Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Vignobles Les Pervenches - A Jewel in Quebec Wine Country (CA)


So on Saturday morning, the first stop of Taste Camp 2013 quebec was the small but coveted Vignobles Les Pervenches in Farnham, Quebec. The ride wasn't too bad on the bus, and the company was entertaining. I didn;t know much about Les Prevenches before I got there. I had never heard of them. But several of the organizers talked about them in reverent tones, speaking about them with great respect. I shrugged, and thought, "We'll see." 

The vineyard at Les Prevenches was established in 1991 with the first vines white Seyval, followed in 1992 by plants chardonnay imported from France. Acquired by the present owners in spring 2000, the vineyard is now composed mainly of chardonnay, white Seyval, Marechal Foch, Frontenac and Zweigelt of over 3 hectares. The current owners follow the principles of organic and biodynamic since 2005.

The vineyard is located on a sandy soil with good natural drainage. North and west you find large maple woods that protect the vineyards from the great west wind while creating a very warm perfect microclimate for chardonnay. The slope is slightly to the south-east, which helps a sunny and cold air drainage during freezing nights. One can also enjoy a magnificent view of the start of the Appalachian Mountains (Sutton, Jay Peak, etc..).

The area worked has been fully Organic since 2005 and this is for the sake of respect for their natural resources, their garden, their children and their staff. This is a personal approach from the owners who wanted vinify grapes without the use of chemical inputs in order to give birth to living and natural wines. This allows Michael and Veronique to express the terroir and vintage influences. Their grapes are certified organic and handpicked. Their wines are fermented without foreign yeast. Depending on the vintage, they contain no or very little sulfites (SO2). If there SO2 added to the wine, it will only in very small quantities in the bottling.

Veronique Hupin and Michael Marler took on the mission to produce wines of great quality while using innovative and traditional methods in both the fields in the cellar. Michael Marler studied in Agriculture from McGill University with an exchange at the School of Agronomy in Purpan in the south of France, which arose his passion and knowledge for the vine and wine. Véronique Hupin, as passionate in the business, focused on the marketing and financial aspects in picking up an MBA from HEC Montreal.

These are hard working folks. As Michael explained their organic and biodynamic strategies, Veronique walked the vineyard, mounted the tractor, and started working. They grow a number of hybrids such as Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch, and others, as well as vinifera like Chardonnay. Like other vintners, Michael and Veronique work the land hard. Some vines are cut back every year and covered over with dirt (known as hilling) since the winters are jut too harsh for those plants and they would suffer serious winter kill if not. These vines need to be unearthed once danger of frost is clear, so that the vines can flourish again for the season.

There is no question about their passion and conviction. Though you may or may not agree with Michael's assessments of organic or biodynamic theory, it is clear you will never win an argument. He's a skeptic himself, which makes his message more of the reasoned, educated agronomist, than the raging purist zealot! That said, he and Veronique are dedicated to making the wines in as pure a way as possible. And their winery is testament to that. it's unpretentious. Open. No frills.And it's packed to the absolute corners, which means they are topping out on production, yet they had little wine left from the previous season - that's a good sign!

Michael has the absolute focus and concentration of a mathematician, but the creative soul of a painter. His and Veronique's wine is a personal statement. In a region with as diverse a wine country as Quebec's, Les Prevenches' attention to small details in the winemaking make it a stand out. One gets the feeling they would be the darlings of any wine region they were in, be it Quebec, Ontario, the Finger Lakes, or where ever.

Veronique and Michael have turned Les Prevenches into one of the jewels of the Quebec wine country. Though a small production winery, nonetheless it's impressive as they are turning out great wine and smart about getting their message out. Their wines are highly sought after. This isn't just a local sensation. Les Prevenches has achieved recognition of its quality wines in some pretty prestigious newspapers and magazines.

Here's just a smattering of the very impressive reviews:

"Quebec's wine country ripen. Warning-getting bottles are emerging from the Eastern Townships, Where wines pair nicely with country pleasures ..." - Los Angeles Times

"White Seyval on the spot. When I love once.'s Popularity Seyval indeed sèamenuise with the discovery of new varieties ..." - Cellar

"Biodynamics, a living culture. Perceived as a marginal movement in the early to the years 1980, biodynamic viticulture took up the ranks, and nectars are now found on larger tables ..."
 - SEE Montreal

"In 1999, Véronique Hupin and her boyfriend Michael Marler go in Latin America to find a small vineyard ..." - Chatelaine

"We want to see a truly born our typical production regions, instead of surboiser, too extract land and sweeten to be fashionable ..." - enRoute

"Everybody still thinks the only thing Does Quebec ice cider is well, just like people still think Canadians only make ice wine ..." - The Globe and Mail

Seyval-Chardonnay 2012 was the first wine we tasted. It's a lovey, bright, citrusy white wine tinged with just enough Chardonnay to make it quite lovely! Green apples, apricot and pear all come through as promised. Aging in French oak barrels adds a slightly softer roundness to the wine and some spice. A dry, refreshing, lovely, lovely wine!

Solinou 2012 is a light-bodied red blend of Frontenac, Chardonnay, and Zweigelt. A unique blend of vinifera and hybrid grapes. It's works because the Frontenac and Zweigelt both add deep color, and the Chardonnay lends a nice classic vinifera polish to the entire blend. Light, lively, bright, with bright cherries and strawberries, very Beaujolais in its inspiration. Fantastic with light foods, cheeses, and fish or chicken! A great lunch wine for a Saturday or Sunday lunch. A terrific summer wine!

We tasted a barrel sample of the Cuvee De Montmollin 2012 made with Marechal Foch. This is a deeper wine than the Solinou. Darker fruit comes through with this wine, dominated by rich, ripe sour cherry and sour dark raspberry. Jam and plums come through as promised. Great acidity, so the fruit lasts a long time. But wonderful tannins, so the whole thing is never out of whack. And aged in French oak which gives it a roundness that makes the whole enterprise so delicious!

We tasted the Chardonnay 2012 from the barrel. 100% Chardonnay. According to Michael and Veronique, the wine was vinified in barrels in the Burgundian traditions, aging on lees during the winter. A big, round, sensual wine but with the classic Quebec acidity which I like so much. Apples, as well as pears, honey and anise come through as promised. Lovely, elegant, with a lovely long lasting flavor. Excellent!

This is a fascinating small winery dedicated to putting out as pure a wine as possible. You have to absolutely admire their stamina and their fortitutde...and their success!!! The wines are terrific! and theo owners are thoughtful and are making wines with a purpose. And that not only deserves our respect and admiration. It also deserves our applause....and our desire to drink them!