As the season of harvest arrives, LT takes you on a trail of the must-visit wineries in the Bekaa Valley. Hit the road and enjoy a day of stunning scenery over the region’s fertile plains, framed with the Anti-Lebanon Mountain range, matched with wine tasting
Harvesting season is when the wine maker’s year of nurturing vines from bud to grape are finally put to the test. It’s a great time to take a tour of Lebanon’s wineries, take part in harvesting or just enjoy wine tasting and lunch in an incredible setting. The Bekaa Valley has many wineries just a short drive apart. If you’re ambitious, visit between five-10, for a more leisurely pace, pick three.
From Beirut, take the highway past Hazmieh and follow the mountain road that emerges above Chtaura and the Bekaa Valley. At Chtaura, take a right towards the village Kherbet Qanafar where you’ll find Chateau Qanafar (01 398782, Chateau Qanafar, Kherbet Qanafar), a small family-owned winery that was founded in 2005. Back in the direction of Chtaura, only 6km away is Chateau Kefraya (08 645333, chateaukefraya.com, Kefraya). One of Lebanon’s landmark wines, it started life in the ‘50s when Michel de Bustros planted his first vines. Take a guided train tour of the estate and visit their restaurant Le Relais Dionysos, offering great views over the vineyards. Further up the road is Chateau St Thomas (08 500812/813, closstthomas.com, Qab Elias Road, Mazraat Zahle), which has a 100-year heritage of wine-making. Nearby in the village of Qab Elias is Chateau Heritage (08 500609, chateauheritage.com, Qab Elias), which after a century in the industry, launched their modern wines in 1997. In Jdita village stop by Chateau Nakad (08 540191, chateaunakad.com, Jdita, Chtaura). Now run by the third generation, the winery is built on the remains of wine cellars that date back to the Bronze Age. Another old winery is Domaine des Tourelles (08 540114, domainedestourelles.com, Jdita, Chtaura). Tour their vintage wine making machines and sample red, rosé, white and sweet wines, along with liquers such as Orangealine. Chateau Ka (01 899888, kassatlychtaura.com, Chtaura) was created in 1974; an ambition from Akram Kassatly to produce wine under the brand. Next stop is Massaya (08 510135, massaya.com, Tanaayel), where you can enjoy a tasting session with views from the vines to the mountains. A trip to Chateau Ksara (08 801662, chateauksara.com, Zahlé), Lebanon’s most well known wine, shouldn’t be missed. They have 156 years of wine making experience, and offer the full winery experience, from a tour around its vast cellars to a Lebanese lunch matched with the perfect wines. In Zahlé also discover Chateau Khoury (08 807143, chateaukhoury.com, Dhour Zahle), a relatively new winery in the eastern foothills of Mount Lebanon at 1300m altitude, and the well regarded Domaine Wardy (08 930141/2/3, domainewardy.com, Industrial Zone, Zahlé); where wine tasting is offered in the cellar.
OLIVE OIL TRAIL
From November until late December, celebrate the olive oil harvesting season with olive oil producer, House of Zejd’s olive oil trail in the village Baino, Akkar. They invite the public to join a family tradition of olive harvesting, dating back to the 19th century and to see the production process of extra virgin olive oil – from tree to table.
The trail starts with a wander through the olive groves in Baino, from which House of Zejd harvest their olives. You’ll be introduced to the sustainable olive picking practices that House of Zejd practice and harvest olives yourself. Afterwards, visit the olive extraction unit to see the process of pressing olives with the latest technology in their ISO-certified, eco-label mill.
Next is the all-important tasting session, where freshly-pressed olive oil is sampled with Lebanese bread, straight from the saj oven. You’ll explore the different characteristics of the oil, its culinary applications and health benefits. “People still have no idea how olive oil is made or the different types,” says founder of House of Zejd, Youssef Fares. “This trail is a way for them to see for themselves and taste the difference between organic extra virgin and conventional oil.” Afterwards visit the store and take home infused oils, pickled and stuffed olives and tapenades.
EAT AND EXPLORE
An olive oil trail wouldn’t be complete without tasting the fruits of the harvest. House of Zejd finish the day with a lunch of regional specialities, with that core element – freshly-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Women from the area prepare local dishes such as Kebbeh w lahem bel khal (vinegar-based meat dish with vegetables) and bwebneh (vegetarian kebbeh, stuffed with pomegranate syrup and onions). Make a weekend of it and stay in the nearby Motel El Sayad (06 360534) and House of Zejd can organize a weekend of activities to explore the area.
LL45,000 inc. lunch; LL60,000 inc. lunch and transport.
01 338003, olivetrade.com, zejd.net