Last week, Serge Hochar (above right), proprietor of one of the world's most unusual wineries, was in town to do a vertical tasting. His winery is Chateau Musar, improbably located in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. About 7,000 years ago, this area was perhaps the world's first fine wine region, as its products were exported around the Mediterranean, even to Greece, which already bustling with wine. Hochar has managed to steer the winery out of trouble, miraculously guiding it through Lebanon's 15-year civil war of the 1970s and '80s while losing only one vintage (1976).
Known for its ability to age, the wine amazingly not only persists for decades and decades but seems to get better the older it gets and get stronger the longer it's been open. Hochar is a sly, philosophical, humanistic man, who impressed me with the tale of one of his vintages in which he said he made "the perfect wine." He wanted to cry, the wine was so perfect, he said. But before bottling it, he added 1 percent of wine that was not very good. Why? "Because perfection is boring," he said. "Complexity is the combination of things that are perfect with things that are not."
The wines we tasted at Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant, where wine director Mark Bright has a large selection of Musar, were not perfect. But Hochar was right--they were beautiful and complex and, even better, full of character. They were also affordable. Decant them all, red and white alike.