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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Domaine Gelinas

On the last day of our trip, we were headed back to Montreal to fly home and needed to kill some time. Seeing a sign for a winery 16 kilometers off the freeway, we took a screaming tire last minute turn and headed that way.

20 minutes later, we arrived at a beautiful country vineyard, Domaine & Vins Gelinas (www.domainegelinas.com), with a charming log-cabin style tasting room. Alas, the venue appeared to be closed until Wednesday, and it was midday Monday.

But as we were about to drive away, the proprietor’s wife came running down the driveway to stop us. In broken English, she asked us to wait, so she could summon her husband from the vineyard to pour us some wine. Sure enough, he came down the road on a riding mower, smiling and seemingly glad to have a break from edging the fall growth creeping along his otherwise picturesque property.

It took about 90 seconds from Serge Gelinas’ assertion that “my English is not so good” to his revelation that he dreams to visit the Central Coast’s wine region and our realization that his English was much, much better than our French will ever be!

The charming winemaker told us the story of how it was his grandfather’s dream to grow grapes on their mid-Quebec farm, a place that spends up to half the year under snowfall. Neighbors laughed. “That will never work,” they scoffed. But Serge took his grandfather’s dream seriously and with the assistance of the viticulture program at the University of Minnesota, which advises many Canadian winemakers, he made it happen. Today, the property is a thriving winery and Serge and his wife France sell 25,000 bottles of wine each year.

We loved the chance to taste for free, a bygone tradition on the Central Coast, and to our great surprise, the four wines they poured us from 2010 were exceptional. For $15 a bottle, we would have gladly taken home a case each of their Cavalier du Versant – the Barrique de Chene Canadien was close to a buttery Chardonnay, the Non Boise closer to a sweet Viognier. Pesky custom regulations!

Serge insisted on giving us a tour of the property, where he has a helipad to welcome guests flying 20 minutes from Montreal. He doesn’t bother to sell his wines in the state-owned liquor stores – they take all the profit, he explained, and leave him with a return of just $3 a bottle.

He’s promised to come visit the Santa Ynez Valley in March 2012, so we’ll be sure to give him a warm local welcome .. hopefully he can bring a few more bottles to share with us and friends. In the meantime, if you ever get to Quebec, go visit Serge and France. They’ll welcome you with open arms.

Serge is showing my parents documentation from the state of Quebec about how he has one of the oldest fossilized rocks in the world on his property. The fossil, which was found in northern Quebec, formed 2 billion years old and features unique blue-green algae fossils (Stromatolites)  that have only been found in four other locations worldwide. (This info is from a report from the Quebec geology department that he shared with us.)

The helipad is to the left of the tasting room.

Serge and France.

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1 Comment»

  Liz wrote @

Beautiful story. What an awesome way to wrap up your adventure. I think the universe is conspiring in your favor, and I hope to meet them in March 2012! Have a safe trip home.


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