The Rive Gauche hotel, a half-hour drive from downtown Montréal, advertises itself as a “refuge urbain.” But in an area known for natural parks and local farm products, the hotel’s real draw is the wine list of its casual restaurant, Le Coureur des Bois. With 3,500 selections and an inventory of 15,000 bottles, strong in France, California and Italy, it’s a refuge for wine lovers.
“Our mission is to be a boutique hotel,” says owner Mathieu Duguay. “Our hospitality, food and beverage program is what sets us apart from the rest of the area.”
Duguay bought the property in 2010 and has expanded every aspect of it, with wine as his primary focus. Two new buildings will add 24 hotel rooms and 32 condos to the existing 58-room hotel. Space on the fourth floor of the existing hotel is being converted to a wine tasting and teaching room and chef’s kitchen. The list Duguay inherited in 2010 was basic; the goal from the outset was to build an award-winning program. Le Coureur des Bois now has a team of 11 sommeliers, led by food and beverage manager Ian Purtell, head sommelier Hugo Duchesnes and assistant head sommelier Jean-Simon Rioux-Ranger.
Burgundy lovers will find plenty to get excited about, with dozens of bottles from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Raveneau, Méo-Camuzet and Henri Jayer. Romanée-Conti 1990 from DRC is a healthy $29,990; the Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 1985 is $11,270. But many Burgundies are priced at less than $200, such as Domaine de Courcel Grand Clos des Épenots 2010 for $190.
Bordeaux shows impressive depth, with vintages back to 1961 of Latour ($6,085) and Haut-Brion ($6,475), some 1982s, and a vertical of Château d’Yquem back to 1986 ($5,082/6L). Chave and Guigal anchor the Northern Rhône section, while Beaucastel, Rayas and Beaurenard weigh in from the Southern Rhône.
Heavy hitters from California are well-represented by Colgin, Dominus, Harlan, Marcassin, Ridge and Screaming Eagle, to name a few; the Harlan Napa Valley 1997 will set you back $1,640. Italy is rich in Tuscany and Piedmont, with rare gems like Sassicaia 1985 ($2,968) and Tignanello 1990 ($328).
However, the list delivers plenty of value; the average price range of sales is $60 to $98, and the markups range from 1.5 to 2.5 times. “Our pricing is for people who enjoy wine,” emphasizes Duguay. “Our philosophy is, let’s bring wine to people in the best way we can; they will get to know us, and we’ll become a destination.”
Duguay’s team uses every possible source to build the quality of selections and inventory. “We have made the contacts so we can continue to source the wines,” explains Hugo Duchesnes. “Now we [receive] allocations for Rayas, Selosse, [Domaine de la] Romanée-Conti.”
One key contact was Champlain Charest, one of Canada’s foremost wine collectors and former owner of Bistro à Champlain, north of Montréal, which earned a Grand Award in 1988. When he closed the restaurant in 2014, Charest sold off the cellar. Duguay, who had sought Charest’s advice after opening Le Coureur des Bois, purchased many of his large-format bottles, including a 6-liter bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Romanée-St.-Vivant 1990 ($35,420/6L). These magnums, double magnums and even larger bottles add an important dimension to the wine list.
The ambience at Le Coureur des Bois is Canadian-rustic. Antlers are mounted around the room, and birch trunks frame a backdrop for a group of large bottles at the entrance. There is a large fireplace in a back dining room, and the chef’s table in the kitchen seats six in a U shape, centered around a large cross-section of a tree for the wine service. The wine-bottle coasters are smaller slices of tree trunks, and the pepper mill looks hand-hewn.
Chef Jean-François Méthot’s cuisine utilizes local artisans and plays on classic dishes. The Boileau deer gravlax alternates cured slices of meat with marinated mushrooms and cipollini. Duck and buckwheat tartare delivers crunch and spice, accompanied by tatsoi.
Service at Le Coureur des Bois is top-notch. The sommeliers are educated through the Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine and Spirit Education Trust. They know the list and offer guidance in a friendly, engaging manner. It’s a team effort, and the leadership comes from the top down, beginning with the owner’s passion for wine.
“Wine is all about people, stories, traveling and sharing moments,” Duguay says. “All that dimension is fantastic, but then to do extraordinary things within our food and beverage program is endless. I think we’re one happy place.”
LE COUREUR DES BOIS
HOTEL RIVE GAUCHE, 1810 RUE RICHELIEU, BELOEIL, QUEBEC