This Sunday I took a tour with Alexis to the Bekaa Valley with Club Grappe to go taste the wines of four different Lebanese wineries. The Bekaa Valley is some of the most fertile land in Lebanon, dominated mostly by agriculture and producing the best wines the country has to offer.
So after a long night and less than three hours of sleep, we force ourselves up and over to the tour departure location by 9am, planning on catching a few extra minutes of sleep on the bus. The trip to the Bekaa took around two hours, though I’m sure it could have taken much less if the bus driver decided to go above 35 mph at any point of the journey…It was also during this journey that we realized this entire tour was going to be in Arabic. We decided to learn through wine rather than words. I think that plan worked out alright for us in the end.
After a couple hours we arrived to the first winery, Cave Kouroum, a large vineyard and winery in the village of Kefraya on the Barouk Mountain. This winery is pretty new and modern, with their first vintage being only in 1988. They pride themselves in the quality of their wine and have won awards for it since their first year.
Their entire production facility was located underground and the first floor is designated for tastings, with a beautiful, sunny courtyard in the middle of the building and rooms off showcasing their awards and wines. It was in one of these rooms that we had our tasting, though it was so warm outside I wish they would have set up tables out there for us to relax. Since the whole presentation was in Arabic we didn’t understand a single word, but a kind, fellow tourist noticed our lack of understanding and offered to give us a little idea of what was going on. Here we started with their rosé, the Rose d’Amour, then on to the reds, the Petit Noir and their Syrah. The Syrah was my least favorite, it had a peppery spice I did not really like, but the other two were quite good.
I saw another bottle behind the bar that looked open but they weren’t giving out to everyone, the Miss Cat Vin Doux Muscat, and after asking a couple different people I got a taste. It was definitely the sweetest wine I’ve ever had and tasted like candy. Though delicious, I think it would be tough to commit to more than a glass or two of the stuff because it felt like my whole mouth was coated with sugar after only a few sips.
Moving on to the next tour, we visited one of the most famous and respected wineries in Lebanon, Château Kefraya. Their facilities were even bigger than Kouroum’s and they’ve been around a bit longer, with their first vintage in 1979. Kefreya is one of the names that everybody in Lebanon recognizes, drinks, and loves. Their winery was beautiful and huge, perfect for skipping out of the tour and laying out in the warm sun.
The woman who was translating some of the presentations for us mentioned how she didn’t like the wines at Kouroum nearly as much as those at Kefreya, but I actually found the opposite to be true for myself. The Kefreya ones were alright, we tried their Blan du Blancs, Vissi d’Arte, Myst rosé, and Vin Rouge, but none of them really stood out to be as something especially tasty and flavorful.
At this point, it was only around 1pm and the energy of the crowd was noticeably lower. I guess we were not the only ones who had a long night. We got on the bus for a short trip to the next stop, a new microwinery in Jdita called Château Le Noble. This is one of the only wineries in the Middle East producing controversial “vins de garage,” which just refers to their non-traditional method of distillation. Here we finally got to sit down to a delicious lunch made of fresh French bread with plates of cheese and cold cuts, and of course, wine. All the food made the whole group happy, but also made the whole group even sleepier.
After boarding the bus again, the tour guide only had to take one look at us and realized there was really no point in the last winery on the tour. We made the trip pack to Beirut in a sleepy silence, a start contrast to the jolliness and noise of the drive up to the Bekaa. Even though we never made it to the last destination, I think it was still a fun trip and worth it, though I would have definitely preferred if they gave us the bottle of wine during the tour rather than coupons to bring to their Club Grappe’s new wine bar to exchange for our bottles.