geographical location, they can enjoy a microclimate that gives additional exposure to the sun, which gives the ideal conditions for growing their vines and trees. This is one of the few wineries in the province that have successfully grown Chardonnay grapes. Most of Quebec wineries grow hybrid plants, you can learn more about it here. The sparkling cider with raspberries was my favourite!
This was the most beautiful stop as you can enjoy a glass by their terrasse in a Muskoka chair overlooking orchards and grapevines.
Only 2min away from the previous stop, Michel Jodoin is most likely to be the best-known of Quebec’s cideries as Michel was one of the first ones to receive a permit for the cider-production. However, the story of this orchards dates back to 1901 and during the outlaw of the cider, the family continued to produce it. This cidery has led the way to a new wave of cider making and it has of hip cider making that rejuvenated the industry. Here, you can take a tour of their assembly line and you can also do a hiking trail in their estate.
They also do spirits like Vermouth, Brandy, Mistelle and Ambre. Their new "trendy" products include a hoppy cider.
The Monteregie is also known for it bountiful lands rich in fruits and vegetables. The Halte Gourmande was our foodie break. This is a huge pick-your-own farm with more than a dozen different varieties of fruits and vegetables. We were lucky enough to have a private visit with the owners who proudly explained to us all the types of vegetables and fruits they plant each year. At the farm, you can pick your own strawberries, heirloom tomatoes, pumpkins and much more. They also have a mini farm with llamas and hens. The farm does have homemade products for you to either eat at their picnic tables or to bring back home. We brought back apple and sweet potatoes doughnuts bites, apple bread and a corn marinade. So delicious!
Our last stop was Domaine Cartier-Potelle. This estate also does wines and cider. The highlight of this winery is their view. Located on the southern slope of Rougemont, their terrace is on the second floor which gives breathtaking views of the Montérégie valley.
We headed back home with full stomachs and local products to bring back to the city. This is the perfect day trip from Montreal. The region has many more cider houses. You can see the full list here
Disclaimer: I enjoyed the tour as guests of the Monteregie Tourism board. A big thank you! All opinions are my own
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