We rarely ever think of losing a loved one. They are cherished, protected, and loved. Their absence is rarely ever thought of, as it is painful, and almost never planned for, as we often can’t imagine how life would be without them. The point of this post is not to get you thinking dark thoughts, nor is it to get you emotional – though it probably will – but to show you how beauty comes even out of a huge loss. And as someone who has lost her very beloved father and still mourns his loss years later, this most recent wine tour felt very close to my heart.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited along with a small group of people by 209 Lebanese Wine for an exclusive visit to Château Héritage winery in Kabb Elias. The invite revealed that we would be discovering “a Heritage in a Bottle“. For someone as whimsical as me, that was enough reason to get myself in a car and drive all the way up to Bekaa Valley in order to try this new vintage and hear its story.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted and heartily welcomed by the winemaker, Dr. Dargham Touma. Before we dive into the wine and, of course, its story, allow me to take a moment and describe Dr. Touma. As an engineer with a chronic urge to learn, I found myself in great awe of this man’s long list of degrees. It also took me less than a few moments to surmise that his energy cannot be contained in a single room. He is a man of big presence. His great knowledge, ironic sense of humor, and hunger for life make him a magnetic force. And being a successful winemaker makes it even more impossible not to like him.
Dr. Touma started our tour with stories about the winery’s origins and his humble beginnings in winemaking. For everyone present, his attachment to his father was most apparent. He talked of a father he held “only slightly below God”, who believed in him when even he may have thought his decisions were foolish, and who invested in him blindly though all he had was a young man’s confidence. Dr. Touma is quick to joke about his ego, but his words show how truly humbled he is by all that his father has done for him. Then and there, despite all the laughter and jokes, my steadfast respect for him was rooted.
Our final stop of the tour was the wine tasting, where the whole Château Héritage “family” of wines was waiting for us at the bar. In all, we tried ten wines. There were the six popular and award winning still wines: Rose d’une Nuit, Blanc de Blancs, Nine, Plaisir du Vin, Family Reserve, and the Chateau, along with two dessert wines: a heady Vinoix and a delicious Chocolate wine. But the vintages we had all gathered to try were the two Limited Edition Cuvée Saint Elie, made by Dr. Touma as homage to his late father, Elias Tanios Touma.
The summer of 2014 was the very last harvest that Mr. Touma participated in with his son. According to the tale we were told, his favorite grapes were two that could not be more different: Cinsault, being the oldest red grape grown in Lebanon, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which according to Mr. Touma, is “as resilient as the Lebanese people” since it would grow practically anywhere. Dr. Touma went on to explain that as many of the world’s wineries have a patron saint, Elias Tanios Touma chose Saint Elie to be the guardian of his family and his vines.
The Cuvée Saint Elie Red made the perfect homage to this great father and man. This vintage is a blend of the Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon he harvested in 2014. Deep ruby in color, it expresses a depth of flavor from red to black fruits, balanced with hints of toasty vanilla courtesy of the oak, and holding a long rich finish.
The second special vintage is the Cuvée Saint Elie White, commemorating the very first vines cultivated at Château Héritage: Chardonnay and Viognier. This is a blend I usually enjoy, but I found this white particularly exquisite. It gives off a wealth of elegance and fruity aromas, and is made rich with notes of oak.
Of course, production, professionality, and experience play a major role in winemaking. Yet it is also very real that no two people can produce the same wine even if all factors are made constant, from the grape to the blend to the terroir. Which means that passion and emotions do have a huge impact on a wine. Or, at least, I strongly believe they do. This is what made these fine new vintages immensely enjoyable to me and everyone else who tasted them with me.If you wish to try the Cuvée Saint Elie wines, they are sold exclusively at the winery and on 209 Lebanese Wine. Also, don’t forget to follow me over on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date with my latest blog posts!