Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

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Otto Forsberg
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Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#1 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 11th, 2019, 10:36 am

So, some people here have visited this country known as the cradle of wine before me, but I guess writing about the experience can't hurt. So, here's the part 1.

As a preface: we stayed in Georgia for a week, arriving there Saturday 3 am in the morning and leaving a week later, on Sunday morning at 4 am.

Our itinerary included:
- A few days in Tbilisi, the capital; getting to know the country, the city, the food, the sights, the wine bars, etc.
- A day in Sighnaghi, a small hilltop town at the edge of the Kakheti valley, the most well-known wine region in the country; visits to the Pheasant's Tears restaurant and Okro's Wines winery.
- Two days in Lagodekhi, a small town at the opposite edge of the Kakheti valley, right next to the Azerbaijan border at the foot of the Caucasus mountains; hiking in the mountains.
- A day at the Schuchmann winery in Kisiskhevi, a small hillside town between the bigger cities of Telavi and Tsinandali; visit to the Orgo winery.
- Return to Tbilisi; some more sightseeing, eating and drinking in restaurants and wine bars, buying as much wine as one suitcase (and a weight limit of 20 kg / 38 lbs) allows.

Some observations:
- Georgia is very cheap place to visit. We usually try to keep our travel budget pretty reasonable, but in Georgia we didn't need to worry for a moment about spending too much. In Tbilisi - which is probably the most expensive place there - two people can easily have a dinner with an entrée, main course, a bottle of wine and even including the tips at 100-150 GEL (that's 30-50€ or $35-55). In the rural towns of Kakheti you really don't get upscale restaurants, but the food in those few down-to-earth places is almost invariably incredibly delicious and ridiculously cheap. In Lagodekhi we ate a rustic (and very big) dinner that included entrées, main courses and a 1-liter jug of wine at 30 GEL for two (about 10€ or $10).
- The cheap prices apply to taxis as well. We originally planned on traveling from one city to another with marshrutky (routed minibuses or taxicabs), but upon learning how cheap the taxis are, we decided on going with them instead. For example a 100-minute drive from Tbilisi to Kakheti cost 50 GEL (about 18€ or $20).
- The food is delicious and there's always too much of it. The portions were already ranging from big to huge in Tbilisi and they just seemed to get bigger the further we got from bigger cities. A great majority of the food is very unique to either Georgia or the bigger Caucasus region, meaning that most of the food we had there was something we've never had before (save for the few local Georgian restaurants we had visited). Most of the foods were somewhat spicy, but we didn't have a single dish that was hot-spicy like chili - instead, the foods were spiced with savory, sweet, exotic spices and different kinds of herbs. It was also very easy for my vegetarian SO to find something to eat there as so many classic Georgian dishes are vegetarian. They also seem to love cheese big time - probably 50% of the dishes seemed to incorporate some of the local cheeses one way or another.
- Almost everybody in Tbilisi seemed to speak good English and even in the countryside one could survive for the most time with just English. However, it seemed that the taxi drivers didn't speak anything but Georgian, save for one with whom we could communicate in German. I was wondering how I could communicate my walnut allergy in restaurants (a great majority of Georgian dishes use walnuts), but in the end I never had problems with communication.
- Everybody drives like crazy in Georgia. No matter what's the speed limit, everybody drives at 130 km/h (80 mph), police cars included. The roads aren't in the best shape, but that doesn't stop the drivers from speeding - even in the zig-zagging mountain roads.
- The wine in Georgia is everywhere. There are vines growing everywhere, even in the middle of Tbilisi, and everybody in the rural Kakheti seemed to have vines growing in their yard. It also seems to be true that every Georgian family makes their own wine - in Kakheti wherever we stayed, everyone was proudly pouring the wines they had made themselves.
- Not just many commercial wines, but also virtually all the home-made wines are natural - i.e. they are made without any yeast additions, sulfites or anything else. The best wines can be remarkably clean, but I learned that many of the home-made wines do show some mousiness aka. THP. However, I must say that even though that I'm quite sensitive to mousiness and find it a major fault in wine, I tasted only one wine that was really faulty because of THP (and that was a commercial wine!) - in all home-made wines we tasted the mousiness started to appear only after some air and even then it remained very minute, i.e. you could notice it's there if you knew where to look, but if you were just drinking the wine with food without thinking about it, you didn't notice a thing. None of the home-made wines was anything thrilling, but their overall quality was much higher than I expected - I've had tons of worse commercially made natural wines than what I drunk there.
- There are thousands of street dogs in Georgia. I've never really seen as much dogs as I saw during this trip. Wherever you go, there's a mutt or three lying in the street or roaming around. People don't pay any attention to them and vice versa. Even though the cars drive like crazy there, I didn't see a single dog roadkill during our trip - I guess the dogs have learned to watch out for the cars and the cars seemed to be quite careful around the dogs as well.

