With whole-hearted generosity and true passion for the land, Christian welcomed us one morning last September. While it wasn’t our first time in vineyard, it was our first chance to take a peek at what goes on behind the scenes and learn more about the origins of a Québec winery. When Christian showed us his newly expanded fermentation cellar, we could barely contain ourselves!
Q: How did you end up in the wine world?
I started making cherry wine when I was 18 or 19. Everyone’s familiar with chokecherries. We’d pick them and make wine we’d then try to drink. But my dream had always been to make wine from my own grapes.
Christian knew he had to learn everything there was to know about grape growing before he could ever start bottling. Early on, he found out what vines needed (and what they didn’t) and how to take good care of them. In 2005, he started to look for the perfect piece of land to make his dream a reality.
Q: How did the vineyard come to be?
It took me about two years to find it. I was looking for a warm lot with good air flow and found one here, in Saint-Théodore d’Acton, in no time. I saw the for sale sign and bought it two weeks later. I started planting in 2007.
The day before our visit, Christian sent us a video of the vineyard to show us the layer of seashells he discovered when he first started digging. Since we’re very curious but have only limited geological knowledge, we had a lot of questions for him.
Q: What are some of the special characteristics here? What do you grow?
When we discovered the shells, we did some research and learned that glaciers retreated to create the Champlain Sea during the last glaciation period. And that sea sustained life. Because the lot was 138 metres in altitude, it was like an islet that provided a good environment for seashells. So, that’s where the vineyard got its name. Côte de Champlain is a reference to the hill and seacoast, and so are the three Coquillages (meaning seashells) wines—from Hiatella Artica, the shell typically found here. We currently produce three wines: a white, a rosé and a red from American and French hybrid varieties.
Pour les (trop) brefs moments que nous avons passés en Montérégie, nous avons pu constater qu'un vignoble de l'ampleur de Côte de Champlain ne passe pas inaperçu dans sa municipalité.
Q: Tell us how your vineyard has taken root in the community.
In the region, we’ve been known as grape growers since 2007. People said we were Saint-Théodore d’Acton’s hidden gem. So, when we started selling wine in 2018, people already knew us. Early on, we were present at events organized with the municipality and other local producers.
We quickly understood that the vineyard was a family affair. Around lunchtime, Christian and his partner invited us to stay for burgers and enjoy the sunny afternoon. We got to know the winemaker’s family a little better, including Christian’s son, who spent the summer working in the vineyard.
Q: How do you see the vineyard’s future? What have you got planned?
We currently have six hectares. My son just spent another summer with me doing all sorts of grape growing and wine producing tasks and wants to stay involved. With that in mind, we have the capacity to plant up to 30 hectares on the property and we’ll definitely keep growing.
Christian prides himself on the organization and development of his vineyard. His original plan was to start producing wine in 2025, at a slower pace, but after a good year in 2018 and promising discussions with the SAQ, he was able to send all his bottles to the retail outlets. The response from customers was overwhelmingly positive.
“As a winemaker, the first time I saw the SAQ truck pull up beside the house, with the vineyard and land in the background, it was a great day! We’ll remember it for a long time,” he said.
Q: How important to you is the notion of coming together?
Of course, wine is an opportunity to bring people together. That’s why, as a family, we uncork a bottle of our white when we cook dinner or have friends over. It’s perfect when people get together. It’s beautiful and versatile, pleasant and smooth.
Our visit was no exception. We wrapped up the day with a cheers at sunset, on a small hill looking over the vineyard.