When Nature calls....
We had already tried many times to organize a visit to Iris Domain but unfortunately, we could not match a date convenient to all. This time though, we booked it long in advance and planned it impatiently with the owner Sarmad Salibi.
And on this Orthodox Easter Sunday we climbed to Btalloun, just next to Bhamdoun, in the heart of the Lebanese mountains, where Sarmad was waiting for us with his cowboy hat, look and style and very nice welcome.
We did not expect what we were discovering. In this timeless place, nature takes over. Our first steps were in a platform field with rustic character where, in the shade of majestic oaks, surrounded by a variety of plants, flowers and herbs are placed some beautifully sculpted wooden tables, chairs and benches.
To their left a professional large barbecue bar. And in the inside, a buffet room and a very well-equipped kitchen. We continued few steps further and there, in a large circled space Sarmad has created a dedicated place for fire camp with a very cozy seating all around.
We then learnt that this space, apart from lunches and dinners, is also lent for occasional events or for Jazz concerts under the stars.
The scene was set.
From there Sarmad guided us directly to his vineyard and specifically to where we can contemplate the magic flower that gave its name to the domain.
The Iris Sofarana. He started telling us the story of his domain that belonged to his grandfather, and his passion for nature and its jewels and you can quickly tell that Sarmad is very much attached to his land. Although he travelled a lot, Sarmad, a lover of the roots, returned home to produce his organic wine. He wanted to give his wine a name that points out to the mountain and to rarity. He learned about the Iris Sofarana which is endemic to Lebanon.
This beautiful and big Iris spotted with purple on bluish-white background, with a span easily reaching 12cm, owes its name to summer resort Sofar where it was discovered by Hartmann about 100 years ago. It grows only in Lebanon where its survival is seriously threatened by excessive picking. It can be found, very seldomly in the region of Sofar and Falougha. Sarmad got obsessed by this flower to a point where he has teamed up with an agronomist to revive the cultivation of the Iris Sofarana, which he is replanting as he goes on his land, with an objective of placing few plants one day in the Lebanese Natural reserve to preserve them for future generations.
And there he goes. He had a name for his wine “Iris Domain”.
He chooses to maintain his land and vineyard and grow the grapes as organically as possible. Because, he says “my children play between the trees and pick things from the floor so I wish to offer them a healthy environment”.
His land, in this part of the mountain has a high proportion of clay which allows the plants to extract the most nutrients from the soil. The first vintage is drawn in 2007 and after aging in oak barrels, the first vintage of the estate, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot, is put on the market in 2010. Passionate about wine, Sarmad releases a vintage only if he is convinced of the quality of his wine. Currently he produces only one red wine but he is gradually experimenting new blends and varieties of grapes and he will soon release his first white wine.
When we finished the tour, we headed back to the platform, passing by his chicken coop where he is raising beautiful exotic chickens that lay colored blue eggs.
Lunch was prepared and served by the chef of the restaurant Bergerac. Tasty salads and mixed barbecues.
Not to forget the delicious deserts.
All accompanied by the great Iris Domain red wine of which we tried 2 vintages 2009 and 2011, both of excellent quality.
The weather started deteriorating, so we even enjoyed the camp fire corner between friends.
Obviously we did not leave without carrying with us few crates of this delicious wine and we promised that we will be revisiting this Domain soon in the summer.
Thank you Sarmad for what you are and for this beautiful plot of greenery. Keep up the good work on the nature, on the Iris and on the quality wines.