Monday, September 16, 2013

Days 2-4 in Georgia, the Birthplace of Wine (continued)

16.09.2013 [continued from here]

Our Second Day

Our second day in Georgia was as great as our first day. Our driver and our guide, Tamta, from the Georgia National Wine Agency took us to the outskirts of Tbilisi. Our first stop was in Mtskheta, at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a cathedral originally built in the 4th century. Inside, the cathedral had numerous images of saints and religious symbols. For the faithful it offers a place to pray and verify our Christian faith. The first cathedral was built of wood and later replaced with stone. A special glass enclosed case has a relic of St. Andrew.

Before long we visited a boutique winery only a five-minute walk from the Cathedral. The winemaker George Barisashvili produces wine in qvevris. Currently as of this year he does not sell his wines, however; he is adding another qvevri and plans to begin selling wines. His tasting room is tiny and cozy. Chairs are three-legged stools. We enjoyed tasting the qvevri wine followed by a brandy that he produces only for his own use.

Our next stop was a very elegant restaurant, Mtskhetis Darbazi. Inside the tables are covered with white tablecloths and napkins are creatively followed into cones. For lunch we had some of the Georgian specialties including cheese, spinach, bread, red pepper with a nut filling and chicken.
Our next stop was Chateau Mukhrani that beginning in 2003 that is re-establishing the tradition of the land that was once a large vineyard estate in the 1800s of Prince Ivane Mukhranbatoni. The 100 acres of vineyards include international grapes and George’s indigenous grapes. The 19th century castle is being restored. Completion of the facility is expected in 2014. When finished the castle will feature lodging, restaurants and event rooms. It was interesting to see the lower floor where numerous qvevri are inserted in the ground. The winery consists of a large sloping grass-covered roof where events including concerts take place.

Our last stop for the day was at Iago’s where the winemaker produces only qvevri wines. Currently he produces 2,500 bottles. Some of his qvevri are 300 years old. Iago follows in the tradition of a long generation of family winemakers.

We are discovering a real liking for the qvevri wines being made in the age old traditional Georgian way. We are looking forward to visiting and learning more about the Georgia wine industry.

Day 3

On Thursday, we traveled to the Kakheti region and visited two wineries. Later we traveled to Chateau Mere for dinner and lodging. This lodging site also produces traditional wines and qvevri wines.

The first winery, Marani of Telavi is large, producing about 3,500,000 bottles. They have two brands. They produce numerous styles of wine including qvevri wines. The winery was built in 1915 but much more recently has been purchased by two private individuals and upgraded. While we visited we noticed numerous new winemaking equipment amongst the older. The contrast was striking. The office areas and tasting room are located in a large modern style building. Tour groups are given tours and then a comprehensive wine tasting while seated at a table. Cheese bites and bread are also served.

Next we went to the Aliverdi Monastery where only qvevri wines are produced. They are popular enough that the wines are sold out to visitors who stop by the winery. Visitors to the winery can begin by visiting the church where frescos can be viewed. Beyond the church is a large area where qvevri have been buried for centuries, dating back to the 8th – 10th centuries.

At Chateau Mere we were asked to participate in making two traditional Georgian specialties. We tried our hand at making a dessert/candy, churchkhela that uses grape juice boiled down to a very thick syrup and then used to cover a string of walnuts. Drying takes about four days and eventually the candied-like string is cut into thin slices. The second item we made was khinkali, a traditional filled pastry. The filling is frequently a meat-like pork.  A spoonful is placed on a round flat piece of pastry dough. Carefully but quickly the edges of the pastry are pleated together and the twisted at the top. These are placed in boiling water and will be cooked when they rise to the top of the water.

4th Day

Leaving Chateau Mere about 10:30 am, it wasn’t long before we reached Teleda Winery. While this is a young winery, they are producing qvevri wines. The winemaker is considered a “rock star” because of his capabilities in producing wines. The highlight of our visit was to see workers carefully putting a pail with cardboard burning in it into a qvevri. The purpose of the fire was to burn off gas given off during the fermentation process. A worker then descended into the qvevri and began removing the pomace, called chacha in Georgia. After tasting the Teleda wines we drove to Schuchmann, one of the oldest wineries in the Kakhetian region of Georgia. Schuchmann includes a restaurant. After a delicious lunch and a wine tasting we went on to Tsinandali Museum.
The Tsinandali Museum was built in the 1800s. After the tour of the well-maintained historic house, we went to the mansion’s wine cellar where we tasted Kondoli wines.

On the way to the wine cellar, we participated in a tradition. Donations are accepted through a small window that opens into a small room. A dish is placed towards the middle of the room. Coin donations are tossed through the small window. If the tossed coin lands into the dish one’s wish is granted.

Soon we were on our way to Shumi Winery. Shumi is a winery with a vineyard library that contains 300 grapevine varieties. Each variety is labeled. The winery also has a long room with a variety of antique clay wine jars etc. One of the oldest qvevris to be found has carefully been restored. The clay pottery dates back to the 4th century BC.

Returning to Chateau Mere for the evening we participated in baking bread in a large outdoor clay pot. After molding the bread we flattened the strips of bread against the inside wall of the hot clay oven. In a few minutes it was finished and ready to eat. According to one person this type of bread baking has been happening since the 1st century AD.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...