lebanese wine growingWhile working on our forthcoming San Diego Wine Guide, we had the opportunity to talk to many courageous winemakers who gave up lucrative, comfortable careers for the rigors and uncertainties of growing grapes and making wine. But these profiles in courage pale in comparison to Syria and Lebanese winemakers who struggle against religion and war as well as the elements.

In his high-rise office in Beirut, Sandro Saade carefully chews a merlot grape from a vineyard hundreds of miles away in war-ravaged Syria, trying to determine if it is ripe enough to order the start of the harvest.

It’s too dangerous for him to travel to the vineyards of Domaine de Bargylus, which is nestled in verdant hills where wine has been produced since ancient times. But despite the bloody conflict and the threat of Islamic extremists, he is determined to produce world-class wines, and to help preserve a Levantine cosmopolitanism imperiled by decades of war….We are passionate about this, and we aren’t stopping. We will continue as much as we can,” Saade said. “The challenge is not just to make wine, but to maintain a high quality wine.

The quest for beauty has inspired many to risk much throughout history. Sometimes that quest involves painting pictures with alcoholic grape juice—another reminder that wine is not just a beverage.