I'll follow up in the near future with some pictures and tasting notes of the wines I tasted there!

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#2 Post by ChristopherSK » September 11th, 2019, 10:53 am

Great tips Otto. I don't know if I will be able to visit there, but some of the Georgian varietals have shown promise in the Finger Lakes wine region in central New York. In particular, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni, and rkatsiteli.
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#3 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 11th, 2019, 11:06 am

ChristopherSK wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 10:53 am
Great tips Otto. I don't know if I will be able to visit there, but some of the Georgian varietals have shown promise in the Finger Lakes wine region in central New York. In particular, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni, and rkatsiteli.
That's what I've heard and I'd be very interested to have an opportunity to taste them! (Although I must point out that Sereksiya Charni isn't a Georgian variety, but instead a Russian name for a Romanian variety that's also cultivated in Moldova)

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#4 Post by PCLIN » September 11th, 2019, 11:10 am

Thanks for the write-up, looking forward to a Georgia trip next year. We were planning to go there this year but wife was not comfortable with potential issues with Russia recently.
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#5 Post by AD Northup » September 11th, 2019, 11:39 am

Spent two weeks there last summer (half hiking in and around Mestia and half down in wine country). One of the most incredible trips we’ve ever taken.
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#6 Post by Russell Faulkner » September 11th, 2019, 11:47 am

Super. We had a wonderful 4/5 nights just in Tbilisi this summer.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#7 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 12th, 2019, 12:32 am

Many thanks, Otto.

The only thing I'd question is that 50% of Georgian dishes contain cheese. To be sure khachapuri (the cheese bread) is common, and you are often offered slices of cheese, but my memory and impression is that most dishes are dairy-free.

Ah, I was just about to write that the food mainly derives richness from walnuts rather than dairy, and then remembered you are allergic to walnuts. Also your travelling partner was a veggie. So maybe that skewed your sampling?

The dogs of Georgia are certainly a feature, and get little mention in travel articles. I like the live-and-let-live relation they have with humans. In Tbilisi (and other cities I think) the strays get neutered and innoculated, tagged to show they have been "done", and re-released

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#8 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 12th, 2019, 1:15 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 12:32 am
Many thanks, Otto.

The only thing I'd question is that 50% of Georgian dishes contain cheese. To be sure khachapuri (the cheese bread) is common, and you are often offered slices of cheese, but my memory and impression is that most dishes are dairy-free.

Ah, I was just about to write that the food mainly derives richness from walnuts rather than dairy, and then remembered you are allergic to walnuts. Also your travelling partner was a veggie. So maybe that skewed your sampling?
Most certainly must've had an effect, but those guesthouses and hotels we stayed that offered us either breakfast or other meals did offer several dishes with cheeses as well - often filled with crumbled cheese on top or filled with it. But it's true that I can't speak for the whole kitchen since so many dishes have walnuts in them, automatically making them off-limits to me.
The dogs of Georgia are certainly a feature, and get little mention in travel articles. I like the live-and-let-live relation they have with humans. In Tbilisi (and other cities I think) the strays get neutered and innoculated, tagged to show they have been "done", and re-released
It did seem so, since almost all dogs we saw had visible "ear piercing" tags.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#9 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 12th, 2019, 1:58 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 1:15 am
Most certainly must've had an effect, but those guesthouses and hotels we stayed that offered us either breakfast or other meals did offer several dishes with cheeses as well - often filled with crumbled cheese on top or filled with it.
Interesting. I'll try to be more aware of such dishes when we next visit. Could be partly a regional thing too - you spent more time close to mountains than we did.

And regarding dog tagging, yes I meant ear tags rather than electronic ones. A lot more practical when rounding up untagged dogs!

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#10 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 12th, 2019, 10:24 am

On our first day in Tbilisi we slept very late, since we arrived in Georgia after 3 am and the queue to the passport control took something of an hour, so we were at our guesthouse at 4:30 am. We spent the first day mainly getting the lay of the land and trying to get to grips with the chaotic old Tbilisi.

In the evening we went to eat in Sakhli No. 11 restaurant.

This is what we had there:
sakhli11kisi2018.jpg
  • 2018 Gvino Khutsaidze Vineyards Kisi Sakhli N11 - Georgia, Kakheti (31.8.2019)
    A limited batch of wine bottled specifically for the Sakhli N11 restaurant in Tbilisi. 13% alcohol.

