I can’t believe it took me this long to finally visit the restaurant and vineyards at Massaya in Taanayel, Lebanon. The funny part, is that I am originally from an area very near by and my parents live 5 minutes away, yet this summer was the first time I visit this lovely place. Upon arrival I was surprised by the number of tourists who have discovered this gem, many of which were from the GCC.
Located in the heart of the Bekaa valley, Massaya has one of the most popular vineyards in Lebanon. The name “Massaya” means Twilight in Lebanese, and due to the royal blue color of the sky when the sun sets behind Mount Lebanon, they decided to create their signature “Arak” bottle which is a beautiful elongated and very elegantly designed blue bottle. Arak, by the way, is a popular alcoholic drink in Lebanon and specially in the Bekaa Valley where anis seeds are added after the grapes are fermented and distilled; in Massaya’s case the anis seeds used are organic. The area where Massaya’s Arak is fermented is magical, you will see the photos below.
We arrived at the restaurant “Le Relais” which is located in the middle of the vineyard, you have to walk a bit to reach this charming place where all the food is cooked and prepared by housewives of neighboring villages. The menus are set seasonally, and the food was simple and amazing, it was a “back to basics” buffet specific to the Lebanese country side, with dishes like roasted chicken, kibbeh, freekeh, saj goodies,different types of salads, hommus and mtabbal, and many more. Even the sweets were very simple, all Lebanese themed.
Mr. Ramzi Ghosn, one of the owners and winemakers, was an amazing host who accompanied us throughout our visit making sure we had a great meal and a comprehensive tour of the vineyards, the wine reserves, and the boutique, he even explained to us how the Arak is made and how transparent and proud of their products they are. Massaya is one of the very few places where people have access to the entire place, because they have nothing to hide. Everything is of utmost quality. The barrels where the wine is stored is even imported from France from designated suppliers known for the best finishing.
Massaya export 85% of their production to the USA and Europe, their Rosé wine has been listed as one of the top 10 according to The Independent which was one of the reasons I wanted to try it during my visit. To my bad luck they were out of stock everywhere (due to high demand). I ended up trying their white wine which was lovely and appropriate with the meal and the warm weather.
These are the clay jars where the Arak is stored, such a lovely sight, the aroma of the anis seeds was overwhelming.
Massaya’s signature blue Arak bottles.
I wasn’t planning on writing much, I’s rather allow you to enjoy the photos accompanied with bits and pieces of information. I really hope you liked them.
Ramzi Ghosn is very well into social media, you can find Massaya on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to that, their blog and website are updated regularly with images, events, and historical information on wine and the Bekaa Valley. You can spend hours on the website learning about the art of wine making and its history.
I HIGHLY recommend you visit Massaya and enjoy the experience, you will be glad you did.
Thank you Ramzi for an unforgettable day, I will be visiting again very soon, that’s for sure!