Michel de Bustros, founder and CEO of Chateau Kefraya dies, age 87

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• Founded Lebanon’s iconic winery in 1978, during the civil war

• The winery survived conflict and occupation

• Created Comte de M, the first Lebanese wine to receive 91 points by Robert Parker

Michel de Bustros, founder and CEO of Château Kefraya died on Monday August 8. He was 87. A dedicated environmentalist, Michel de Bustros first started planting vines on his family’s Kefraya estate in the 1950’s. They would be the foundation of what would, in 1978, become Chateau Kefraya, one of Lebanon’s most prestigious and acclaimed wines. Starting a winery is a brave decision at the best of times, but when your country is three years into a civil war, it might seen like madness. But it is a testament to Mr. de Bustros’s persistence and entrepreneurial daring that he was able to sustain the business, through conflict and occupation – In 1982, the winery was occupied and its French winemaker taken hostage – and grow it into the household name it is today. De Bustros was determined to highlight the quality of the Bekaa Valley’s formidable terroir. Eschewing New World fashion, he insisted on blending his wines, all of which were made from grapes grown on his own 300ha estate in the Western Bekaa Village of Kefraya. In 1996, he created the Comte de M, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah aged up to 18 months in new French oak barrels. The wine caught the attention of Robert Parker, who awarded the 1996 vintage 91 points, a first for any Lebanese wine, describing it as ‘‘an amazing accomplishment in Lebanon’’. “Michel was a warrior and a visionary”, said Lebanese wine writer Michael Karam. “He never took no for an answer and refused to surrender even when his vines were caught in the crossfire of conflict. Lebanon has lost a giant of a man, one whose refusal to concede an inch of ground for his principles was tempered by gentleness and compassion.” Michel de Bustros used the winery’s success to promote his two other passions: opera and art. The winery gardens and the famous Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blancs were both named after composers and their heroines respectively, while each new label of the Chateau wines were decorated with paintings by prominent Lebanese women artists. Michel de Bustros called his winery “the work of a lifetime” but there is no doubt that his family and his numerous friends will continue to celebrate his life, his vision, his passion and his humanity with every sip of the wine he created. www.chateaukefraya.com

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