    Beautiful, deep and clear amber color. Savory and attractive nose with aromas of dry caramelized fruits, orange zest, some resinous character, a little bit of spicy phenolic character, a hint of something funky and a touch of perfumed floral character. Lovely! The wine is dry, medium-bodied and somewhat tough on the palate with flavors of floral spices, stony minerality, some saline tang, a little bit of resinous phenolic character, a little bit of aromatic herbs, a hint of fresh red apples and a touch of earth. The wine is wonderfully fresh and structured with its high acidity and moderately grippy tannins. The overall mouthfeel isn't particularly concentrated or intense, but the wine isn't mild or thin either - "delicate" would be probably a more fitting description, if it weren't for the relatively tough overall character. The finish is dry and moderately tannic with quite lengthy flavors of resinous phenolic character, some nuttiness, a little bit of bruised apple, light spicy notes of white pepper, a hint of earth and a touch of smoke.

    A very sophisticated, pure and harmonious Georgian orange wine with great sense of balance. The wine isn't a crowdpleaser by any means with its dry, tough and moderately tannic nature, but it isn't aggressive or austere either - the somewhat floral and rich character of Kisi lends great balance to the wine, making it perform really well with and without food. Great stuff and definitely a classy effort for a house wine in a restaurant. Highly recommended. (93 pts.)
Posted from CellarTracker
sakhli11khachapuri.jpg
Khachapuri
sakhli11mushrooms.jpg
A sizzling pot of mushrooms covered in cheese
sakhli11polenta.jpg
Polenta with slices of smoked sulguni
sakhli11pork.jpg
Pork

All this cost something like 45-50€ (around $50) for two people!

After the restaurant we moved to the neighboring natural wine bar ღVino Underground for a glass of wine.
  • 2018 Kereselidze Wine Cellar Rachuli Mtsvane - Tetra - Georgia, West Georgia, Racha (31.8.2019)
    An amber wine from the Dzirageuli village, located in the Khvanchkara wine region - however, since Khvanchkara is an appellation for red wines, the wine isn't entitled to the appellation. Composed mainly of local white varieties Rachuli Mtsvane and Rachuli Tetra (aka. Tsulukidzis Tetra) with some very rare Kudurauli in the blend.

    Hazy coppery color. Fragrant, wild and slightly funky nose with aromas of orange blossom, some spicy phenolic tones, a little bit of white pepper, light animal tones and a lifted hint of volatile acidity. The wine is dry, ripe and round on the palate with flavors of apricots, honeysuckle, some exotic spices, a little bit of cantaloupe, light resinous phenolic notes, a hint of apple jam and a touch of sweeter tropical fruits. At first the wine feels quite round and mellow with its medium-to-moderate acidity and quite soft tannins, but little by little the tannins pile up on the gums. The finish is somewhat grippy, juicy and quite long with rich flavors of apple jam, some beeswax, a little bit of stony mineral bitterness, a volatile hint of acetic roughness and a touch of cantaloupe.

    A nuanced, fruity and enjoyably complex Georgian orange wine with emphasis on depth and fruit over muscular structure - true to the softer Western Georgian style. Despite the somewhat soft acidity, the wine is well in balance; perhaps lacking a bit freshness, but not harmony or sense of structure. Outstanding value at 10,5 GEL (3,5€) for a glass in a restaurant. (91 pts.)
Posted from CellarTracker

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#11 Post by A Rubin Stein » September 12th, 2019, 10:41 am

Thanks for the enjoyable travelogue, Otto.

If you are interested in Georgian wines, you should connect with Lisa Granik, MW. She is a big promoter of Georgian wines and consults to various wineries in Georgia. I'd be happy to introduce you.
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#12 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 12th, 2019, 12:16 pm

A Rubin Stein wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 10:41 am
Thanks for the enjoyable travelogue, Otto.

If you are interested in Georgian wines, you should connect with Lisa Granik, MW. She is a big promoter of Georgian wines and consults to various wineries in Georgia. I'd be happy to introduce you.
I most certainly am interested in Georgian wines; I've been collecting them for several years and have both arranged couple of tastings on the theme as well as have attended similar ones arranged by some of my friends. I'd be more than happy getting to know her, since I'm always keen to learn more about the world of wine off the beaten path.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#13 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 13th, 2019, 12:51 am

Lisa Granik also has a book on Georgian wine, in the Infinite Ideas series, coming out in the autumn.

