Today, in Manila living a Travelife, I had a very nice, long, liquid lunch with Ralph Hochar, the 3rd generation owner of Chateau Musar, the most prestigious winery in Lebanon.
It isn’t the biggest producer in the country, but they make the finest wines in a place called the Bekaa Valley, which is actually quite near the Syrian border.
And, yes, you read right. Lebanon.
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A LONG CONVERSATION
WITH THE TRAVEL COMPANION
I was quite skeptical about the idea of Lebanese wines myself until I actually had a glass or two of these to start off lunch on the right foot today. I came in quite late as the Travel Companion had rung me up and we’d practically talked through lunch.
I know it was a very long conversation because when I looked at my phone receiver, which counts the minutes you are talking on the phone, it said something like 39 minutes and 42 seconds after we’d ended the call.
After lunch, I went straight to a meeting with senior officials of Tourism Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur
JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME
So after the phone call, I’d rushed to M Restaurant in Salcedo Village to join the lunch.
Fortunately, everyone was still tasting wines and they were still on the first course when I arrived, so, as usual, I’d manage to have it all. Have a nice chat with the Travel Companion on the phone, do some work and emailing while we were talking, and then making it on time for the wine lunch.
I SO WANT TO VISIT LEBANON
Lebanon has long been at the very top of my travel bucket list ever since I met a dashing young Lebanese diplomat in Tokyo many years ago, who told me wondrous stories about his country and culture. One of these days, I’m actually going to get there.
But in the meantime. I can enjoy Lebanese wines.
I was really impressed with these wines from Chateau Musar, which enjoy quite a cult following worldwide.
WINES TO ENJOY WITH FOOD
Although I have to stress that these are wines that are meant to be enjoyed with food rather than tasted and dissected on their own.
So some wine snobs might have something to say about this.
However, as I really only have wines with food, these were wonderful and perfect, especially with the delicious Arabic-inspired menu that Restaurant M’s chef Tippi Tambunting created for the occasion.
This was one lunch where I ate every single thing on my plate, and I would happily have had seconds.
WHAT A DELICIOUS LUNCH
We had a very nice rose to start, which went well with the pizza and eggplant stick appetizers.
Thin crust pizza topped with
caramelised onions, gruyere cheese and anchovies
Breaded eggplant sticks with Harissa aioli
2012 Chateau Musar Rose
Then, we had two red wines, a 2004 and a 2007 vintage, to go with the pasta.
These, too, were very good, and I especially liked the 2004. As for the pasta, it was simply excellent. I happily broke every real and imagined diet for this pasta.
Tagliatelle with shredded oxtail ragu
and red wine sauce spiced with cumin
2007 Chateau Musar Red
2004 Chateau Musar Red
But what captured my heart was the 1999 red, which we had with the main course of lamb tagine and couscous, along with a 2001 red.
It was strong, exotic, funky, and ever so delicious.
I don’t know how I would feel if I had to drink this wine alone without food; but with the lamb tagine and couscous, I was in heaven.
Lamb tagine with couscous
2001 Chateau Musar Red
1999 Chateau Musar Red
I think I asked the waiter to even pour seconds and thirds as I was so enjoying this wine with this exact dish.
Of course, the tagine and couscous made me think of my recent holiday in Morocco last June, living a never-ending Travelife. And how apt that the Travel Companion and I had just been on the phone minutes before.
On holiday in Morocco last June, living a Travelife
So, of course, I snapped a photo of the lamb tagine and couscous, along with an entire row of empty wine glasses, and I sent it to the Travel Companion via email. I added a little teaser: “Thinking of you and Morocco.”
It was true anyway. This dish made me remember our Morocco trip, especially as we’d had tagine almost every single day in the best restaurants of Morocco.
Cheese & Dessert
Manchego and Brie de Mieux
served with quince paste and grapes
Apple tart with vanilla ice cream
2006 Chateau Musar White
After that 1999 red, we had a very interesting white wine for our cheese and our apple tarts with ice cream. This white wine was nice, but nothing could upstage the 1999 red for me.
And then I had to go, leaving the some of the others still at the table to talk about Travel and Life, and good food and wine.
I had to rush over to the EDSA Shangri-lato meet the senior officials of Tourism Malaysia, visiting from Kuala Lumpur, to talk about Travel and Life, and my never-endingly eventful Travelife.