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Trip Report Biking and wine tasting in Quebec

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Since we live in New Hampshire, we frequently spend long weekends in Quebec. Mid September is the beginning of grape harvest there, so we did an overnight in the heart of the Eastern Township's wine country. The 'Eastern Townships' is a rural district of Quebec about an hour east of Montreal. This area is also a mecca for bicycling, so we brought our bikes. The last time we stayed in the Eastern Townships was two years ago, and the motel we choose was not particularly memorable, so this time we decided to do a b&b. This was a good decision, since the b&b (Passe-Partout in Cowansville) was a gem. It is a very charming 1860's red brick farmhouse just outside Cowansville's downtown, with a large private back yard, and immaculate nicely decorated bedrooms. The co-owners - Sophie and Claire, were great hostesses, conversationalists, and breakfast makers.
The first day was devoted to wine tasting, and we visited about 7 wineries, mainly clustered around Dunham which is considered the epi-center of Quebec's wine district. The countryside of the Eastern Townships is very beautiful, with miles of cornfields, vineyards, orchards, cows, and quiet little villages. As you might imagine, the French Canadians are very much into their wineries, so some of the more popular establishments were jam packed with young couples from Montreal, Canadian Harley bikers, and families. Not one USA license plate was to be seen on our entire drive thru this area. As for the wines, (we're not serious wine experts!) , they ranged from mediocre to quite good. Several whites and rose's were especially well made, although good reds were hard to find. However, the beauty of the countryside and ambiance of the wineries more than made up for some of the more forgettable wines. Several of the wineries had locally produced food offerings, live music, sculptures, etc. Like wine country in California, the places clustered around the more well known town (Dunham) were more crowded, and had a small charge for the tastings. The ones further afield were usually free, and less visited. Two that stand out to us were la Bauge, which had not only very nice wines, but also a working livestock operation featuring boar and elk; the other was La Mission, which was a small operation in a spectacular setting. However virtually all the wineries were in photo op settings, most with relaxing picnic areas.
The next day was devoted to exploring the area in bicycle. Most of the roads are quiet, two lane blacktops thru mostly rural settings, and are quite safe for cyclists. The terrain is fairly flat, especially west of Cowansville. We did an easy 18 mile loop thru East Farnham and Brigham that passed thru some of the most scenic farm country I've seen anywhere. Quebec truly offers some of the world's best road biking countryside.
I must make some mention of the one small downside of this area - the dining options are not the most interesting, particularly since Montreal (arguably the best restaurant city in North America), is an hour away. Poutine, burgers, pizza and fries are the main choice on many menus, although we did find a reasonably 'ok' Chinese place in Cowansville. The one highly recommended French Bistro in Cowansville was totally booked. On the other hand this area is perfect for packing a picnic lunch with it's abundance of locally made wines, cheeses and produce.
We feel very lucky to be within a few hours of this very picturesque and relaxing part of the Northeast.

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