Thanks for the notes so far Otto. I'm impressed by the detail in your TNs, I always struggle describing wines in that level of detail, but orange wine in particular.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#14 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 13th, 2019, 2:03 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 12:51 am
Lisa Granik also has a book on Georgian wine, in the Infinite Ideas series, coming out in the autumn.

Thanks for the notes so far Otto. I'm impressed by the detail in your TNs, I always struggle describing wines in that level of detail, but orange wine in particular.
Thank you Steve. I must admit that writing TNs is always hard for me. It's not hard to write one, it's hard to write several and not have them identical to each other - even when the wines are very dissimilar to each other the TNs can look deceptively similar. That's why I try to sum up the wine after describing it, because there it is easier to pinpoint the differences unique to the wine and how it differs from other wines that might have very similar aromas, flavors and/or structure.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#15 Post by Joshua Kates » September 13th, 2019, 8:18 am

Yes, thanks for these, Otto,

Very interesting--I always learn from your posts, which is much appreciated.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#16 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 13th, 2019, 1:22 pm

Thanks for all the comments!

Next up: the day number 2 - Tbilisi.

We didn't do much food-wise or wine-wise this day, just spent the day doing pretty touristy stuff.

First we went to see the museum of illusions that was right next to our guesthouse in the old town. Lots of fun stuff there, a great place if you want something less serious to do for an hour or two, like:
day2museumofillusions.jpg
After that we took a stroll through the city to see some of the main views, like the Freedom Square:
day2freedomsquare.jpg
Then we took the Tbilisi funicular to see the capital from above. Great views there.
day2tbilisi.jpg
Since the restaurant with the great views at the top of the city was pretty crammed when we were there, we just came back down and went to have something to eat at the local khachapuri joint, Sakhachapure no. 1. This here is an adjaruli khachapuri, aka. a sort of boat-shaped pizza crust filled to the brim with cheese and topped off with a raw egg and a knob of butter.
day2khachapuri.jpg
After eating the above cholesterol bomb we decided that some wine would be in order. We headed back towards the Freedom Square, where the brilliant wine bar Dadi was located. There we decided on having this enjoyable Saperavi:
day2kortavebis.jpg
2018 Kortavebis Marani Saperavi - Georgia, Kakheti (1.9.2019)
  • Fermented and macerated for 21 days in kvevri, aged for a further 6 months in a sealed kvevri. 13,5% alcohol.

    Dense and fully opaque blackish red color with a purple hue. The wine stains the glass as one swirls it around. Very open and expressive nose with vibrant aromas of ripe blueberries, elderberries and some sappy green tones along with a little bit of inky character, a hint of earthy spice and a touch of bretty funk. The wine is medium-bodied, youthful and explosively fruity on the palate with intense, pure flavors of mulberries, blueberries, some ripe chokeberries, a little bit of fresh blackberries, light stemmy green tones, a hint of inky character and a touch of acetic VA. The mouthfeel is both extracted and even quite soft, yet the wine isn't lacking in structure, thanks to the rather high acidity. The tannins feel rather round and mellow at first, but they slowly pile up on the gums. The finish is quite tannic and juicy with long, dry and fruity flavors of bilberries, crunchy chokeberries, some mulberries, a little bit of sanguine iron and a hint of sappy greenness.

    A wonderfully juicy, fruity and pure Saperavi that feels very ripe and soft at first, but turns out to be quite firm and structured in the end. Even as the wine is filled with tons of fruit, it never feels heavy or overdone. Vibrant and delicious stuff that is so delicious exactly due to its youthful, fruit-forward nature, but also seems to be capable of developing in the cellar for a handful of years, if not more. Exceptional value at 13 GEL (approx. 4€) for a 15 cl glass in a wine bar. (93 pts.)
    Posted from CellarTracker
This is me enjoying the Saperavi (just look at the color of the wine!):
day2dadi.jpg

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#17 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 14th, 2019, 5:32 am

Day 3 - to Sighnaghi.

After the breakfast we left our guesthouse and walked to the nearest metro station. After having purchased a travel card one needs to use the metro, we traveled to the Isani metro station which is supposed to be the best place to get a taxi to Kakheti, since it is located right next to the Kakheti-Tbilisi highway. And it sure was: we didn't need to take more than one step from the metro station when we were surrounded by taxi drivers offering trips to several places. A few were interested when I asked "Sighnaghi?" and finally we settled with one after haggling the price to 50 GEL (approx. 18€ or $20).

