18 August 2017 Posted By : Rochelle Lash

A charming auberge in the heart of Eastern Townships wine country

The good times roll heartily at Auberge des Vignobles in Dunham, at the heart of the convivial wine route in the Eastern Townships.

I visited on a beautiful late-summer afternoon, and the pastoral, tranquil countryside was hopping with visitors having lunch with wine, tasting wine and buying wine.

Dare I say that a sojourn here is as alluring as a voyage to vineyards in Burgundy or Napa Valley? The Brome-Missisquoi Valley — a patchwork of hills, meadows, farmers’ fields and apple orchards — is resplendent. City folk flock to farm stands brimming with the week’s harvest of fresh berries and vegetables. And eating lunch on a sun-dappled terrace adjacent to a vineyard is hard to beat.

Within a few kilometres of about 10 vineyards — many in Dunham and a few others down the road in Bedford, Bingham and Frelighsburg — the Auberge is owned by Chantal Mercier, who is also the innkeeper-in-chief and the mother of 11 children (only one still lives at home).

Awed by these two of her many accomplishments, I expected to meet an exhausted hausfrau. Not at all. Mercier is an energetic dynamo who wears high heels almost day and night, whether she’s cooking breakfast, pitching in with housekeeping or guiding her guests around La Route des Vins.

The rambling blue and white house is inspired by Victorian decor, with a gabled roof, turrets and a white latticework veranda. It looks like a period piece, but it was built 20 years ago, so it combines old-fashioned ambiance with modern comforts like air conditioning, soundproofing and large, inviting windows. It’s a three-star establishment, more about country charm and basic comfort than luxury.

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