The vines of Chateau Kefraya were planted on the terraced slopes of Mount Barouk in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley by Michel de Bustros who, in the 1940’s already saw the potential of the region’s dazzling array of micro-terroirs. Today these micro-terroirs and the varietals cultivated in them produce the base wines for the estate’s carefully crafted blends, complex symphonies transcribing the local soil, climate, vintage and varietal. Winemaking in this part of the world is not always easy. But through a 15-year civil war, followed by an age of political uncertainty, Chateau Kefraya has persevered, eternally committed to quality of their wines, which today serve as proud ambassadors to Lebanon in over 40 export markets.
The Legacy of the Visionary Michel de Bustros
Chateau Kefraya was founded by a visionary man by the name of Michel de Bustros, who saw the potential of a terroir and decided to act on his instinct. The terroir in question? An artificial hill used by the Romans many centuries ago as a military observation point. The construction of the castle began in 1946 and five years later the first vines were planted. This was back-breaking labor, requiring that the land first be cleared and terraces dug out on the wall of a mountain up to 1100 m in elevation. Despite the turmoil of the Lebanese Civil War, which raged on between 1975 and 1990, Chateau Kefraya remained dedicated to tending to these vines and nursing them to maturity until, in 1979 the team began to produce the estate’s own wine from fruit grown and vinified on the property.
Chateau Kefraya is an estate that has proven that enough passion and dedication can overcome even the most challenging of obstacles. Because of the winery’s location in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, the possibility of war breaking out is almost constant. In 2006, for example, the Israeli strikes on Lebanon led to bombing raids right around the time of the grape harvest but fortunately the 5-week war ended right in time for the pickers to finish their work. In a country where war can threaten to wipe out an entire vintage or even several in a row, Chateau Kefraya has consistently produced wines that offer a beautifully genuine expression of its unique local terroir.
During the 1980’s, the wines of Chateau Kefraya gained international attention, especially for the 1982 and 1983 vintages of the “Les Coteaux de Kefraya” cuvee. In 1997, the winery received a 100-point rating from Robert Parker for the Comte de M 1996. Today, Chateau Kefraya exports to over 40 countries. The vineyards are surrounded by a 4,000 estate, which includes orchards, gardens, fountains and arboreta. The estate also includes a restaurant offering visitors the chance to enjoy the wines paired with a gourmet menu, while taking in stunning views of the Bekaa Valley.
Sustainably Managed, Terraced Vineyards
The Chateau Kefraya vineyard expands over 300 hectares of terraced slopes, located at an elevation of 100 m on the foothills of Mount Barouk in the Bekaa Valley wine growing region of Lebanon. The vineyard grounds are home to a rich mosaic of soil types, with some vines planted in clay-limestone or clay-chalk, while others grow in sandy or gravelly soils. They grow at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare, producing a relatively low yield of 35 hectoliters per hectare. The terraced vineyard slopes enjoy an ideal exposure to sunlight and high degrees of thermal amplitude between night and day. They rely on only natural water sources, as the sustainable viticultural practices chosen at Chateau Kefraya do not allow for irrigation. The vines are treated with a minimal intervention policy, following the core philosophy of the late founder Bustros, one which encourages a biodiversity of naturally occurring organic life as a way to build a healthier natural ecosystem around the vines. The diversity of the vineyard’s micro-terroirs allow for the cultivation of a wide range of grape varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Carmenere, Marselan and Muscat a Petits Grains.
The Symphony of the Blend
An avid fan of painting and opera, Bustros saw the creation of each of his wines as a complex yet harmonious symphony in which blending is key. And as the artist mixes the colors on his palette, the composer the vocal ranges of his singers, the winemaker blends grapes of different varieties and terroirs of origin to produce a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The harvest is carried out manually on the vineyards of Chateau Kefraya, with careful attention paid to the level of ripeness achieved by the fruit. At the cellar, the grapes pass through an optical sorting table, before they are stored in vats of different sizes. Each micro-parcel is vinified separately to produce a base wine that will later be included in the final blend. After a meticulous blending session, the final composition is transferred to French oak barrels and aged in the 1000-barrel capacity cellar of the estate.
The Chateau Kefraya Portfolio
The Chateau Kefraya portfolio includes several different ranges, each encompassing a variety of styles. Perhaps the most emblematic wines of the estate are its namesake Chateau Kefraya wines, designed to offer complex expressions of the property’s wealth in micro-terroirs. The Chateau Keyfraya red is the estate’s very first wine, made from 22 hectares of 30-year-old vines and is made by blending Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre, which is then matured in oak barrels for 18 to 24 months. This wine’s white alter ego blends Chardonnay and Viognier in an elegant and complex white wine, alongside a rosé made with Lebanese Cinsault and Tempranillo. Les Breteches is the estate’s second label, offering lighter, fresher wines that match any occasion, available in red, white and rosé.
Chateau Kefraya also produces a range of elegant and aromatic signature wines, which pair very well with culinary experiences but can stand alone as a centerpiece in a simple, casual atmosphere. These wines include Les Coteaux (Syrah, Marselan and Cabernet Franc blend with slight hints of oak), the Blanc de Blancs (a trio of Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat a Petits Grains with beautiful floral notes of acacia and lily) and the Myst rosé (Lebanese Cinsault and Syrah housed in a feather-shaped bottle to echo its freshness).
Finally, the Comte de M and Comtesse de M are two wines paying tribute to the Phoenicians, who once made wine in the Bekaa Valley over 4,000 years ago to export around the Mediterranean Sea. The Comte de M is a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah produced from grapes grown on a 9-hectare vineyard at an altitude of 1,100 meters. The final blend is matured in French oak barrels for 24 months to achieve a complex bouquet of black fruits, along with a very smooth palate. Blushing bride to the Comte, the Comtesse de M is made from the very best Chardonnay and Viognier grapes of the estate, harvested from a 3-hectare estate. Matured in French oak barrels for up to 24 months, this wine is truly timeless, simultaneously rich and delicate.