On 7th September 2016, six members of the HMWS started the Society’s third tour of Georgia – the birthplace of wine. The 14 day tour took members to parts of the country not visited on previous trips as well as Tbilisi and the vineyards of Kaheti. This is the Trip Log.
Itinerary At a Glance (7 – 21 September 2016)
Day 0: Flight to Tbilisi
Day 1: Arrive in Tbilisi/ city tour
Day 2: Tbilisi- Kutaisi /Imereti area
Day 3: Kutaisi- Batumi /Ajara area
Day 4: Batumi
Day 5: Batumi – Tbilisi
Day 6: Tbilisi-Kakheti / Eniseli area
Day 7: Kakheti –Shenako / Tusheti area
Day 8: Shenako – Dartlo / Tusheti area
Day 9: Dartlo- Chesho – Dartlo /Tusheti area
Day 10: Dartlo – Gometsari Valley- Omalo /TUsheti area
Day 11: Omalo- Sighnaghi / Kakheti area
Day 12: Sighnaghi full day /Kakheti area
Day 13: Sighnaghi -Tbilisi
Day 14: Departure & arrival in the UK
GEORGIA ON MY MIND……
I am thrilled to be going back to Tbilisi for the third time in five years, to walk in labyrinthine Sololaki – the old, tranquil part of the city, gazing at ancient houses with brightly coloured balconies, and stop at Vino Undergrond – a wine bar like no other, run by small independent winemakers to showcase their precious natural wines you read about but are never able to find, to sniff, swirl, sip, chat and laugh and then to walk across to the Writer’s House – built by a brandy maker to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary and given over to the scribes of Georgia – with its pretty courtyard with tall trees and home to Littera, the creation of Tekuna Gachechiladze, the pioneer of ‘new Georgian’ cuisine, to lunch and drink more wine, and return to Betsy’s for a siesta – a hotel I do not know yet, and then in the evening, eat at the Black Lion drinking even more wine, and to walk back through empty streets late at night for sweet, contended sleep. Georgia is always on my mind…….
Day 1 (Wednesday 7 September)
- 7.30 am: I am sipping black coffee and thinking about the day ahead. Should I pack a spittoon and tasting glasses and a bottle of champagne for the drive to Manchester…
- 11.30 am: Bags are packed, online check-in done, boarding passes printed out and we are ready to go! Decided to omit the champagne and the spittoon. Dave from AYS will first pickup Ann & Stephen in Pick Hill, then Tony & Renna in Knaresborough and come to Harrogate to collect us
- 11.30 pm: I am at Istanbul airport drinking draft beer at a little bar and waiting to catch the 1.40 am flight to Tbilisi. We left Manchester at 4.50 pm and reached Istanbul at 11.15 pm. The flight was smooth and comfortable and I drank a good Turkish white with kebabs, rice and bean stew
Day 2 (Thursday 8 September)
- It is 7 am and we just arrived at Betsy’s Hotel in Tbilisi. The flight from Istanbul took two hours and our old friend Tamara Natenadze from Living Roots who are our agents in Georgia met us at Tbilisi airport instead of Sopo – our appointed guide who has met with an accident and injured her leg. Tamara is getting us another guide. Everybody is having a short rest before the walking tour of the old town
- 6 pm, Tbilisi: Following the morning walking tour of the Tbilisi’s Sololaki area, natural wines were tasted at Vino Underground with winemaker Ramaz Nicoladze. Lunch at Tekuna Gachechiladze’s Littera Cafe was fabulous
- 11 pm: Just back from dinner at the Black Lion – another superb venue with excellent traditional Georgian food and qvevri wines
Day 3 (Friday 9): Tbilisi- Kutaisi (270 km)
We left Tbilisi at 10 am and travelled to west Georgia to get to know the wines of the Karlti Region. The road took us through small villages of the province to Ateni Canyon – a micro zone for endemic Tavkveri and Chinuri grapes. We visited the wine cellar of Giorgi Revazishvili. The tour of the cellar was followed by a tasting and a delicious, home cooked snacks. Later, we proceeded to Nick Vacheishvili’s house and cellar. With the background of an art historian, Nick has worked as a minister of culture and historic heritage. After that assignment he decided to return to the family traditions. Deep in the Ateni valley, he grows endemic grapes. We visited his small vineyard and cellar and tasted some of his wines and enjoyed lunch cooked by his charming wife. Later we drove to Kutaisi and en route visited Zaliko Bojadze, one of very few master qvevri makers in Georgia. We saw how these gigantic clay vessels are built by the bare hands of a true master. In the evening we arrived in Kutaisi and checked into smart new Argos Hotel. That evening we had supper in a local restaurant.
Day 4 (Saturday 10): Kutaisi- Batumi (190 km)
We visited the Kutaisi market before driving to Kolkheti National Park. We travelled by boat on Paleastomi Lake and up the Pichori River, bird watching. After a picnic lunch in the park, we drove to Batumi, the capital of Ajara Autonomous Republic. Our base was a penthouse apartment at Hotel le Port on the Batumi waterfront. A superb seafood dinner was had at Batumi’s Gold Fish Restaurant. We walked in the historic center of Batumi after dinner and admitred the view from the Batumi landmark – Alphabet Tower.
Day 4 (Sunday 11): Batumi (60 km)
We spent the day birdwatching in the highlands of Ajara. We started at 6.30 am searching for an elusive Kreuper’s Nuthatch in the botanical gardens. After breakfast back at the hotel, we continued birdwatching in the Chorokhi Delta (www.batumibirding.com/batumi/chorokhi- delta/node/88). We soaked in the warm waters of the black sea before returning to Batumi for lunch. After lunch we drove to Sakhalvasho watch point to see the mass migration of raptors. Dinner was at a local restaurant with traditional cuisine from Ajara.
Day 5 (Monday 12): Batumi Tbilisi (450 km)
We left Batumi after breakfast and drove the 450 kms. to Tbilisi. The first stop was at the family cellar of Gogita Makaridze in Terjola. He works with endemic grape varieties from Imereti region. We tasted three of his wines and had lunch with the family. Later we visited the Ubisa Monastery to view its frescoes. In Tbilisi, we checked-in at Betsy’s Hotel and had a rather disappointing dinner at G-Vino wine restaurant. The wines however were excellent.
Day 6 (Tuesday 13): Tbilisi-Kakheti (170 km)
Today we drove towards east. Kakheti is home of some splendid landscapes, wineries and historic sights. The road we led us through Gombori Pass. The first stop of the day was Alaverdi Monastery, where we visited the wine cellar and enjoy the tasted with winemaker-monk Father Gerasim. In Akhmeta we tasted and had lunch at Danieli Winery. We drove to Eniseli village where we had dinner and stayed over at the charming Royal Batoni www.batoni.ge hotel.