The following day we toured the winelands. Georgia has no actual wine route, and in fact visiting wine estates is not that easy. Most trips need to be reserved well in advance and not knowing this, our possibilities were limited.
Wine tourism is huge in many parts of the world, from South Africa to California to France to Chile to Australia…the list goes on and on. Georgia could benefit hugely from this at little expense. I have no doubt it will happen, but right now, visiting the winelands takes some work.
We ended up going to two places. We started at the Chavchavadze Estate. This has an incredibly dramatic history. Built in the early 1800′s for Alexander, a Georgian prince who became ambassador to Russia, the estate provides an interesting view of the life of the aristocracy in the 1800′s. The most exciting part of its history was in 1854, when tribesmen from across the border attacked the estate and carried off 23 women and children tied to the back of their horses. Alexander’s son David look a loan to pay the ransom, but he was unable to repay the loan and the estate became the property of the Czar of Russia.
We had made no reservations, but this place was well-managed and within a few minutes an English-speaking guide had been found who showed us around. We enjoyed the tour of the house, which was followed by a visit to the winery, which holds bottles of wine dating back to 1814.
After our tour, we visited the beautifully renovated tasting room, and for about $10 we shared a bottle of great red wine. It was clear that a huge investment had been made in this tasting room, and it will probably become a main attraction on any wine route that may be set up eventually.
Our final stop was the huge Kindzmarauli winery - we were given an extensive tour of the facility – from the dilapidated old Russian style wine vats to the brand new stainless steel tanks, followed by an extensive wine tasting – and everything was free. We were welcomed and feted as VIP”s and we were made to feel very special. This is probably a mixture of hospitality as well as the fact that foreign visitors are few and far between.
Walking out of the winery we noticed a small bakery at work – the bakers welcomed us in and showed us the while bread making process – amazing.
At the end of the day it was back to Tbilisi for the final time – we would soon be going to the mysterious Svaneti region and from there we would make our way back to Turkey.
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