We thought it might be interesting while staying in Zahle to do a winery tour of the Caves de Ksara. During the medieval period the site was once home to a fortified palace where the name comes from (Ksara is derived from Ksar which is the Arabic word for palace). Vineyards were planted in the late 17th/early 18th century and in 1857 Jesuit Fathers acquired the land, before selling it to a consortium of Lebanese businessmen in 1973.
In 1990 new management set around transforming the business into a highly successful venture as new grape varieties were introduced. Many of the wines are acclaimed internationally today. Ksara produces white, red, rose, sweet and fortified wines, Arack and Brandy.
The tour starts with a short film (in different languages) upstairs about Ksara. From here you are taken on a tour of the 2km wine cellar caves and after this you can taste the wines in the bar area upstairs.
There is of course a shop where you purchase the wines they produce.
Ksara is open: January to February - Monday to Saturday 9.00 am - 8.00 pm (Excluding January 1st & February 9th). March, November & December - 7 days a week 9.00 am - 5.00 pm (Excluding December 25th & Easter day). From April to October -7 days a week 9.00 am - 6.00 pm (Including public holidays).
The tours last 30-45 mins and are free.
As one of Lebanon's dominant winemaker's - they exported about 1,000,000 bottles of wine in 2005 - Ksara is a good place to do a Lebanese wine tasting. It'll take about 45 minutes to go through the whole tour, during which you'll get to see a small portion of the nearly 2km of caves used for wine storage and aging. I tasted 6 wines and could have tasted their arak as well, but passed.
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Wooden Bakery is a chain of bakeries that operate in Lebanon and they also have 1 branch in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). We decided to eat there in Zahle as it was a short walk along the high street from our hotel and was full of people, always a good sign!
The bakery sells lots of different breads and deli items such as cheese and cold meats, salads, cakes and also has a small area where food such as pizza, sandwiches, fries etc., can be bought and eaten on the premises.
We ordered pizzas which were very good and cheaply priced (at around LL7,000 as I remember), as well as soft drinks and cheesecake.
Favorite Dish: Pizza, cheesecake.
My best suggestion to get to Zahle is to either get a taxi to take you, or rent a car. I rented a car for $30, but driving around Lebanon can be insane. So if you want to have an easier time, just hire a taxi to take you. Plus you will be tasting wine...driving intoxicated around Beirut is a BAD idea.
The Ksara winery houses a shop where wine and arak (Ksarak) are available for purchase. 1/2 bottles, full bottles, and magnums are available for purchase...and at fairly decent prices. 1/2 bottles are $3 or $4. Even the full bottles don't really go above the $20 range.
What to buy: wine
What to pay: $3 to $20