Arrived in to Beirut airport late where we were met by head of security and within five minutes had our bags and visas and being driven by Sami into town. Beirut is a city that doesn’t sleep so we dumped our bags at our hotel and had a beer in a near by roof top bar with fabulous views of the city and mediterranean.
Sami picked us up from out hotel in Beirut and we went to Chouf Cedar Nature reserve, sadly the reserve was closed but we still were able to see these magnificent trees stretch as far as the eye could see. We drove on down to the Bekka valley, situated between Mount Lebanon and Anti Lebanon mountain past numerous vineyards and on to Massaya. Now Sami and Ramzi Ghosn run Massaya between them, the estate is on land their father purchased in the 1970’s and Sami came back to the Lebanon in 1992 (at the time he was a practicing architect in LA) to reclaim the estate from squatters and start the production of Arak. Ramzi at the time was running a restaurant business in France where he started to distribute the Arak.
Massaya vineyards are an oasis of calm, beautifully maintained and complimented by an organic vegetable garden, herb garden and free range chickens pecking about. There is a large restaurant on the estate which can seat up to 200 in the summer and 60 inside the fireside restaurant in the winter. Ramzi is the winemaker and he practices natural wine making according to the Lunar calendar. They also have a small distillery for Arak which is triple distilled after the third distillation
organic green anise collected from Hineh village is added. The Arak is then stored in traditional clay amphore in their beautiful oriental cellar.
After a tour of the vineyards, cellars and gardens we settled down to a mezze lunch in the gardens outside their house. Ramzi’s second passion is food and he cooked a delicious five course lunch. We started with hummus and flat bread, fresh broad beans and salads from the garden accompanied by Massaya Rose 2010, made from cinsault and complimented the food and sunshine perfectly. Followed by a pumpkin, caramalized onion and bulgar wheat rosti and a risotto with herbs from the garden, oriental truffles and squid with the Massaya Classic Blanc 2009. On to the reds;Classic Red 2008, cherry fruit with plenty of spice on the finish, Silver selection 2005and 2007 which was the star of the show, a really elegant glass of wine representing great value for money, this complimented the Frikeh (smoked green wheat) served with grilled spatchcocked quail which had been rubbed with summa (local spice). Finally we had Massaya Gold Reserve 2007 which is the finest wine of the Massaya range and a real treat. After a very relaxed afternoon we headed back up towards the mountains to stay at Hotel Terrebrune, Faraya this hotel is just below the best ski resort in the middle east and while the resort was quiet you could imagine it would be buzzing in the winter months. Mezze for dinner this time accompanied by Arak; which was surprisingly easy to drink.