View from our terrace.
Recently we took a little roadtrip to spend some time in Georgia’s sunny wine region. Without any hesitation, we decided to stay in Sighnaghi…because it is just too cute. The rooftops are all red (much like Santa Barbara in California) and the small city is nicknamed the “City of Lovers” in Georgia. I definitely recommend that visitors stay here when visiting the region. It is the most picturesque of the local towns and famous for being a walled city. Just outside town is a nice monastery to visit as well. Although we did not visit it this time, I recall some well kept and impressive gardens.
There are a few hotels that one quickly comes across upon entering the town but we decided to stay in a nice guesthouse…because I wanted to spend the evening on a terrace drinking some nice Georgian wine while enjoying a view of the Alazani Valley. We found the perfect place by asking some women at a small market. It was the same price as the hotel and had a/c, wifi, a private washroom, and the perfect terrace I desired. It was a beautiful warm night that I will never forget.
However, this post is about an afternoon in Khakheti and not a night in Sighnaghi! The afternoon in question is actually the next day. We decided to visit the estate of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze-Tsinandali Estate. Basically there is a museum, hotel, and an opportunity to enjoy some wine. This was the location where Georgian modern wine making began they say. The same wine is still being produced today.
It was nice to visit and I would recommend it to those who like a bit of history. You will have to do a Google search to learn about the actual history as they do not do the best job of explaining things at the site itself without a tour. However, I enjoyed seeing the old mansion and the way some of Georgia’s elite used to live back in the day. There is a tour that may be informative but the English one was not to happen for an hour and I did not want to wait for it. Perhaps it is jam packed with information though. There are nice gardens as well to check out.
The same afternoon, we also went to visit Shumi Winery-which is just next door. We arrived and walked through small vineyard that had over 350 varieties of grapes from Georgia and around the world. Later, our tour guide told us they are used in the lab to experiment with for making new blends. Although usually you take a tour first, we headed right to the wine tasting area and wine shop.
The grounds are very quaint and there were visitors from Germany, China, Russia, and Georgia while we were present. Apparently wine tourism is on the up and up. I am not surprised at all! I asked who the vineyard owners are and was pleased to hear both owners are Georgian. We tasted three wines and all were delicious. It was a super hot day so the misters they had set up around the wine tasting area were very welcome. After the tasting, a tour guide took us through the grounds.
One of the tasting areas
First he took us to an area that showed some of the tools used in making wine in the past (ie a large trough in which grapes were stomped upon by foot!). We also learned about chacha and vodka making. Tourists can sign up for master classes and have more hands on and in depth experiences. Sounds very interesting! Next, we went into a small museum that illustrated how ancient the art of wine-making in Georgia is. Finally, we went to the cellars where we saw the two ways in which wine is made in Georgia.
One is the European and modern way-oak barrels and steel vats into which grapes, yeast, etc is added. This is the way most modern wine around the world is made. Every vineyard I have been to anywhere does it this way.
Traditional wine making methods still in use. Each holds 2,000 litres!
The second way, the traditional Georgian way, is how wine is still made by many in the country. In this method, large clay pots are buried underground and filled with grapes (stems, leaves, and all) and natural yeast etc is added. It is said that this is the most unique manner in which to make wine in the world. Very cool, unique, and unchanged for centuries! I have had a lot of wine in Georgian homes made in this manner and it is much better than what you can buy from the local store in a bottle so something sure is right about it! However, most of Georgia’s professional good stuff is shipped out of the country for foreign markets!
It was a great to visit this Georgian vineyard and learn more about wine making. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and could answer every question we had. We did not have time to visit more vineyards but I will definitely make it a point to do so in the future.
We wrapped up our Khakheti afternoon by then stopping in a nearby local town to buy some delicious freshly made shoti’s puri (bread), local cheese, and fresh fruit that is abundant in the area at this time of year. Our quick picnic in a sunny park fortified us for our drive to Gori where I finally got to see the infamous Stalin museum…but that is for another post! All in all, it was a perfect Khakheti afternoon.