Chateau Cana

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Hidden

In steep and wild country in the heart of Mount Lebanon, on the border of Bhamdoun and Ras el-Harf, just 15 minutes from Aley, you’ll find a hidden gem – Chateau Cana.

Chateau Cana overlooks the valley eloquently celebrated by French poet, writer and traveller Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) in his book “Voyage en Orient”, and named Lamartine Valley in his honour. The vineyard stretches over ancient terraced slopes and enjoys an exceptional climate, with little rainfall and 300 days of sunshine annually, all in the heart of a serene and peaceful pine valley.

But before being a wine project, Chateua Cana is foremost an economic and social development project.
Dentist-by-day, winemaker-by-weekend, Fadi Gerges established Chateau Cana in 2001, with the aim of encouraging villagers to return to their lands. He began by distributing free vine plants and advice to voluntary families. The initial investment, including construction and equipment, was nearly $3 million.

Today, the business brings together 160 families from 32 different villages and employs 20 people full-time. It is truly a community and commercial success.

 

Planting

Through this initiative, Fadi Gerges hoped to reignite a viticulture that had all but disappeared from the district.
“If people want to come back to their properties, they need something to occupy them. The government helped people rebuild their homes, but then what? The best way, I thought, was to go back to the land. To plant roots, literally and spiritually.”

On this beautiful site, the people of the nearby villages once made dibs (molasses) and sweet wine for the church, and farmers would bring their grapes to make arak.

It was time for a return to those roots.

Gerges decided on a wine production venture because the area has a grape culture, arak production and wine making tradition that stretches back over 100 years.

While living in France, Gerges was a proficient amateur arak-maker. His friends encouraged him to develop his hobby into a business. Making wine was a natural progression.

Gerges planted his first vines in 1998, grafting Cabernet Sauvignon onto 40 year-old rootstock.

In 1999, he received modest funding from the EU and set about ordering 120,000 vines from Mercier, France.
They were offered to the local farmers in Bhamdoun, Ras el-Harf, Mansourieh and Tachtounieh.
Gerges and his team taught the farmers the basics of growing vines, and bought the crop at market rates.
Initially, farmers were slow to join, wanting quicker returns. Now, with Lebanon’s burgeoning wine industry, Chateau Cana has many hectares of vines planted between Bhamdoun and the Beqaa.

Cana

The winery is profitable thanks mostly to its exports: Chateau Cana sells 75% of its production abroad – UK, France, USA, Asia …

Chateau Cana produces between 200,000 – 300,000 bottles of wine per year – and even makes wines for other grape-growers. The winery continues to produce arak.

Chateau Cana is open by appointment for wine-tasting tours, lunches and functions in the beautifully restored traditional stone building, with its panoramic views and laid-back ambience.

Wild Mountain

The stony clay-limestone soil surrounding Chateau Cana is planted with Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah, as well as Mourvèdre and even Pinot Noir.

The wines that result from these vineyard conditions, aided by up to the minute technical wine-making, offer a blend of wild mountain fruit aromas mixed with dry herbs and spice, and sophisticated smooth-textured tannins.

The climate of the valley is very variable, which is why each vintage is so different. A mild wet winter with some cold spells; the spring is warm but often foggy; a hot summer humid until mid July and then drier – daytime and night time are generally more contrasted in August thereby accelerating the ripening of the grapes while preserving their aromatic freshness – the beginning of autumn is usually sunny with cooler temperatures.

"One day I hope the whole mountain will be covered with vines."

Fadi Gerges

Most of Château Cana’s vines are planted on gravely hilltops. The fortunate combination of layers of gravel on the surface and clay subsoil result in the quality of vines, particularly developing deep root systems. Also, the presence of lower layers of clay that capture water in the subsoil ultimately provide the vines with a sufficient amount of water to survive during the driest periods of the year.

The vineyard is planted with about 60% of Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% of Sabbaghieh, and 10% of Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon is the best grape variety of the vineyard; it is perfectly at home in the poor gravely soil. These conditions give the wine concentration color and tannic structure. The Sabbaghieh is a local type of grape characterized by red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries; it has the potential to develop vegetal and “barnyard” aromas that can contribute to the complexity of the wine. The Chardonnay plays a regulation role tempering the strength of the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Vines with a

Although a little off the beaten track, Chateau Cana is worth discovering – whether for its magnificent wines, traditional architecture or stunning views of the Lamartine Valley.

Chateau Cana

When & Where

When

Open most days for wine-tasting –  phone for opening hours 81 340 043

Where

Bhamdoun – Ras el-Harf

Heather & Sami Eljurdi

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