Reserve Now 6-12 people Dates: US $3,320/adult October 12-18 2020 Early Bird Discount
On this mouthwatering week-long culinary trip, we’ll explore the birthplace of wine: Georgia. Expect a one-of-a-kind, multi-day trip filled with wine tastings, cooking workshops, harvest activities, and more.
Tucked between the Black and Caspian Seas and in the shadow of Europe’s highest mountains you’ll find Georgia—a tiny country with an astounding culinary heritage and a winemaking tradition tracing back eight millennia. We’ll be delving into this appetizing wonderland during rtveli—the grape harvest—Georgia’s most inspiring time of year. And we aren’t only going to witness the harvest—we’re going to take part in it, too.
This week-long gastronomic adventure takes place in and around the capital of Tbilisi. We’ll also spend two days in the Alazani Valley, perhaps the most beautiful wine region in the world. Here, we’ll experience the deep reverence for winemaking that defines this land. Along the way, we’ll take in unique performances, visit little-known museums commemorating the country’s Soviet past, and to cap things off, explore Tbilisi’s ancient sulfur bath district, where we’ll allow our extraordinary week to fully soak in.
This trip is limited to a small group of 12 explorers.
Culinary Workshops & Wine Tastings: Learn to make traditional Georgian dishes, such as khinkali (dumplings) or khachapuri (cheese bread). A wide variety of wines will be on offer, from the rustic and homemade to fine family kvevriwines, as well as large winery vintages.
Agriculture Trips: Visit local winemakers to see, feel, taste, and learn about the ancient art of making wine in kvevri, huge terra cotta vessels that are buried in the ground. We’ll take part in the process ourselves, possibly tasting and harvesting grapes.
Market Tours and Home-Cooked Meals: Take a guided visit through Tbilisi’s central farmers market and enjoy several home-cooked village meals. Georgians consider visitors gifts from God and endearingly call them okros stumrebi—“golden guests.” After seven days in Georgia, you’ll understand this first-hand.
Performances & Demonstrations: Meet local artists and craftspeople, including a kvevri maker. We’ll also experience a private performance by polyphonic singers, who create sounds unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
Day 1: Arrival & Welcome
We encourage travelers to ease into this trip and allow some extra time to acclimate, especially as most flights to Tbilisi arrive in the wee hours of the morning. We’ll arrange private pickup from the airport to your hotel, where you’ll have time to rest.
In the late afternoon, we’ll meet for a welcome walk through the neighborhood, built in the 19th century. Georgia’s capital is neither Europe nor Asia, and is a collision of ancient and modern—the crossroads of the old Silk Road and a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities that have defined the city’s distinctive character and inimitable cuisine.
After peering into a few traditional courtyards, we’ll make our way to Shavi Lomi, a house-turned-restaurant featuring Mary Gubeladze’s twist on traditional Georgian dishes as well as classic favorites. Over dinner, we’ll properly introduce ourselves and get an overview of the exciting—and delicious—week ahead.
Day 2: Unraveling the Secrets of the Feast
Today we’ll explore the building blocks of the Georgian supra table—tracking down warm loaves of tonis puri, fresh from an oven in the basement of a historic seminary, and learning and tasting traditional essentials from spice blenders, pickle makers, cheesemongers and herbsmen in a colorful bazaar (not to mention fresh Georgian cheese, honey, and delicious churchkhelas, strings of nuts dipped in a thick roux of grape juice).
We’ll feast on khinkali, the iconic dumplings of the land, and taste the latest wines from the kvevri at the city’s first wine bar. We’ll wind down the day with early, relaxing dinner in a traditional courtyard.
If you have energy left after dinner, feel free to wander the streets of the Sololaki neighborhood, where you’ll find no shortage of bars and cafes.
Day 3: Shida Kartli, the Heart of Georgia
About 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Tbilisi, at the junction of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, sits Mtskheta, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the birthplace of Georgian Christianity.
Our morning will begin with a pilgrimage to the city’s greatest maker of ajaruli khachapuri, a baked barge of dough packing a cargo of gooey cheese topped with a mostly raw egg yolk and a slowly melting Snickers-sized gob of butter.
In Mtskheta, we’ll visit the city’s Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. In the 4th century, this site was chosen by St. Nino for the first church in Georgia; believed to be the burial site of Christ’s mantle, it is one of the most sacred places in the country.
Later, we’ll head to the nearby village of Ateni in the Shida Kartli region, considered the heart of Georgia. Historically, the region produced wine for the Georgian kings, and it remains an important, although glossed over, winemaking area today.
To end our day, we’ll visit the cellar of the Wine Artisans, an association of winemakers dedicated to making traditional natural wines. Our host, Andro Barnovi, will walk us through the winemaking process and also prepare a luscious country supper. Our ride will have us back at the hotel around sunset, where you can set out on your own evening explorations or head in for a good night’s rest.
Day 4: Kakheti Explorations
Spread beneath the majestic Caucasus Mountains like an enormous grape basket is the Alazani Valley. Located in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia, this could very well be the most breathtaking wine region in the world. October is the time of rtveli—the harvest—and families along the valley are busy making wine much like their ancestors would have done for the past 8,000 years.
After a morning drive from Tbilisi to Kakheti by private coach, we’ll visit the regional capital of Telavi for a quick lunch and a shopping trip to the market, where we will learn about local products and collect for our evening dinner. On our way to prepare dinner, we will visit Gremi, the old citadel of the region, for a little historic perspective. We’ll end the day with an authentic village supra, a belt-popping feast, al fresca, preparing the meal together in the fields of a local winery. Like any good supra, ours will feature a group of singers performing in the unique Georgian polyphonic style.
Tonight, we’ll stay in the Alazani Valley in a comfortable boutique hotel, dreaming of all things delicious.
Day 5: Feasting with a Kakheti Winemaker
After breakfast, we’ll head to the home-atelier of one of the last local kvevri (amphora) masters where we will learn about the importance of the kvevri in wine-making and see how it is done. We won’t leave without sampling his excellent wine and chacha. From there we will head to the Tsinandali Palace for a short tour of the house and estate of one of the regions historic wine barons. Finally, we will head over to Akura and the 100 year-old home of local winemaker Irakli Bluishviliho will wine and dine us with his particular brand of village sophistication. We’ll indulge in elegant tomato and eggplant salads, sheep cheese, barbecued pork, and fresh bread—all washed down by unlimited toasts of organic wine. His is a home you will not want to leave, but eventually, after dinner, we’ll make the drive back to Tbilisi. We’ll wake you up when we pull into our hotel.
Day 6: Best in Show: Fine Arts & Performance
This morning, after breakfast, we will walk down to the National Gallery for a private tour of the works of Pirosmani, the Norman Rockwell of Georgia, whose works depict a golden era of pre-Soviet Georgian traditions, including, of course, the supra. We’ll then head into the hidden courtyard of the museum of literature where our lunch awaits us. From there, we will make our way to the studio of the Sukhishvili National Ballet to witness a private rehearsal of these acrobatic dancers. If the Ballet is out of town on this day, we’ll catch a show at the legendary Rezo Gabriadze Puppet Theater. Gabriadze, a Georgian playwright, director, painter, and sculptor, collaborated with other directors to make some of Georgia’s most iconic films. His puppet theater productions have been praised at festivals across the world.
We’ll finish this day, and our week together, with afternoon coffee and cakes in the cafe of the Gabriadze Theater.
Day 7: Farewell and Departure
Today, catch flights home or onto your next destination—or, if you’d like, spend more time exploring Tbilisi. We’re happy to provide additional recommendations.
Until the next adventure!