As with most non-monastic wineries, the beginnings are usually rooted in the romantic and dreamy thought of an impassioned individual. This thought is spurred by a deep love for the final product: wine. Few think to themselves that they would like to start a winery in order to make a million dollars; founder George Naim was no different. As he was inching closer to retirement, he decided to take his long-time passion for wine to the next level by producing his own wine, and in 2004 he began planting cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah vines on a 1 hectare ancestral plot of land. The resulting wine was delicious, perhaps surprisingly, and led to his family and friends encouraging him to take this humble beginning of a winery a small step further: Château Qanafar. It is indeed a small step, as Château Qanafar aims to remain a boutique winery focused on creating one of Lebanon’s finest wines.
Historians consider The Ancient Near East to be the cradle of civilization. It is here in the Neolithic age that humans first developed year-round agriculture, the first alphabets, invented the potter’s wheel, the first centralized governments, codes of law and empires, and laid the foundations for the fields of astronomy and mathematics. On a darker note, it is also here that social stratification, slavery, and organized warfare were developed.
Trade and trade routes form an integral part of human history and development. Evidence suggests obsidian (a volcanic glass) and flint were traded in the Stone Age. Materials used for creating jewelry were traded with Egypt since 3000 BCE. With trade between Mesopotamia and the civilizations of the Indus Valley came the first long-range trade routes, also circa the 3rd millennium BCE. Caravan merchants were primarily responsible for the transportation of goods and the advent of trade through the region. The Silk Road from the East and Incense Road from Arabia converged in the Phoenician ports through which goods continued on as far North as to Roman territories in present day England. Part of the merchants’ journey took them through the Bekaa Valley on their way to and from the Southern Arabian Peninsula and Mesopotamia in the North. They used the trade paths along the Eastern side of the Red Sea up to the Jordan and Bekaa Valleys along the Litani River towards Baalbek, Homs, and Aleppo.
Travelling at night in the summer to avoid the heat of the day, merchants used lighthouses constructed in strategic locations to find their way. One of these locations was what is now the village of Khirbet Qanafar, which was host to one of the highest lighthouses in the region. It is a small village in West Bekaa at the eastern foot of the Barouk Mountain (elevation: approximately 2,000 meters), not far from the majestic Barouk Cedar forest, wood from which the temple of Solomon was built. The village lies at an average altitude of about 1,000 meters, about 3 kilometers south of Kefraya and 5 kilometers north of the charming Lake Qaraoun. The vineyards of Khirbet Qanafar stretch from land near the towns of ‘Ana, Tall Dnoub, and Kefraya.
It is believed that the name Qanafar is an amalgamation of the ancient words, Ano and Pharos. Ano is believed to mean “high” and Pharos, from Greek, meaning “light” or “lighthouse.” Presumably, the village was ravaged by an ancient earthquake, leveling it along with the lighthouse and led to the village being referred to as “the Ruins of Ano Pharos”, translating into Khirbet Qanafar. Of course, historical accounts of a place or event can vary and there are other stories that shed light on Khirbet Qanafar’s history. Château Qanafar has romantically adopted this one!