Route de Cidres recommendations?
I love Pinnacle. Here's an excerpt from my report on a visit to Pinnacle's tasting room:
Ice cider, the apple equivalent of ice wine, was invented by Quebec vintner Christian Barthomeuf in 1989. Apples are picked after the first frost, which creates the concentration of sugars that gives the cider its intense, aromatic flavor. Fermented for eight months, it takes the juice of about eighty apples to yield a 375 cl. bottle (a half wine bottle). Ice cider, to me, conveys the quintessence of appleness. Best consumed as an aperitif or a dessert wine, ice cider can be treated like a Sauternes or a Muscat. Of four or five ice ciders I tried, Pinnacle was by far my favorite, as I found all the others a bit too sweet. Pinnacle is sweet, for sure, but it seems to strike a Platonic balance. Barthomeuf is the cidermaster for Pinnacle as well as La Face Cachée de la Pomme. At about $22-25 Canadian per half bottle for most brands, ice cider is definitely a luxury item.
At the Pinnacle tasting room we were greeted by Karolyn, the charming young woman who poured and described the products. In addition to the regular ice cider, which accounts for most of their production, they also offer a sparkling version and a special reserve. The special reserve, which blends six varieties of apple and requires over one hundred apples to compose a bottle actually disappointed. Described as having a “warm, caramel, baked apple flavor,” it was just too sweet for me. The sparkling version, a Pinnacle exclusive, was pleasant, but ultimately the original ice cider rules.
Ice Cider is one of Quebec’s great gifts to mankind, and as it is difficult to find elsewhere, visitors to the province owe it to themselves to pick up a bottle or two.
After our cider tasting we stopped off in Frelighsburg for lunch at The General Store, a place that Karolyn had recommended, informing us that they were famous for their maple syrup pie. Naturally, the menu listed “Our Famous Maple Syrup Pie.” I had no choice but to try it, despite my lukewarm attitude toward maple syrup. I’m a sucker for these kinds of claims to fame. If the menu had listed “Our Famous Sea Cucumber Pie” I might have tried that too. Anyway, to call the pie pathologically sweet would be an understatement. Granted, I know from experience, having traveled in India and Latin America, that there are billions of people who would revel in such sweet overkill.
I will assume you have already received the route des cidres document. I did the road last year and it was well worth, I would start with Hemingford and cidrerie du minot (sparkling and light ciders) and la face cachée (they now make sparkling cider!) and make my way up north.
Make sure you check out verger Henryville, little known but well worth it.
*Most* cidres in Rougement/Mont St-Hilaire/St-Grégoire are *typically* of lesser quality exciting as their main business is selling apples but Michel Jodoin (who does cider alone) on the south east side of rougemont is quite special, especially their sparkling red cidre. This is not strawberry flavoured cidre as you'll find elsewhere, but cidre made from apples with red pulp.
I would end the trip with Clos St-Denis, another top shelf Ice Cider. They also have a winery.
For lunch (and dinner), your options are numerous along the Richelieu river or you can create your own lunch from the Cheese makers that are close some to the cider houses. Many cidermakers have pic-nic areas or their own restaurants or delis with "terroir" products.
Finally for supper you can head to Chambly, switch to beer and visit fourquet-fourchette, the restaurant for Unibroue which features old nouvelle-france cuisine by the Richelieu river
La Face Cachée de la Pomme and Pinnacle are ahead of the pack. Clos St-Denis and Cidredie du Minot are also quite good. While you're there, you might want to check out some of the wineries in the area. Here is the link to Quebec Vintners Assocation : http://www.vignerons-du-quebec.com/