Vertical 33

My name is Eid Azar, a medical doctor, passionate about good authentic food and wine, trained in NYC as an infectious-disease specialist.
I returned to Lebanon in 2007. In 2011, hiking one day on Mount Kneiseh, I was happily surprised by pre phylloxera wild “Obeidi” grapes surviving years of neglect in decaying terraces. Until the mid-1950’s, that village called Remtanieh had been thriving, planted with grapes on the Damascus road, with east sun exposure and superficial water fed by the melting snow, at a height of 2100m. The site, having survived modernization (i.e., pesticides and tractors), had been abandoned because economically it was not viable. Excited, I teamed with two great friends, Dr. George Cortas and Mr. Joseph Ghossein, and we started buying lands in the area. In March 2012, while wine tasting in Vosne-Romanée at the “cave” of Yves Confuron, our discussion naturally led to the possibility of planting Pinot Noir grapes at this cold, high climate of Mount Lebanon. Forty days later, Yves visited the site and became our friend and partner and the journey began.

We are located very far south at latitude 33, but Mount Lebanon has compensating altitudes, which makes our mountain a conglomerate of microclimates. A simple example of this diversity: we plant bananas and oranges at coastal levels, pine and olive trees on mid-altitude hills, and there are cedars at the top of the mountains. This diversity was never taken seriously by our local wine industry. Grape varieties and growing sites were commonly mixed, for example grapes coming from altitudes of 800 m, with west exposure and humid climates were mixed with those coming from 1100 m altitude of the drier continental climate of the Bekaa valley. Single varieties planted in a specific microclimate grown and fermented in minimalist conditions are mandatory conditions to express a “sense of place”.

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