Le Chat Botté winery in Hemmingford has been open for almost 10 years now, and while it has made a name for itself in the region, it continues to branch out into new endeavors. As the winery transitions to organic and develops creative products, co-founders Normand Guénette and Isabelle Ricard remain dedicated to their craft of winemaking.
When Guénette and Ricard bought the property on Highway 202 back in 2001, they were undecided about what to do with the land; they knew only that they wanted to pursue an agricultural project. The property itself was lined with apple trees that had unfortunately been badly damaged by the ice storm of 1998. On the advice of an agronomist, they took the trees down and planted 7000 grape vines.
By 2007, they were experimenting and developing their wines, all the while continuing to plant more varieties of grapes, and by 2012 they were open for business. “I’ve always been interested in wine since my early twenties, [when] I did work in France,” says Guénette. “I always wanted to start an agricultural project, and wine seemed to be a natural thing.”
Le Chat Botté has expanded its product line to include 14 different products, from white wines to reds to unique wines in between. “[14 wines] is a lot, but we have a lot of different grape varieties, so we try to have a diversity of products to please different palettes,” says Guénette.
In their continued effort to branch out, Guénette and Ricard bought more land which again was already planted with apple trees. They were initially unsure whether to remove these trees as they were in great condition and in their prime. The pair decided to keep them, and has begun developing ciders, with the plan of releasing a small batch this year. “Having the winery lets us use grape skins to do macerations on the ciders – we’ll be able to make some funky products,” says Guénette.
As the winery gears up for the busy fall season, Guénette is excited to once again be offering a grape harvest activity to the public. Participants can pick grapes for the day with a group of friends, and then see how the winemaking process begins. Le Chat Botté provides the group with a lunch, and then the day is wrapped up with a wine tasting. Interested parties can register at http://www.vignoblelechatbotte.com. While this year there will be pandemic security measures in place to ensure the safety of the guests, Guénette is happy to be welcoming people back to the winery. “It gives people a chance to discover what we’re doing here, and that Quebec wineries are doing well!”