Cantons-de-l'Est: Wine (& Cidre de Glace) Country
Canada is known more for its beers and ales than its wines, but that hasn't stopped agriculturists from planting vines and transforming fruit into drinkable clarets, chardonnays, and Sauternes. So far, the most successful efforts have blossomed along southern Ontario's Niagara Frontier and in British Columbia's relatively warmer precincts.
Cantons-de-l'Est enjoys the mildest microclimates in the province, and where apples grow, as they do in these parts, so will other fruits, including grapes. Most vintners and fruit growers are concentrated around Dunham, about 103km (64 miles) southeast of Montréal, with several vineyards along Route 202. A stop for a snack or a facility tour makes for a pleasant afternoon. If you're really gung-ho, follow the established Route des Vins, which passes 17 vintners (find the map at www.laroutedesvins.ca).
One vineyard on the route is Vignoble de l'Orpailleur, at 1086 Rte. 202 in Dunham (tel. 450/295-2763; www.orpailleur.ca). It has guided tours every day from June through October for C$5. Its white wines, such as the straw-colored L'Orpailleur, are popular on Montréal restaurant menus.
Ice cider and ice wine are two regional products that may be new to visitors: They're made from apples and grapes, respectively, left on the trees and vines past the first frost, and served ice-cold with cheese or dessert. One top producer is Domaine Pinnacle, at 150 Richford Rd. in Frelighsburg (tel. 450/298-1226; www.icecider.com), about 13km (8 miles) south of Dunham. Its cidre de glace is a regular gold medalist in international competitions: It's delightfully smooth and not cloyingly sweet. The farm's tasting room and boutique are open May through December daily from 10am to 6pm and weekends only January through April 10am to 5pm. Other credible wines come out of Le Cep d'Argent, at 1257 chemin de la Rivière in Magog (tel. 877/864-4441 or 819/864-4441; www.cepdargent.com). Many of its vintages are prizewinners, including the dry white Le Cep d'Argent and the maple-tinged dessert wine L'Archer. There are several tour options, including a "privilege tour" of the champagne cellar that describes the méthode champenoise and includes tastings of six wines with regional products. Cost is C$17 for the 90-minute exploration. Reservations are required.
Exploring Magog & Lac Memphrémagog
The pretty town of Magog has a fully utilized waterfront, and in late July to early August each year, the Lac Memphrémagog International Swimming Marathon (tel. 818/847-3007; www.traversee-memphremagog.com) creates a big splash. From 1979 until 2003, competitors started out in Newport, Vermont, at 6am and swam 42km (26 miles) to Magog, arriving in midafternoon. Since 2004, the event has become a 34km (21-mile) race, beginning and ending in Magog.
To experience the lake without such soggy exertion, board a boat. Croisière Memphrémagog (tel. 888/842-8068 or 819/843-8068; www.croisiere-memphremagog.com) offers lake cruises; one option is a 2 1/2-hour trip to Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. Boats leave from Point Merry Park, the focal point for many of the town's outdoor activities. Cruises off season depend upon demand; call for times and prices. Several firms rent sailboats, motorboats, kayaks, and windsurfers; Marina Le Merry Club, 201 rue Merry sud (tel. 819/843-2728; www.lemerryclub.com), specializes in pontoons, motorboats, and personal watercraft.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.