To Georgia for Wine
Anyone can go to Georgia to drink wine. It does not take any special skills to fly in, have a drink, and fly out again. All you need to do is open your mouth! Where is the adventure in that? But we are inviting you to make your own wine, and in the way Georgians made it 5,000 years ago. Why don’t you give it a try?
But first you have to get to Tbilisi. The best time is mid-August to the end of October. The weather is magnificent—summer followed by a warm, dry fall.
On the first day, you arrive in the afternoon, toward evening, register at the hotel, and then take a walk around the Old Town district. You dine in a local tavern and then turn in for the night.
The next day, you wake up and go to the Jvari Monastery. This is a must for anyone visiting Georgia for the first time. It is a magnificent shrine of the Christian world. In the 4th century, Saint Nino of Cappadocia , who converted Georgia to Christianity, erected a cross here. It stood high above the city, constantly reminding the people of their faith. In the 6th century, the Jvari Monastery was built at the site (the word “jvari” in Georgian means a cross). The cathedral has survived almost unchanged to the present day. It is a sacred place of worship.
From the top of the hill where the monastery is located a panoramic view opens up of Georgia’s ancient capital, the city of Mtskheta, and the place where the Kura and Aragva rivers converge. In the center of the city are several ancient churches and monasteries. The main one is the Svetitskhoveli Church. It was built on the site of the first Christian church in Georgia erected in the 4th century. We will descend and take a trip into Mtskheta.
Svetitskhoveli is a grandiose cruciform domed cathedral. Its facades are decorated with stone carvings. The ornament of the external walls is intertwined with canonical Christian symbols: crosses, figures of flying angels and elements of traditional Georgian symbols: solar signs and grape vines.
The interior is simple and filled with light. The paintings on the walls were done in the 16th-17th centuries. The relics of Georgian monarchs and czars of the Bagrationi dynasty repose before the altar.
After coming in touch with the eternal, we will move into the 19th century and head for the Chateau Murkhani Wine Factory situated close to Mtskheta. Chateau Mukhrani is one of the leaders in Georgian winemaking. It is located on the grounds of an old palace and winery that belonged to the Bagrationi princes.
The palace and wine cellars have been restored in their original appearance. Here you will hear about the history of Georgian winemaking and the Bagrationi wines.
And of course we will try some.
Here we will have a potluck lunch and then head back to Tbilisi.
In the evening, you can go to the sulphur baths. They are situated in the very center of the Old Town district. Thermal springs have been gushing from under the ground here for thousands of years. This is in fact where Tbilisi began.
As Alexander Pushkin said, “I have never seen anything more magnificent than the Tiflis baths in my life!” and Alexander Duma also liked them. nothing has changed since then.
On the third day, we will set off for the Alazani Valley, located 50 miles away through the mountain pass of Gombori. At the top of the pass, we will make a short stop, open a small keg of saperavi wine, and drink it along with fresh sulguni cheese, herbs, vegetables, and hot lavash bread… then we will continue our journey!
We will stay at the Radisson Tsinandali hotel located at the entrance to the valley.
After checking in, we will continue our excursion.
The same day we visit the Ikalto Monastery (6th century)
and Alaverdi (9th century), which were the largest spiritual and scientific centers of Georgia in the Middle Ages. Here we will learn how the monks made wine in the olden days.
Then we head for the Gremi Fortress (15th century). This beautiful place was the summer residence of the Georgian kings.
Don’t worry about lunch. A table is waiting for us at the Schuchmann Wines & Chateau restaurant...
…famous for its Fuchsian cuisine and fine wines.
After lunch, those who wish may enjoy some wine spa procedures.
Then you may return to the hotel, or you may not… the particularly adventurous can take a ride in a hot air balloon over the Alazani valley. After the ride, you will be initiated as hot air balloonists along with awarding of commemorative diplomas and badges and toasting with champagne. After all that, you may certainly return to the hotel.
Day Four is a special day. It begins with gathering grapes. We will go to the famous Chateau Zegaani vineyard. It is famous in the winemaking world for its own exquisite winemaking recipes, you see.
After gathering grapes, but before we take them to the chateau, we will eat lunch right in the vineyard at a table specially set for us.
It will be accompanied by Georgian folklore music and singing.
After that, we will take our grapes to the chateau, where we will tread them with our feet in satsnakheli—a wine press made from a single oak log. Then we will pour the grape juice into earthenware kvevri. You can take your pick of dry white Rkatsiteli or Mtsvane, or red Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, or Akhasheni.
It is made according to millennia-old traditions in earthenware kvevri, large jugs buried in the ground.
When the wine matures, it will be poured into specially shaped bottles with a label attached bearing the name of its owner. Each participant will be given a special certificate showing that they own their own brand of wine. The wine can be claimed at the beginning of the following year. The owners may either drink it with their friends on the spot, save it for their next trip to Georgia, or ask it to be sent to the address of their tourist operator anywhere in the world.
In the evening, we will have a grape-gathering and winemaking celebration. Some wonderful guys will join us. They will sing…
and dance, and we will listen, watch, and enjoy.
On the fifth day it is time to part, for it was only a long weekend! But I assure you, colleagues, that anyone who has only been to Georgia for five days will soon return and ask for something that lasts 8/7 or 9/8, or even 10/9 days! I can guarantee this 100%. And we even have some special offers on that score. See more…