The Valley has quite a few local vineyards that offer wonderfully diverse options for your fall beverage needs. Vignoble Leblanc in Saint-Anicet opened this summer for its first commercial season. The vineyard has been producing wine for personal use over the past 20 years, and now the owners are excited to offer homegrown products to the public this year.
Co-owner Caroline Leblanc explains the vineyard started as more of a hobby than a business. “My father, after [stopping dairy production], wanted to have a hobby. In 1998, he planted his first 200 vines. He planted about 1000 in all. He used the grapes to produce a few bottles of wine for his personal consumption as well as to give as gifts to his friends.”
Over the past few years, Leblanc and her husband, Bernard Jalbert, have transformed the vineyard. “When [my father] died 7 years ago, I wanted to become a winegrower myself. We therefore surrounded ourselves with agronomists and winemaking advisers in order to fully master the art. In 2016, the barn had to be renovated to transform it into a cellar; [we purchased] stainless steel tanks and many other [pieces of] equipment. In 2017, we planted 6,700 more plants. We obtained our licence to sell artisanal wine last October.”
Both Leblanc and Jalbert are teachers in addition running the vineyard, which she admits can be “complex and arduous. Often there is not enough time to carry out all the tasks (pruning, weeding, lifting, stripping).”
This season there was stress on many local vineyards and farms because of the spring frost. Fortunately, Vignoble Leblanc was minimally affected and is prepared for a good season.
The vineyard has been open to the public on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. since June. Two of its wines, a red and a white, are also available at the Citron et Basilic restaurant in Huntingdon.
Last year Vignoble Leblanc produced multiple wine varieties. “We produced around 2000 bottles of five different varieties: a white made from rustic vines, Pas Compliqué; a rosé, Perle Grise; a late-harvest, a Pinot Noir, and a Pinot Gris. We are very proud of these wines,” says Leblanc. This fall, a new red called Frontenac à Laguerre is being introduced.
Leblanc credits the region and the climate for helping to create a unique environment for wine production. “The placement of it and the terrain and the fact that it’s in a region that is very agricultural [all contribute]. There’s not a lot of vineyards in our region; we’re in the south of the Lac Saint-Francois. There’s a lot of hot days; it’s one of the hottest regions in Quebec depending on the year. The hot climate is the element that sets us apart.”
COVID-19 has put a strain on many local businesses; like them, Vigoble Leblanc is ready for the public to be back. “We have to start visiting the people around us. COVID made us so isolated and so focused on online shopping, so we need to see people and find the need to see people again. The beauty of a vineyard is that we’re outside. We can see people without being too close.”
Leblanc says that there is something for everyone at artisanal vineyards. “So many vineyards in Quebec are tiny, which allows us to have different kinds of wine at each place and to have a variety of wine that we can taste, and not to have a uniform product everywhere, like in a grocery store.”
Starting on September 18, Vignoble Leblanc will be hosting weekly Saturday harvests that are open to the community. These will run until October 16 and will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Because the events are volunteer-based, a dinner and wine-tasting will be offered to the harvesters at the end of the day. Registration can be done via the Vignoble Leblanc Facebook page; be sure to check out this exciting opportunity!