11 days Gastronomic, wine and cultural tour of Georgia
Taste Amazing Georgia through its wines, viticulture, culinary traditions, music, dance and warm people!
- Learn and taste your way through natural wines with renowned American/Georgian wine maker John Wurdeman, owner of Pheasant’s Tears
- Savor foraged and wild foods in beautiful Georgian countryside
- Enjoy breathtaking scenery of Kazbegi mountain and iconic Tsminda Sameba Church
- Soak in the 8,000 year old wine making traditions and learn the techniques of a ‘tamada’ – Georgian toast master
- Explore ancient monasteries, lush botanical gardens and historic medieval fortresses
- Indulge in music, dance, a full spread of gorgeous food and wine drinking from a ram’s horn at a real Georgian Feast
Day 1: Arrival into Georgia
Transfer from airport to hotel in the center of Tbilisi. Most flights arrive early in the morning to Tbilisi (3-5am). If your flight arrives in the afternoon or evening then dinner at the hotel will be available but not included in the tour. For most guests arriving in the early morning hours, there will be time for a shortened sleep and breakfast before the tour moves to Kakheti wine country.
Day 2: Journey to Georgia’s wine region and introduction to their natural wines
Travel to the premiere wine growing area of Kakheti, Georgia’s most iconic wine region for wine. Arrival into Sighnaghi, a beautiful fortified hillside medieval town. Visit to Pheasant’s Tears’ restaurant which contains rooms dedicated to unique Carpets and Kilimns from the Caucasus and Central Asia and paintings from John and his colleagues. Afternoon cooking class with Chef Gia at followed by lunch. Gentle walk (or transport for those that don’t wish to walk the 2km) to Bodbe monastery, nested among tall Cypress trees on a steep hillside overlooking the Alazani Valley with commanding views of the Caucasus mountains. Evening tasting and dinner at Pheasant Tear’s restaurant where we will learn the important traditions of our Georgian ‘tamada’ or toast master, a key part to any feast and the country’s wine drinking heritage.
Day 3: Palaces and monasteries of Kakheti
Visit to Tsinindali to see the estate of Alexandre Chavchavadze, a famous poet, winemaker and military leader. We’ll tour the 19th Century palace, art gallery, winery and gardens and learn the story of this fascinating figure in Georgian history. Visit to monastery complex of Dzveli Shuamta (meaning “a place between the mountains”) is s a complex made up of three churches from different periods and is hidden deep inside a forest of Kakheti. Here we’ll have lunch with Niko. Afternoon wine tasting at Alaverdi Monastery which has been making wines since the 10th century. Dinner and beers in Sighnaghi at a new local craft-brewery, the first of its kind in this predominate wine region.
Day 4: Picnic atop historic fortress
Travel east to the ruined fortress Hornabudji which sits on top of gigantic rock with outstanding views. Built in the 5th century, it served as strategically important outpost to protect the eastern borders of the Georgian kingdom. It was destroyed by Mongols and later served as residence for the Persian governor Shah Abbas. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch up here. On the way back to Sighnaghi we will tour John’s vineyards and hear his story of how it all started for him. Dinner at cellar restaurant of John Okurashvili, a local wine maker also producing natural and unfiltered wines in Sighnaghi.
Day 5: Epic Georgian feast with polyphonic singers, dancers and many surprises
Morning to relax and explore Sighnaghi town and local museum which showcases archaeological findings and ethnographic items connected with the area. There is optional horseback riding for those that would enjoy this (please inquire for more details). Lunch with local woman to learn about medicinal herbs, cheese, bread starters and ancient methods of silk production. Lamara is like a walking encyclopedia of folk knowledge, she is bright eyed as she walks us through the inherited wisdom she acquired from her grandmother, and she is a great chef to boot!
Our last night in the wine country will feature an epic Georgian Feast. Plenty of dancing, feasting and toasting – and everyone will get to practice their newfound ‘tamada’ skills. John’s wife heads up the Zedashe group and they will provide music all night long with their polyphonic singing with traditional Georgian instruments. Zedashe practices the ancient polyphonic singing tradition, they have been gathering songs for the last 19 years from valleys, and mountains from monastics to local bards, building archives and learning, teaching, recording and performing the music. Georgian polyphony with its hair raising harmonies, is a perfect match for the unfiltered wines of Pheasant’s Tears with their full of life expression.
