The venerable five-star Quebec country estate adds natural flavour to its list of summertime must-dos.
By Doug Wallace | July 08, 2021
“The major similarity between wine and honey is that they link to nature—both rely on the maintenance of our planet to produce a sustainable and quality product.”
The two passions of Jérôme Dubois have collided. As head sommelier and beekeeper at Manoir Hovey, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Dubois manages two beehives along with a cellar of more than 850 different wines. And thanks to his apiculture enthusiasm, the Relais & Châteaux–associated resort has added a new Beekeeping Experience to its list of activities, a hands-on honey-tasting directly from the comb, with a honey-based cocktail to enjoy and a honey sample to take home. “Guests will hold the frames in their hands if I see that the bees are not too agitated,” Dubois says. “And we have full head-to-toe beekeeping attire to keep everyone safe.”
The beehives are just another example of how important sustainability is to Manoir Hovey. “Bees are on the verge on extinction—the situation right now is very fragile,” Dubois says. “My bees pollinize everything, which promotes and increases biodiversity for up to a three-kilometre radius around the hives—a step in the right direction for the planet.”
With 26 years as a sommelier—including a stint with nine-Michelin-star chef Marc Veyrat in France—and eight years as a beekeeper, Dubois has earned his stripes. “I got into apiculture in 2010, learning from a gentleman who lived near me in France who had 800 hives,” he says. “I then bought 150 of my own, which became a learning process in and of itself. I sold them when I moved to Canada and currently have 30 at my residence.”
Dubois opens the hives every three days during the summer to check on the queen’s health. This consistent verification allows him to assess the health of all the bees and make corrections to their environment if necessary. “Another way I maintain healthy colonies is to let the bees hibernate outdoors in the winter, which, when done properly, actually makes them stronger and allows them to start pollinizing much earlier in the season.”
The pastoral setting of Manoir Hovey also plays a part, with the region’s variety of flowers lending a distinctly fruity taste to the honey. The resort uses the fruits of this labour to produce delicious baked goods and to augment Le Tap Room’s mixology program.
Taste sensations aside, Dubois feels Manoir Hovey’s bee adventure will prompt people to think more seriously about the impact humans have on the planet and on bee colonies. “We often overlook the important roles bees play in our biodiversity, and it is crucial now more than ever that we make a change.”