Georgia – Cradle of Wine
It has been archaeologically proven that the roots of Georgian viticulture are between 7000 and 5000 BC, when peoples of South Caucasus discovered that wild grape juice turned into wine when it was left buried through the winter in a shallow pit. This knowledge was nourished by experience, and from 4000 BC Georgians were cultivating grapes and burying clay vessels, kvevri, in which to store their wine ready for serving at perfect ground temperature. When filled with the fermented juice of the harvest, the kvevris are topped with a wooden lid and then covered and sealed with earth. Some may remain entombed for up to 50 years. Wine and grapevine have both acquired special meaning for Georgian nation. They both became indivisible part of their culture. Wine bears important role for Orthodox Christianity. It is associated with Jesus Christ’s blood during fulfillment secret of commune. This tradition takes its authorship by Christ when he shared his “blood and meet” (wine and bread) with 12 apostles on secret feast. Grapevine is an important element even in the legend of Georgian Christianity. The saint Nino who brought Christianity in Georgia, was armed with Grapevine Cross tied by her curls. Georgia is well known by its folklore also and many of them glory vine. I would highlight “You are Grapevine”, the hymn composed by Demetre, son of Georgian king David the Builder. One can find vine ornaments on the walls and facades of Georgian churches and monasteries.
Day 1 Tbilisi – David Gareji – Sighnaghi
Today we will drive to the east Georgia. We will visit David Gareji cave complex (UNESCO heritage). The complex was founded in the 6th century by David (St. David Garejeli), one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. His disciples Dodo and Luciane expanded the original lavra and founded two other monasteries known as Dodo’s Rka (literally, “the horn of Dodo”) and Natlismtsemeli (“the Baptist”). The monastery saw further development under the guidance of the 9th-century Georgian saint Ilarion. The convent was particularly patronized by the Georgian royal and noble families. The 12th-century Georgian king Demetre I, the author of the famous Georgian religious hymn Thou Art a Vineyard, even chose David Gareja as a place of his confinement after he abdicated the throne. Afterwards drive to Sighnaghi Love town. On the way we will have a stop at Bodbe monastery of St. Nino. According to Georgian tradition, St. Nino, having witnessed the conversion of Georgians to the Christian faith, withdrew to the Bodbe gorge, in Kakheti, where she died c. 338-340. At the behest of King Mirian III (r. 284-361), a small monastery was built at the place where Nino was buried. The monastery gained particular prominence in the late Middle Ages. It was particularly favored by the kings of Kakheti who made choice of the monastery as the place of their coronation. Pillaged by the troops of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615, the Bodbe monastery was restored by King Teimuraz I of Kakheti (r. 1605-1648). With the revival of monastic life in Bodbe, a theological school was opened. The monastery also operated one of the largest depositories of religious books in Georgia and was home to several religious writers and scribes. In Sighnaghi we will visit Local wine cellar “Pheasant’s Tears”, where we taste 4 sorts of wine and 1 sort of “Chacha” with bread and cheese. Then drive to the village Tibaani nearby to visit local farmer’s cellar and visit family wine cellar with wine and “Chacha” tasting. Have dinner there and drive back to Sighnaghi. Sighnaghi and its environs are home to several historical and cultural monuments and has been specifically protected by the State since 1975. The town is walled with the remnants of 18th-century fortifications. There are two Georgian Orthodox churches in the town itself – one dedicated to St. George and the other to St. Stephen. The local Ethnographic and Archaeological Museum dating from the 1950s was upgraded and developed into a modern-standard exhibition – the Sighnaghi Museum – in 2007.
Overnight in Sighnaghi.
Day 2 Sighnaghi – Gurjaani – Telavi
After breakfast from Sighnaghi we will drive to Gurjaani. On the way we make some sightseeing, visit Gurjaani All saints’ Church, which is the only two domed church in Georgia. Visit Gurjaani wine cellar. We will make Excursion, with tasting of 2 sorts of wine and “chacha”, Georgian bread “Shoti”, Imeretian cheese “Sulguni” and season fruit. There is 2 centuries old press (equipment used for wine squeezing), which is until now used for the purpose of making wine and which presents the pride of our cellar. Here you can also see old earthen crocks (“kvevri”), where different types of wine are stored. Wine house produces its own vintage wine (Kvevri), which is decorated with appropriate etiquette and production history. Guests can bottle wine which they take out of “kvevri” with their own hands and purchase it in a sealed condition. Professional (certified) sommelier lead the wine tasting for you. Afterwards drive to one of the most famous wine factories in Georgia “Teliany valley”. Make Excursion, tasting of 2 sorts of wine, Georgian bread “Shoti”, Imeretian cheese “Sulguni and fruit. Drive to Telavi city. First archaeological findings from Telavi date back to Bronze Age. One of the earliest surviving accounts of Telavi is from the 2nd century AD, by Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus, who mentions the name Teleda (a reference to Telavi). Telavi began to transform into a fairly important and large political and administrative center in the 8th century AD. Interesting information on Telavi is provided in the records by an Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi of the 10th century, who mentions Telavi along with such important cities of that time’s Caucasus as Tbilisi, Shamkhor, Ganja, Shemakha and Shirvan. Speaking about the population of Telavi, Al-Muqaddasi points out that for the most part is consisted of Christians.
Overnight in Telavi.