Day 6: Ancient capitals and qveri making
We depart Sighnaghi and head to Mtskheta – the ancient capital of Georgian kingdom capital (during the 3rd BC – 5th century AD) – to learn its layered history and formation of the Georgian people. Afterwards we will enjoy a lovely lunch at Iago Bitarishvili’s family’s organic winery, tasting, his rare Chinuri wines. He crushes the grapes in a large hollowed-out log, and pours the must, skins and all, directly into 300-year-old qvevri, where it stays for about six months. Enroute to our next destination, we stop and visit a man who has spent 40 years making qvevri. We will see him in action and learn about the techniques to make this most important instrument for Georgian wine makers. Dinner with local winemaker featuring corn bread cooked in a clay pot, baby chicken in blackberry glaze, and vegetable pates with marigold flowers, blue fenugreek, and coriander woven into a silky walnut paste.
Day 7: Ajarian specialties by the Black Sea in storied coastal city of Batumi
Morning visits to Cathedral in Kutaisi and Kutaisi market. Lunch in Jaani at Zura Topuridze’s epic revival Gurian Vineyards. Afternoon arrival into arrival into Batumi on the Black Sea coast. This ancient Greek colony and Roman port is now a fashionable seaside city mixing modern with 19th century stylings. Optional massage at hotel and guests have free access to Turkish hamam. Dinner consisting of delicacies from the Ajarian region at restaurant. The delicious and ubiquitous khachapuri cheese bread from Ajara distinguishes itself from others varieties with an egg yolk in the middle.
Day 8: Traditional music and botanical gardens
Travel off the beaten path to the Keda district. This is the historical center of winemaking in Ajara. We’ll taste the 2 typical wines from here: Tsolikauri (a white) and Chkhaveri (a rose) , learn about life of a local tobacco farmer. Lunch will include boran – a cheese and egg fondue like dish that is layered lavash in yougurt, and, roasted goat meat on a spit, this will be washed down with a light playful refreshing red called Chkhaveri, with low alcohol and palette cleansing acidity. A local musician will play traditional songs on his goat-skin bagpipe during the meal. Enjoy a hike to waterfalls in the Adjarian lush and subtropic highland nature. Late afternoon return to visit the botanical gardens of Batumi. Later, we’ll walk the seaside promenade, people watch and enjoy a light meal with Adjarian Khachapuri and some local beers.
Day 9: Experience Tbilisi!
Nothing is quite as relaxing as a good train ride so instead of driving back to Tbilisi, we’ll catch the train and see some beautiful areas of the country while enjoying a few new wines on the journey. Upon arrival into Tbilisi we’ll enjoy a walking tour of the capital and soak in over 1,600 years of history while learning more about how its cuisine, music and architecture is laced with influence from Persian, Turkish and Russia and inter-woven with strong local Georgian traditions. Enjoy a true hamam experience with a visit to one of the city’s Turkish bathhouses. Dinner at a Persian-tinged café serving up good fusion dishes.
Day 10: Into the Caucasus mountains of Kazbegi
Full day trip to the Caucasus mountains and Mt. Kazbegi, which the legend of Prometheus is attached to.Stretch our legs at the beautifully situated Ananuri castle complex on the Aragvi River. A great local dive called (The Honest Man’s Tavern) for lunch. Scenic drive all along the Georgian military highway takes us to Kazbegi in time for a hike at the Gergeti Trinity Church. Situated at an elevation of 2170 meters and resting below Mt. Kazbegi, this iconic 14th century church graces the cover of many Georgian travel guide books. Dinner at the house of a local family trying local food. Late arrival back into Tbilisi.
Day 11: Food, wines and music of Tbilisi
Morning at leisure to explore the city’s rich heritage, browse the shops and perhaps take a cable car to the hilltop fortress for great views. Pre-lunch wine tasting at John’s Vino Underground, featuring a wide range of natural-only wines from around the globe. Lunch at the terrific gVino in the old quarter. Late afternoon at your leisure before a farewell dinner the Azarphesha restaurant where we’ll hear Georgian polyphony music paired with wines and food.
Morning of Day 12
Transfer from Tbilisi hotel to Tbilisi airport (approx 30 minutes)
- 10 dinners (wine included),
- 10 lunches,
- 11 nights lodging at boutique hotels and B&B’s (en-suite),
- All wine tastings as per program,
- Live music and folklore as per program,
- Entrance fees,
- Private guide,
- Transfers to/from airport.