Mis à jour : 25 août 2018
The flag of Elegant Wine and Uncompromising Quality
We were following Joe very closely for so long, as he is very active and vocal promoting Lebanese quality wines, and we were mainly eager to discover his own wines. But we did not want to taste them anywhere else but in his domain. And after many unsuccessful attempts to visit, Joe called us one day and invited us with some of his friends and wine professionals to TJ’s village.
On our arrival to his Qanafar domain, a beautiful village with a breathtaking view over the Bekaa west and Mount Hermont, we had the pleasure to meet Joe who immediately handed us a welcome drink… a glass of TJ’s Rosé.
Well, actually the tasting had already started on the spot…and we had to tell which Rosé we like better: the 2016 which is of a rather standard International taste, or the 2017 which is more of a Rosé de Provence. The latter got our preference.
Then we sat down to get to know more, but Joe suggested we move to the tasting room where he can tell us the whole story, and so we did.
Our first question was: why TJ?
Joe tells us that TJ are the initials of his son Tarek Joe who used to work at Microsoft in Seattle and was very interested in wine, but whose life was cut short at the age of 29, six years ago, in a diving accident. This is what led him to call the wine TJ, and then “Terre Joie” which is kind of reference to Lebanon as a Land of joy but also to the Saadé family which in Arabic means Joy or happiness. Moreover TJ’s red wine is called fLuR. This was Tarek's nickname on social networks.
The soil and the environment The subjective but objective opinion of Joe is that Kherbet Qanafar and the Bekaa West in general have the best combined soil and climate for vineyards in Lebanon.
Indeed, the region is subject to two thermal currents, and two streams of air: the one coming from the desert of Syria and the one coming from the sea. The platform is actually bordered by two peaks: Mount Hermont culminating at 2875m, and the Chouf’s mountain at 1840m. The warm wind and the humid wind have time to cool down and lose humidity before descending on this part of the Bekaa. This is the narrowest part of the Bekaa. Also bordered by a small mountain chain Jabal Aarbi at 1450m.
The climate is therefore dry, with the surrounding Litani river and Qaraoun lake, and usual cold and snowy winters 2 years out of 3.
The other phenomenon that is also of importance is that the area is seated on the geological core point where Africa and Asia meet. Joe built a tipi on purpose to indicate the point in the soil of his TJ village.
Thanks to this phenomenon, there are nutrients in the deep soil that do not exist anywhere else and that enrich the vine. A specific study done in the United States on a similar spot has shown that there are totally different and specific elements in the soil that cannot be found elsewhere.
History and wine The adventure and passion for wine began 10 years ago. Joe was initially in the advertising business. A company that he founded in 1986 and sold in 2002. Then while he went living in Dubai with his family, he and a friend Georges Naïm (Château Qanafar) started to get interested by the wine. And they decided to do an attempt and convert their passion. So in 2006, at the initiative of Georges, they made a first and conclusive production test. And in 2007 they visited the “Vinitech” show in France and they decided to go ahead further in the wine production.
Joe started to plant his vines, but, at the same time, did not want to do things lightly so he decided to take a course. He took classes at UC Davis in California. Then he met people from the OIV (Organisation Internationale du Vin). So, he enrolled and followed the 2 years Master class, which consists of a traveling experience in several countries, discovering vineyards, wineries and winemakers’ expertise and knowhow.
Today Joe’s domain extends on 23000m at the level of his TJ village at an altitude of 1000m and another 55000m @1400m. And although he does not have his own winery, he currently rents a space in the winery of his friend, Château Qanafar, vinifies his grapes and produces his wines, his way, with his own teams.
In general, to grow his vines, Joe uses American roots grafted on French plants. His first visit to Chinon and Pomerol pushed him to work the Cabernet Franc rather than Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. And his first commercial vintage of 2013 is a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 55% Merlot, an unusual combination in Lebanon.
The 2014 vintage won the Silver medal at the International Wine Challenge with a score of 91/100. It will be in the Lebanese market at the Vinifest of October 2018. At 1300m he planted Grenache for his Rosé. And @1400m he bought a vineyard of Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon of 30 years old, facing Mount Hermont. Old vines of deep roots intended for fine wines. The single varietal Cinsault will also be launched at Vinifest, while the Cabernet Sauvignon will be announced later.
Joe produces his wines with the assistance of the very well-known French oenologist David Ciry.
Currently the production is 20’000 bottles and he does not want to exceed 30’000. His priority is to continue producing quality wines, with a different taste intended for wine lovers who appreciate good wines.
And indeed, this is what we had the pleasure to discover when we started tasting “fLuR” the red wine. A full-bodied wine of character, rich and smooth, aged 16 months in French oak. “fLuR” is an excellent wine made with passion.
We really enjoyed our visit to TJ’s village, meeting Joe and discovering his elegant wine full of heart and soul and uncompromising quality, definitely a wine to share.
Thank you, Joe, for your hospitality and kindness and keep up the good work. We greatly appreciate it.