Faouzi Issa and his family, in partnership with another family, own Domaine des Tourelles, Lebanon’s oldest commercial winery. Faouzi, his sisters and his business partner Emile run the winery themselves. They also produce Arak Brun, one of the country’s most famous Arak brands, at the winery using their grapes and aniseed imported from Syria.
My day starts at 7.00am with a quick shower. I don’t have breakfast and spend a few minutes playing with our young baby if he is awake. At 7.30am I leave the house in Beirut and travel to the Bekaa Valley where the winery is located. The trip takes around 35 minutes door to door.
On my way to work I use the time to make three important daily phone calls – the first to my father to give him a daily update on everything at the winery; the second to my wife Ruba to wake her up and have a chat about her plans for the day; and the third to Georges, the maître de chai at the winery to give him the list of tasks for him and his team for the day. I also use the time to think about what I have to do during the day, mentally preparing for any meetings. I put all the jobs for each day into my iPhone the evening before so I don’t forget anything!
I arrive at the office between 8 and 8.30, make coffee and then deal with the urgent emails for the first hour. At 9.30 I do my daily tour of the winery checking the tasting tanks, barrels, any experiments we are running, and checking on all activities such as bottling, the distillery, work outdoors.
I have at least 2 hours of technical work each day, such as preparing the calendar of wines under preparation, laboratory work, training my team for several activities in the winery, visiting the vines (it’s pruning season at the moment), checking out new places we could be planting vines, stock checks with the inventory team, submitting orders etc.
Every day I have 2-3 meetings planned, plus there are always people who stop by for unscheduled meetings for example new or past customers or suppliers.
Around 1pm I stop for half an hour to have lunch with my sister in the garden of the winery. We generally eat something that I or my wife have cooked. Then it’s back to the office where I switch from being winemaker to sales person. I handle the commercial department of the winery so I have to check on all the sales figures locally and internationally. We export to 15 countries and I have to follow up with all of our clients in other markets. I also have to produce any reports that are needed and deal with my emails again (I always have a busy inbox!).
The afternoon often brings visitors to the winery so either my sister or I will give them the guided tour. We love sharing the history of our winery – we grew up living nearby and it’s always been part of our lives so it seemed natural for our two families to buy it when the last living relatives of the founder weren’t interested in taking it on.
My work day usually ends at around 6pm when I set off back for Beirut. I listen to music to unwind after my long day at work before arriving home. I shop each day for the food we need for whatever we are cooking for dinner – my wife and I love cooking and trying new recipes. We might not be professionals but we are certainly adventurous in the kitchen.
Before starting to cook I help my wife bathe our baby boy which gives me a chance to switch from work back to family and home.