Thursday, August 10, 2023

Les Vergers Lafrance - a Multiforme Cidrerie, Vignoble, Domaine, & Distillateur

Perhaps our favorite craft beverage stop during our Quebec visit was to Les Vergers Lafrance, a multifaceted establishment located just outside of Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. This municipality is surrounded by panoramic mountain views, orchards, and a truly rustic countryside.  LaFrance participates in providing these orchards with their 30 hectares of 13,000 apple trees, 4,000 grape vines, 500 pear trees and 250 plum trees. And the apple trees are distributed among 20 different apple varieties.  Besides les vergers, LaFrance is a cidery, winery, distillery, maple producer, and restaurateurs.

Vignoble Lafrance is composed of more than 4,000 grapevines, particularly all shades of Frontenac  and Sabrevois -- both cold climate grapes bred at the University of Minnesota. LaFrance uses the grapes exclusively for the production of spirits. One of these is their Dandy Gin which is a fruit distillate made from apple, pear and grape eau-de-vie as well as our Marc de Raisins eau-de-vie. The botanicals consist of selected herbs and apple tree flowers from the estate orchards. Need less to say, this gin is quite floral, with less juniper but more citrus. 

The distilling operation started in 2013, when Domaine Lafrance acquired an alembic still made in Bordeaux by the Stupfler family. This family has been producing stills for four generations starting in 1925. Lafrance produces almost a dozen spirits and aperitifs as well as a range of ready to drink cocktails. We also purchased a bottle of the Quartier Lafrance - a Grand Marnier inspired spirit made from 50% Georges-√Čtienne apple brandy and 50% caramelized orange liqueur. Try to beef up are cocktail options with this surprisingly drier and complex liqueur.

Les Vergers LaFrance is also a purveyor of maple products available in their Sugar Shack. The maple products are made from the syrup from 200 Maple trees that are processed in early Spring during sugar season. 

Despite all these endeavors, the prime focus of the enterprise is cider where they produce close to 20 different cider products. This includes the canned Bio Sparkling Organic Cider and Bio Organic Ros√© Cider that complemented the suddenly sunny afternoon picnicking in front of the Boutique. Another easy option was the canned Darragon dit Lafrance sparkling cider. And please try the Rick Special blend #3, an unfiltered sparkling brut cider that was fermented in ice cider barrels.  We didn't sample any of the still ciders, but had to bring home a miniature of the Domaine LaFrance Ice Cider. I would have brought full 375ml bottles of all their ice ciders, but was leery of crossing the border with a weeks worth of cider and beer. These are elegant ice ciders. 

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