A taste of Old Europe in Eastern Townships, Quebec

— -- With average winter temperatures that drop to 13 below and a cold season that stretches nearly half the year, Quebec's climate isn't exactly vine-friendly. Yet since 1980, visionary winemakers in the Cantons-de-l'Est region bordering Vermont have braved the elements to establish a burgeoning trade around Dunham, as well as on the shores of nearby Lake Memphrémagog. While the wines themselves, mostly blends of hardy hybrids, may taste thin to Americans raised on full-bodied California fare, the area's French flair (and this month, brilliant hillside foliage) makes it worth crossing the border.

Be sure to stop at: In Dunham, L'Orpailleur, the largest vineyard in Quebec, offers tours in both French and English (orpailleur.ca). To avoid the day-trip buses, head less than a mile to Domaine des Côtes d'Ardoise (cotesdardoise.com) and its extensive sculpture garden. Chapelle Ste-Agnès in Glen Sutton (vindeglace.com) uses Quebec's weather to its advantage by producing icewine, a dessert wine made from frozen grapes. For two weekends this month, Le Cep d'Argent (cepdargent.com) outside Magog will allow the public to help with the harvest.

Restaurant featuring area wines: The elegant Manoir Hovey, in North Hatley (800-661-2421, manoirhovey.com), offers several Québécois wines, including highly rated Les Pervenches from Farnham. People drive hours for authentic French meals whipped up by Le Nid de Poule's owner, Alphonse Alpfonso; BYOB encouraged (450-248-0009, niddepoule.com).

Suggested lodging: The area surrounding the resort town of Magog, on the shores of Lake Memphrémagog, has more than 50 B&Bs (tourisme-memphremagog.com).

Nearby attractions: The Benedictine monks at Abbaye Saint-Benoît at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac are known for their fermented apple cider, as well as several varieties of cheese. Cosmopolitan Montreal lies only an hour to the northwest, should the pastoral hills and quaint farmhouses of the Eastern Townships grow tiring.

Information:laroutedesvins.ca, winesofcanada.com