Food & Wine: Owner’s Personal Picks – Underrated Wines
The Lek family, who loves a good underdog wine, curated a wine list for The Luzerne that includes cult favorites and boutique winery selections.
As a family-owned hotel, The Luzerne is created as a space where the elements of art and life so valued by the Lek family are brought together and shared with our guests. Amongst these many things are the family’s love for universally soulful comfort food, as well as their appreciation for an honest underdog wine.
Some of the Lek family’s favorite family dishes are incorporated into the menu at The Luzerne’s Lek San restaurant. Likewise, they have also navigated far and wide in the wine world to pick out the most interesting wines for the hotel’s menu.
“This personally curated wine list – a selection never before seen in Dehua – features highly rated, under-the-radar wine from our regional neighbors and wineries beyond old-world Europe.”
Representative of The Luzerne’s wine list are two wine selections that are worth highlighting. The first, a traditional cult favorite from the ancient wineries of Lebanon – and closer to home, a “Chinese red” from a modern family-owned boutique winery in Shanxi, China. Both wines are unique in their origins and speak so much about the place, period and culture from where they are vinified. As a compendium to your personal tasting, we thought we should share their stories with you.
Gaston Hochar’s Château Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
In 1930, after twenty-year-old Gaston Hochar travelled through Bordeaux, the wine mecca in France, he returned and set up his winery, Châuteau Musar, in the southern Beqaa Valley region of Lebanon. Most famously, Hochar drew attention from the world when he presented a 1967 vintage that won the 1979 Bristol wine fair. Château Musar immediately gained cult status in the wine world.
The wine world is often divided into “old world” and “new world”, but Lebanese wine is more correctly in a category of its own as wine from the “ancient world”. As one on the oldest sites in the world for wine production, grapevines grow abundantly in Lebanon’s coastal strip. Châuteau Musar’s methods of wine production, however, is anything but orthodox despite its geographical origins.
A forerunner of “natural winemaking”, Château Musar’s bottles are expressively inconsistent due to their intentionally variegated vintaging processes, partly influenced by Lebanon’s political realities that often dictated when grapes can be harvested safely. Its “quirky” reputation is also why Château Musar’s wines are highly collectable. Every bottle is different and each one is as much about taste as its idiosyncrasies.
The remarkable vintage that The Luzerne has acquired from this Lebanese winery is the 2000 Château Musar. This eponymous flagship red is made with classical Bordeaux grape varieties, usually fermented in concrete, aged for a year and rested in the cellars for at least three years. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault, its tasting notes are: tight, bright and tannic, astringent on the finish, rustic and earthy, and voluptuous while well-laced with barnyard notes.
Grace Vineyard: Chairman’s Reserve 2013, Shanxi
The idea of a Chinese red is kind of unusual, but the little-known fact is that China has been producing wine since 1892 with vines imported from California. Yet, winemaking in China has never earned a serious reputation for quality. All that is changing, however, with Grace Vineyard paving the way for a new wave of boutique wineries that are emerging in China.
Grace Vineyard is known as the producer of the first fine red wine in China, focusing on small-scale production that emphasizes quality over quantity. With only 20 years of experience, the boutique winery has already won several awards in Europe and their wines are frequently picked up by five-star hotels.
Founded by Indonesian-Chinese tycoon Chan Chun-Keung in 1997, Chan wanted Grace Vineyard to be the first family-owned vineyard in China. Known for producing the first fine red wine in the country, Grace Vineyard focuses on small-scale production that emphasizes quality over quantity.
The winery’s vineyards are located in the Shanxi province, between Taihang Mountain and Lu Liang Mountain, where moderate climate, abundant sunshine and well-drained soil produce the right aptitude for growing grapes.
With barely 20 years of experience, the family-owned boutique winery has won several awards in Europe and its wines are frequently picked up by five-star hotels. Despite the recognition, Chan’s intentions for Grace Vineyard are humble. He wants these vineyards to be patiently cultivated by the family for generations, fully aware that making high-quality wine requires time, stamina and devotion.
Now helmed by Chan’s daughter, Judy, Grace Vineyard produces a diverse portfolio of wines each year, from Bordeaux blend wines to more experimental varieties like Aglianico and Marselan.
The Luzerne's choice from Grace Vineyard is their flagship wine, the Chairman's Reserve 2013, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Its tasting notes are: cedar, black/red berries spice bouquet and cassis complemented with velvety and silky tannins with medium to full body palate to finish.