Négondos vineyard in Mirabel – the first organic vineyard in Quebec is to celebrate its 25th anniversary!
Nowadays, approximately 8 to 10% of the world’s vineyards are organic and this phenomenon is in strong growth, but let’s go back 25 years. Who was talking about organic wine? And, here in 1993, a couple from Quebec (Mario Plante and Carole Desrochers) put themselves in the lead to produce the first organic wines in Quebec. Organic means: no synthetic chemicals, sulphite limitation, much more manual labor and many other quite compelling implications. Exceptional beings with strong, well-grounded beliefs are needed to do what they have done and continue after 25 years. They are true pioneers!
Mario and Pauline, after trying to make wine from Californian grapes, bought expropriated land in Mirabel ” a land woven of rocks ” of 2 hectares (imagine it was necessary to remove 110 trucks of rocks before planting the vines) and get into organic wine. But at the beginning, it was not easy because Quebec organic expertise was virtually non-existent or really embryonic. There was a bit of expertise and experimentation in France but the weather conditions in Quebec are very different, so the advices were not necessarily applicable.
This land, Mario chose it according to various sources of soil analysis, the level of slopes and according to the micro-climate of the region. He has studied the various grape varieties, the number of sun units needed to bring the grapes to perfect ripening and the orientation of the soil. He decided to focus on rustic and semi-rustic vines (Seyval, Cayuga etc.) which will prove to be the most judicious choice. For him, no Vitis Vinifera (so-called noble grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc) because climatic conditions cannot allow, according to him, a good ripening of the grapes. In addition, the geo-textiles used to protect them from the cold must be discarded after 5 to 7 years, which is not very organic according to Mario.
They do everything themselves on their vineyard and are completely autonomous. While I spoke with Mario, Carole jumped on her tractor to go to work on the vineyard. In the morning, around 5-6 o’clock the same day, Mario carried out a biological treatment of his vines to control diseases. All vinification is done by them. For them, it’s really a way of life.
They make wines to their liking. They now have 3 hectares and make 10,000 bottles of wine (80% in white and 20% in red) with their 10,000 vines. They mainly use Seyval, Cayuga, Marquette (which makes the wine fun according to Mario) and some other grape varieties. But, if it were only for him, it would only be white because they are the most appreciated wines. Their yields are quite low, which is a guarantee of quality. They bring a lot of importance to the maturity of their grapes and we see it when we taste them. The wines are handled as little as possible, the work is done by gravity, the filtration is minimal and the use of sulphites is reduced to a minimum. All their wines are selling well and quite fast besides that! Already, only a few of their wines remained with relatively limited quantities. You have to go earlier in the year to get some. Especially, if you want to get your hands on bottles of Julep (Their super good orange wine). They only produce 2,000 bottles per year.
Visit of the tasting room
You will receive a warm and personalized welcome from the winemakers themselves. The presentation and tasting of the products is done in a glazed room offering a country setting.
Complete visit of the vineyard
Guests can make a guided tour by the owners on reservation for groups of 10 or more. This includes a description of the work of the vineyard and a presentation of the winemaking machinery. It continues with an overview of the stages of winemaking in the cellar completed by a tasting of a few wines in a tasting room.
A pretty country terrace with a unique look at the location and the beautiful region of the Lower Laurentides, is at your disposal for a snack and sip one of the wines of the vineyard!
Do you want to harvest? The winemakers will be happy to organize groups of 10 to 15 people who want to experience a vintage. The activity takes place at the end of the week from 9h to 17h and participants must bring their dinner. The day ends with a tasting of wines accompanied by cheeses and other victuals.