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|12 people||Dates:||US $3,320/adult|
|September 23 – 30 2019; October 12-19 2019; May 18-24 2020; June 22-28 2020; September 21-27 2020; October 12-18 2020|
On this mouthwatering collaboration with Atlas Obscura, 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.
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.
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.
After breakfast and the short drive from our hotel, 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.
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. September and October are 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.
This morning, we’ll depart Tbilisi by private coach for Kakheti, Georgia’s chief winemaking region. The day will include a visit to the regional capital of Telavi for lunch and to the home of a master maker of kvevri. We’ll be walked through the ancient process of making the ceramic vessels that Georgians still use to store and ferment wine.
We’ll end the day with a wine tour and tasting at the home of a local natural winemaker.
Tonight, we’ll stay in the Alazani Valley in a comfortable boutique hotel, dreaming of grapes.
Our day will begin with a visit to the home of a master maker of kvevri. We’ll be walked through the ancient process of making the ceramic vessels that Georgians still use to store and ferment wine. Meanwhile, in a nearby village, celebrated winemaker Irakli Bluishvili will welcome us into his home-cum-wine cellar for a sophisticated take on the village feast.
While dinner is being prepared, we’ll meander into the woods to visit the 8th-century Father David church and see the ruins of an ancient wine cellar.
After the last toast is made (and we’ve washed down our tomato and eggplant salad, sheep cheese, barbecued pork, and fresh bread), we’ll head back to Tbilisi for a good night’s rest.
This morning, skip the regular breakfast: it’s time for the iconic Acharuli 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.
After a short rest, we’ll meet for our final feast for a traditional Tbilisi supra. A local trio will also come by to regale us with polyphonic songs and traditional folk instruments.
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!