Day 3 Telavi sightseeings
Today we will visit palace Museum of Georgian King Erekle the 2nd. The penultimate king of the united kingdoms of Kakheti and Kartli in eastern Georgia, his reign is regarded as the swan-song of the Georgian monarchy. Aided by his personal abilities and the unrest in the Persian Empire, Erekle established himself as a de facto independent ruler and attempted to modernize the government, economics, and military. Overwhelmed by the internal and external menaces to Georgia’s precarious independence and its temporary hegemony in eastern Transcaucasia, he placed his kingdom under the formal Russian protection in 1783, but the move did not prevent Georgia from being devastated by the Persian invasion in 1795. Erekle died in 1798, leaving the throne to his moribund heir, George XII. Visit also Alaverdi Cathedral, which was the highest church before building Tbilisi St. Trinity Church. Architecture of Alaverdi is one of most outstanding examples of Kakhetian and Georgian Architecture. The monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph (Yoseb, Amba) Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi and then a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. At the beginning of the 11th century, Kakhetian King Kvirike the Great built a cathedral, today known as Alaverdi Cathedral, in the place of a small church of St. George. At a height of over 55 meters, Alaverdi Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Georgia, after the recently consecrated Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral. It is the focus of the annual religious celebration Alaverdoba. Visit Ikalto Academy, which was founded in 11th 12th centuries and first rector of this academy was Arsen Ikaltoeli, who moved here from Gelati Academy located in Kutaisi. Afterwards drive to “Shumi” wine factory, where we will taste 3 sorts of wine. Wine Company Shumi was once more successful at the Internationl Wine Competion held in London-“International Wine Challenge 2008”. The following wines were awarded: “Shumi” (dry white) – Certificate; “Tsinandali” (dry White) –Certificate; “Shumi” (dry Red) – Bronze; “Saperavi” (dry Red) – Bronze. Afterwards visit one of the most famous wine factories in Georgia “Telavi wine cellar”. After excursion and wine tasting we drive to local farmer’s cellar and restaurant “kakhuri Ezo” – Kakhetia Yard. Have welcome dinner with local cuisine. In case of a group of 10 pax, guests for additional payment of USD 25 can take part in bread baking, “Mtsvadi” and “Churchkhela” making and of course in Khinkali preparing and enjoy dinner prepared by their own hands. They will also see how is made Georgia “Chacha”..
Overnight in Telavi.
Day 4 Telavi – Lopota – Napareuli
Hangover with Georgian “Chacha” and Chinkali and drive to Gremi Monastery. Gremi was the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries. Founded by Levan of Kakheti, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century. The town appears to have occupied the area of approximately 40 hectares and to have been composed of three principal parts – the Archangels’ Church complex, the royal residence and the commercial neighborhood. Afterwards drive to Lopota Lake, where we will visit local cellar and taste red and white wines form “Qvevri” and take some time for rest and fishing on the lake. There are woven baskets for fishing in front of the lake, home to white amur, carp, and trout. Lapota has fishing rods available and you can have hand-caught fish for lunch. Afterwards drive to Napareuli village, where we will taste wine from “Twins old Cellar”, enjoy dinner and overnight in the boutique hotel which overlooks the vineyard. The ancestors of kakhetian man, twins Gia and Gela Gamtkitsulashvili, returned to their base, restored the ancestral wine cellar in Kakheti, village Naphareili, the place where river Lopota joins river Alazani. They cultivated Georgian vine and revived forgotten tradition of making “Bio wine” in clay vessels. The best Kakhetian white and red wines are made in this wine cellar..
Overnight in Napareuli.
Day 5 Napareuli – Tsinandali – Tbilisi
After breakfast drive to “Schuchman wines Georgia” wine factory. On his travels, wine connoisseur Burkhard Schuchmann discovered Georgia and its longstanding wine tradition. He soon recognized the potential of the Caucasus-sheltered grape varieties such as Saperavi, Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane, Ojaleshi, and Kisi – to name but a few – from which great wines are made. Having traveled countless kilometers across Kakheti and surveyed scores of vineyards along with viticulturists and other experts, he worked out a plan to both ensure and even enhance to European standards the quality of Georgian grapes by applying “sustainable wine-growing and wine-aging methods”. The Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, together with the Ministry of Economic Development and the National Investment Agency, have jointly held the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Competition the purpose of which was to determine the best company of 2008 in the field of small and medium business. Have excursion and wine tasting and drive to Tsinandali. Visit house museum of Prince Aleksandre Chavchavadze, with beautiful garden and wine cellar, where we will taste 5 sorts of wine. Alexander Chavchavadze inherited this village, lying in the Alazani River vally, from his father, Prince Garsevan. He refurbished the estate, constructed a new Italianate palace and built a decorative garden in 1835. It was the place where Chavchavadze frequently entertained foreign guests with music, wit, and – most especially – the fine vintages made at his estate winery (marani). Familiar with European ways, Chavchavadze built Georgia’s oldest and largest winery where he combined European and centuries-long Georgian winemaking traditions. The highly regarded dry white Tsinandali is still produced there. Drive back to Tbilisi and have the Evening Tbilisi city tour..
Overnight in Tbilisi.
Package price per person in double/twin occupancy: 555 €
Single supplement: 125 €
Transportation with a/c vehicle
English/Russian speaking guide
Accommodation in 3* hotels with BB
1 bottle of water per person per day
Package doesn’t include:
Lunches and dinners
Museum entrance fees
Wine factory entrance and wine tasting fees
Accommodation in Tbilisi:
4* hotel in Tbilisi double/twin room: Euro 15 per person
4* hotel in Tbilisi single room: Euro 40 per person
5* hotel in Tbilisi double/twin room: Euro 80 per person
5* hotel in Tbilisi single room: Euro 160 per person
HB: Euro 50 per person
FB: Euro 100 per person