Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chapelle Ste Agnes

"The "Rapture" did not happen but I went to the garden of eden

By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
The much taunted end of the world did not come last week but I personally was given a tour of a vineyard in Glen Sutton which emulates a garden of Eden on earth: The vineyard Chapelle St. Agnes with its magnificent church. I quote from the vineyard's website:
"The Chapelle Ste Agnès was built in 1993 by Henrietta Antony, a Montreal antique dealer. It was Mrs. Antony’s intent to build a timeless structure of great beauty that would elevate the spirit and bring peace to passers-by. The Chapel is built of solid stone in a Romanesque style. It is home to many of Mrs. Antony’s ecclesiastic artifacts, collected over a 45 year period. Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Mrs. Antony consecrated the Chapel to Saint Agnès, a thirteenth century Bohemian saint".
One of the vineyards great charms is that this chapel is available for wedding ceremonies. A magnificent recently added reception hall full of eclectic touches is able to seat up to 150 people and even has a full bar.

My generous and urbane host, John Antony, Henrietta's oldest son, is in charge of production and is assisted by his  wife Karena, Both have done post graduate studies at McGill and Karena is an engineer as well. John is full of enthusiasm, opening up pretty much everything I wanted to see. I even got to climb the top of the tower in the reception center, which has one of the most ingenious staircases I have ever encountered, even in the times when I still repaired church clocks as a hobby. Being extremely narrow, each step of the staircase is cut out so that the ascending foot can reach the next rung without obstruction. True engineering magic but so are all the buildings. There are vintage windows set into a wall, a Louis 15 armoire big enough for the White House and throughout the buildings there is a sense of great beauty with colors and designs blending old and new in graceful harmony.
Rapture my foot - I was raptured. Ruptured is also a good word to decribe the feeling when one stands at the stone walled terrace and looks at the vineyard: 18 stone terraces form a magnificent amphitheater whose "stage" is actually a well stocked trout pond.
But back to the vineyard. Currently there are 7,000 vines under cultivation and after the vines are harvested, they come under the care of  Christian Barthomeuf (owner of the vineyard le Clos saragnat in Frelighsburg), one of the pioneers of viticulture in Quebec. He is currently the head winemaker at the winery, which has now entered two of the most prestigious and industry-recognized wine competitions (I. W. S. C. and Decanter) worldwide and has come away with awards each time.

 Photo courtesy
Underneath every great vineyard there is "The Vault" where all the magic happens. To quote the Anthony's again: "
The cellars of the Chapelle Ste Agnès vineyard are a large medieval style underground complex, where temperature and humidity are almost constant year round. The cellars consist of four underground levels, and feature a number of stone barrel and cross vaults that were built by a master stone cutter from France and by vault masters from southern Moravia. In order to build these vaults, dozens of varying and specialized forms needed to be constructed. The end result is a medieval style cellar complex dedicated to the production and storage of our wines.
The vault is four levels deep and contains the barrel vaulted storage and ageing chambers, one passage is guarded by a bronze doorman. There is a room with massive 18th century French table and chairs for twelve, there are tasting rooms and the off-limit to visitors pressing and fermentation rooms. The underground labyrinith is a museum complex in itself with rare antiques, antique stemware and steins. I have never seen anything like this magnificent labor of love before! No wonde the place has been decribed in many articles as "one of the ten most beautiful vineyards in North America".
Back to the chapel: The walls of the Chapelle Ste Agnès were erected by Michel Dodier, a Compagnion and Master Mason from France. Mr. Dodier is an 11th generation mason. The framework of the structure is the work of Thierry Pautard, Compagnion and Master Carpenter. The magnificent slate roof was built by Marc Guillemjouan, Master Slate Worker. He used specialized antique tools to shape the fish scale rows of slate. The paving stones which lead to the Chapel were unearthed by an excavator in Old Montreal, and date to the founding of the City in the 17th century.
The main doors of the Chapel once led to a cellar at les Hospices de Beaune, in Beaune, Burgundy. They were made of solid oak during the reign of Louis IV, though the frame dates to the late gothic period. The three stained glass windows are German, and date from the 17th century. To protect them during hunting season, bullet proof glass was installed.

Inside the Chapel, the enchantment continues. Each object, statue, or religious accessory has its own history from Europe, Quebec, and even the Philippines, as in the case of the “Little Jesus of Prague.” The marble columns that outline the columbarium came from a bombed out Benedictine abbey in Italy. The marble mosaic on the floor was created by Emilio Mongiat, of Montreal.

I shall not attempt to talk about the wines produced here, they have been written up by experts and won so many awards that they do not need my unqualified input but I must mention that tours and wine tastings are available, so are receptions, corporate events, picnic parties and almost any other event one can think of. The vineyard's website is at:

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