We recently spent a week eating and exploring new wave French wines in Quebec City. Why? A lot of our idea had to do with the dollar. That $50.00 Canadian bottle of wine is $37.50 on your credit card, or $7.50 a glass. For both quality and curiosity, there can be no better reward than that 25% exchange rate gift.
Chez Jules: A classic French bistro. Décor, waiters, ambience AND all you can eat frog legs special on Monday. Terrific escargot and sweetbreads. A standard French wine list but there are a few gems: Julien Pilon, 2015 Viognier, Rhone . A rich, full bodied, exuberant viognier with great style for the two dishes.
Lapin Saute : All rabbit, all the time. A platter of sausage, legs, confit, pate and those glorious beans washed down with a rare bottle of Dominique Piron Beaujolais Blanc, 2015. It has the energy of a French Chablis- perfect with the white meat, from a 15 generation wine family (only 2% of Beaujolais is white) .
Chez Boulay: The high temple of Nordic natural in the city. The seafood platter with shrimp, salmon, mussels and crab make you a believer in the press this place generates .The entre of game hen was meltingly delirious. He makes his own Jean-Luc Boulay Syrah in the Languedoc that fits well with this gastronomic heaven. It was luscious and silky smooth with the fish and birds.
1608 Frontenac Wine and Cheese Bar: Worth a visit for the interior look, not to mention the gold Rolexes and a smattering of Botox. The viognier by the glass is good, as expected.
Café Du Monde: Upscale bistro with a highly polished moderne look, river view, similar in style to 1608. Salmon tartare two ways (what?) or an astonishing ravioli with shrimp and lobster sauce, you choose. A very corporate wine list that does contain little nuggets that you have to hunt for. Les Pious Marsanne by Rimi Pouizin. Marsanne (like viognier) has honey suckle, peach and marzipan swimming together as flavors. The grapes and wines from the Rhone and Languedoc are worth the trip to Quebec alone. This is turning out to be a glass by glass tutorial of modern South of France.
L’Affaire est Ketchup (“everything’s cool”). This is St. Anthony Bourdaines’ favorite in Quebec. The place resembles a flea market reproduced as a restaurant. We had the sweet breads, scallops and mackerel- all excellent. The wine list is both “natural” and obscure. Bourboulenc “Clos des Grillon”, 2014, southern French, herbal and fresh.
Moine Echanson: There is always a restaurant and a person that is the highlight of our trips. Martin, our wait person, came ambling to our outside table holding four opened bottles of wine with that “let’s taste some stuff” look . We ordered oysters and proceeded to our “natural wines” tour. Rkatsiteli ( a Georgian white reputed to be the first grape vine planted by Noah ) made by Soliko Tsais was smokey, earthy and almost a food. Miscela by Lammidia, an Abruzzo stunner from the local malvasia, trebbiano and pecorino grapes was ripe, delicious and featured a red gas nozzle motif label on the bottle.
The entre of rare caribou steak was locavor perfection. The reds were equally edgy and fabulous. Ah!Ramon by the eccentric wine maker La Sorga featured bold white script on a pink label. The grape is a play off aramon, a terrible overplanted, high yield grape of the Languedoc. The winemaker describes it as “greedy, fresh, to gurgle”. I think it is a play off the band the Ramones as well. It was lovingly delicious. Last, but not least, is the red by Soliko, made from an obscure grape, the sapereravi, with all the biodynamic bells and whistles: wild yeast, natural sulfites, unfined , ancient clay amphora (qveyi) and a grape that is dynamic all by itself. In my over 40 years of tasting and writing about wine I have never encountered anything like this. There are 9,000 acres in Georgia with some in Bulgaria and the USSR. This is one savory grape, redefining in my mind the idea of tannin. This is tannin as a melt in your mouth art form, not an astringent, nail biting form of acidity. And…with rare caribou it one of the great wine and food artforms.
This has been our palate opening plunge into natural wines. I still view them as a tightwire walker over Niagara Falls, operating without a net. There are no commercial yeast or sulfites to brace their fall. If they successfully make the tightwire walk there is unanimous applause, otherwise they are splattered on the rocks.
Quebec has been a great learning adventure . The people, food, wine and professional service were all there, along with that equally nice 25% gift.