Les Sœurs Racines, Offering their Heart and Their Vitamins
Plants, animals, but also, and above all, a lot of human spirit. Welcome to the emerging organic vineyard and the family-run enterprise Les Sœurs Racines. The offer: fresh air and good food!
When they left the macadam and their 4 ½ in the Saint-Henri district of Montréal, environmentalist Sophie Bélair Hamel and sommelier Frédéric Ouellet-Lacroix established their sandbox in Saint-Ignace-de-Stanbridge. They did so, yes, for their own wellbeing because they wanted to make a move to the country, but also they wanted to offer their daughters Simone and Marine a magnificent playground.
Moving to the country is saying the least! Motivated by food self-sufficiency (pre-pandemic version!), by the quest for their life’s purpose and by their lasting attachment to the diversified terroir here, with the help of some family capital, Sophie and Frédéric bought this eight-bedroom country house. In fact, three of these bedrooms are located in a self-contained unit, capable of accommodating eight people or two families of four. This rental unit opened in June 2020, and is well equipped to prepare meals using their farm’s products (fresh eggs, sourdough bread, honey, maple syrup, fruits and vegetables, herbal infusions) or with products purchased from local farmers’ markets.
“Agritourism?” Sœurs Racines is more about an agricultural revolution, a total “agri-immersion.” Outside, luxuriant gardens, plump chickens, egg-laying hens, pigs, calves, lambs, and beehives maintained with the help of beekeeper Annie Patenaude. Can you envision the nurturing ecosystem here? “It took a bit of organic matter in the system,” explains Frédéric metaphorically, to avoid using the word “manure.” On the edge of the forest, ten hectares of woodland and five kilometres of trails offer an intimate contact with the Laurentian flora, wearing boots in the summer, snowshoes or skis in winter, and with our skates on their frozen pond.
From the garden, we move on to the vineyard, which they began to develop in 2018 while trying to stay away from a monoculture-style production. This spring, they’ll be planting more vines. The area will cover three hectares, almost the size of an average Québec vineyard. Muscadet, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot noir, Seyval, Frontenac Gris, their rustic, semi-rustic or non-hardy varieties are expected to produce some interesting, lively and floral blends. Frédéric is especially inspired and mentored by the well-known Farnham vineyard, Vignoble Les Pervenches. This pioneer of natural wines is a personal favourite of Frédéric, Sophie, and Mike and Véro as well. With their project for a wine cellar to vinify their grape juice, they expect to reach profitability in 2022.
Having both worked in the restaurant business, Frédéric and Sophie—the latter being the full-time general manager of her municipality—have been around, and collected enough experiences to know how challenging food production can be. Along with their collaboration with Les Pervenches, to facilitate their work, and to bring about beautiful encounters, the couple has established several partnerships; Here with the Dunham Brewery to add a touch of wine to one of their brews; There with chef Éric Gendron of the Coin Meigs (Saint-Armand), allowing guests to reserve a supper directly at Les Sœurs Racines’s B & B. “Because of the pandemic and the imposed confinement, we really feel the need to reconnect with people, to share, and exchange with one another,” explains Sophie.
Following a diversified ecosystem, a human-scale ecosystem!