From the war torn hills of Mount Lebanon, Chateau Belle-Vue has arrived in the U.S. Admittedly, Lebanese wines are not new to the U.S. landscape – the widely acclaimed Chateau Musar was founded in 1930 and has been in the international spotlight since 1979. But, this fledgling winery is finding a foothold as it establishes itself in the U.S. market.
Situated just 15 miles from Beirut, the village of Bhamdoun is an unlikely place for new development. In fact, this Christian village in the shadow of Mount Lebanon was a casualty of the war, with many buildings entirely destroyed and remaining buildings merely shells. However, after living abroad for many years, in 1999, the Boutros family decided it was time to return home and resurrect their town.
Thus, Naji and Jill Boutros planted four thousand vines on the former site of the Hotel Belle-Vue, a property which had belonged to Naji’s family for several generations. As news of their enterprise spread, they received village-wide support and became custodians to other properties as well. They now have 60 acres under vine.
Although Bhamdoun was previously known for high quality table grapes, the Boutros chose to focus on wine production instead, growing French varieties on their high altitude, terraced vineyards. Their first vintage debuted in 2003, with the most recent vintage overseen by Lebanese-born, French-trained consultant winemaker, Diane Salame.
Under Diane’s guidance, Chateau Belle-Vue currently makes two wines within the Mont Liban-Bhamdoun appellation – La Renaissance and Le Chateau. The La Renaissance is a Merlot-dominant blend, joined by Cabernet Sauvignon, while Le Chateau brings together an unusual blend of Cabernet Franc and Syrah, with a sprinkling of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tasting through the 2005, 2006 and 2007 vintages of the La Renaissance, my favorite was the 2005, with its aromas of plum, prune, and a hint of oak and spice. The 2006 was rounder and plumper, with tighter tannins, while the 2007 had a beautiful nose, but needed more time to resolve its tannin structure. The Le Chateau displayed notes of black cherry, herbs, leather and spice.
For now, the only wine available in the New York area is the La Renaissance 2005, but the newer vintages are expected to be available in New York early in 2014.
A short list of on- and off-premise places to pick up Chateau Belle-Vue includes:
- Ambassador Wines & Spirits
- The Bottlenose Wine Co. (NB: Even though it is not listed on the website, they have it.)
- Ilili Restaurant
- The Fez (Stamford CT)
with additional placements expected shortly.