As first reported in montrealinfo.com on Friday, Bistro à Champlain will close later this fall. The "restaurant wrapped around a wine cellar", as Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman calls it, has been open for over four decades in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson in the Laurentians.
In a 2013 three-star rave, Chesterman wrote:
I recently found myself moved by a restaurant meal, but for very different reasons. It wasn't about the food or service, but the restaurant's owner, a seminal figure in Quebec's wine world: former radiologist, art collector, avid fisherman and true bon vivant, Champlain Charest. His restaurant is the renowned Bistro à Champlain.
The man Dave McMillan (Joe Beef) calls "a legend" is 83 and ready for retirement, says Monique Nadeau, Charest's wife and partner in Bistro à Champlain.
"Nothing specific precipitated the decision to close other than the fact that it's time. The restaurant has been open for 40 years - 27 as Bistro à Champlain. It's time to enjoy retirement."
Charest's wine cellar is the restaurant's crown jewel. It held 38,000 bottles at one time but was pared down when Charest sold 13,000 bottles to the SAQ in 2002. When Bistro à Champlain won the Wine Spectator Grand Award in 1988, it was the first restaurant in Canada to earn the title.
As for the fate of the restaurant and all that wine, Nadeau says the couple is in talks this week to assess the future of the site and Charest's world-class cellar.