Kakheti Wine Tour

Kakheti is Georgia’s most famous wine region, and as such, it has an extensive variety of wine-related tourist destinations. On Thursday I took my family on a tour of three.

1. The Alexandre Chavchavadze House Museum in Tsinandali

http://www.tsinandali.com/index_en.html

For 20 lari, you can have a tour of the museum in English, Russian, or Georgian, and a tasting of five locally-produced wines. Our tasting included five wines from Kakhuri, a Telavi-based company: Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Saperavi, Mukuzani, and Kindzmarauli. The wines were all quite good, and the range provides a good introduction to some of the more popular Georgian grapes. Bottles are available for sale from Kakhuri and several other companies in Kakheti.

The museum has extensive garden grounds, where you can stroll around and see a variety of greenery, including a large bamboo thicket. The weather is cooler than Tbilisi and we felt comfortable outside even though it was one of the hottest days of the summer. The Chavchavadze House was a tiny bit disappointing, partially because the tour guide rushed through the tour a bit, but it was definitely an interesting look at how the nobility lived in the 19th century. Still, the highlights were definitely the wine and the garden.

Non-drinkers can do the house tour for 5 lari or just have park access for 2 lari.

2. Wine House Gurjaani

http://winehousegurjaani.ge/

Let me tell you, this place was fantastic. For only ten lari, we had a tasting menu that included Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Chacha, bread, cheese, fresh fruits, adjika, churchkhela, and a bonus of some very delicious Georgian brandy aged 27 years. You can buy bottles of the wines and spirits (20 lari for wine, 50 for the brandy), as well as fresh local churchkhela, gozinaki, adjika, and honey. There are also options for a full tour (which includes demonstrations of making bread, wine, and churchkhela) and a full meal, and the house doubles as a guesthouse with five rooms.

The wines and food were fantastic, and the hospitality was excellent. The people were friendly and welcoming. I give Wine House Gurjaani my highest recommendation.

3. Pheasant’s Tears

http://www.pheasantstears.com/

Pheasant’s Tears gets a lot of local and international press, and justifiably so. We opted for the 25 lari “Pheasant’s Journey” – a tasting of seven wines plus chacha, along with delicious local bread and cheese. Our hosted introduced the grapes and the winemaking process and doled out generous pours of Chinuri, Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Tavkveri Rose, Tavkveri, Saperavi, and Shavkapito. I preferred the whites to the reds, but all were enjoyable and the tasting as a whole did a good job of showcasing the great variety and potential in Georgian dry wines.

After the tasting we decided to stay for dinner, which was very good. There is no fixed menu because dishes are available based on seasonal local produce. We ate khatchapuri, slow-cooked pork, fried potatoes, eggplant with tomato sauce, tomato-cucumber salad, bread, and sour-plum sauce. Wine bottles at Pheasant’s Tears are notably more expensive than other local wines – in the 35 to 60 lari range – but we couldn’t resist buying a few anyway.

Pheasant’s Tears also offers tours of Sighnaghi and some local attractions, tours of their vineyard, and horseback riding. The staff is friendly and multilingual. I highly recommend visiting.

*****

Given another day, I’d like to visit the Alaverdi Monastery and the Kvareli Wine Tunnel. I’ve already visited the Ikalto Academy’s vineyards several times, picked and mashed grapes, and tried wine in various stages of the creation process – so if you’re in Georgia around the harvest time I’d recommend doing that. Kakheti is rich in wine culture.

Of course Kakheti offers much more than wine. The route we took (Tbilisi – Tsinandali – Gurjaani – Sighnaghi – Tbilisi) gave us a taste of the scenery, most notably the view from Sighnaghi. We passed dozens of sites – churches, monasteries, fortresses and museums – that offer unique views of nature, landscape, and historic art and architecture. We didn’t even stop in Telavi, let alone detour off the main roads. You could spend a week touring Kakheti and not see it all.

Please share your own experiences and recommendations in the comments section!

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