The trip from Tbilisi to Kakheti is quite horrible. Well, it actually could be quite pretty and enjoyable, if the locals didn't drive like crazy. The speed limits were either 60 or 80 kmph for the most part, but our taxi drove almost constantly at 130 kmph (80 mph). When you take into account that the road isn't in a particularly good shape in some parts, everybody is trying to speed past each other, there are only two lanes - one in each direction - and the cars have no seat belts, you are going to be afraid for your life for the majority of the 110 km (70 miles) that takes an hour or so. They don't seem to slow down even when they are crossing the tall Gombori mountains that separate the Kakheti valley from the rest of the mkhare (region) of Kakheti.

Against all odds, we managed to arrive in Sighnaghi in one piece. After the chaotic buzz and street vendors of Tbilisi, the calmness of this small (1500 inhabitants) and beautiful mountainside town was soothing. Walking there is maybe not that relaxing compared to Tbilisi, since the town is built on the Gombori mountains and everything is either uphill or downhill, everywhere.

This is how Sighnaghi looks like for the most part:
day3sighnaghi.jpg
After we had rested a bit in our hotel, we left for the Pheasant's Tears restaurant - the key reason why we decided on visiting Sighnaghi in the first place. After having traveled the town up, down and up again for a kilometer or so, we found a rather inconspicuous but promising little doorway.
day3tears.jpg
For those who don't know, Pheasant's Tears is one of the first Georgian wineries that gained some recognition abroad. Founded by an American painter John Wurdeman, who settled in Sighnaghi back in 1998, and Gela Patalishvili, an 8th-generation winemaker. They met in 2006 and Patalishvili implored Wurdeman to help him found a winery that could fight back the "Europeanization" of the Georgian wines and return to the traditional roots of Georgian winemaking that had almost disappeared during the Soviet rule. They could use Gela's winemaking knowledge and John's recognition as an artist, foreign connections and skills in marketing. To my understanding, Wurdeman was basically enforced to the winemaking world when Patalishvili appeared outside his door with a truckload of Saperavi with which he was going to need some help.

They purchased their first Saperavi vineyard in 2007, which was also the same vintage they released commercially. Since the beginning, they have made all their wines true to Patalishvili's vision: all vinified in earthenware kvevris, fermented spontaneously and vinified with hands-off approach. Originally the wines were rustic and quite hard around the edges, as all the varieties were vinified the same way - with full skin contact over 6 months or so. However, they have since started to use fruit from all around Georgia and the wines are normally vinified according to the local regional tradition, some wines using shorter maceration periods or even no skin contact.

Furthermore, Pheasant's Tears are keen on searching out for local varieties and help them survive from the brink of extinction. They have a "library" vineyard where +400 different local varieties grow, which are vinified into one single wine, Polyphony. They also try to cultivate different rare varieties, vinifying them into blends and varietal wines, experimenting how these varieties respond to different vinification methods and which ones suit them best. What I learned there was how different varieties work very differently - some red varieties could never make a good rosé, while others don't benefit can't survive long skin macerations that well. Some white varieties show best varietal character only when vinified without skins, whereas others are dull and neutral, until macerated for a long time in kvevris. You just don't know these things until you've experimented enough.

Since we weren't hungry yet, we just ordered the normal wine tasting set (30 GEL / 10€ / $11 per person). However, as I discussed with the waiter enthusiastically about the wines, some more wines started appearing in our table, as he seemed to be as enthusiastic about the wines as I was.
day3wines.jpg
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Tsolikouri - Georgia, West Georgia, Imereti (2.9.2019)
    A rare white wine (i.e. no skin contact) by Pheasant's Tears, made from Tsolikouri grapes sourced from Shua Gora, located in the Imereti region. Made in non-interventionist fashion and bottled with minimal sulfites. 11,5% alcohol.

    Slightly hazy yellow color. Quite wild and waxy nose with aromas of pear, some honeydew melon, a little bit of burnt hair and a lifted hint of volatile character. The wine is full-bodied, rich and oily on the palate, but surprisingly lithe and fresh at the same time. There are quite fruity flavors of cider apples, some pear, a little bit of quince, a hint of sweet volatile acidity and a touch of stony minerality. The wine is high in acidity, but the rich, oily body seems to mask away some of the brightest cut. The finish is fresh, long and lively with flavors of ripe Granny Smith apple, some quince, a little bit of grassy greenness and a lifted hint of VA.

    A wonderfully fresh yet quite rich and subtly wild Georgian white wine that isn't an amber wine with skin contact, but isn't an "European-styled" modern white wine either (as so many Georgian non-skin contact white wines are). Made in the idiosyncratic, funky Pheasant's Tears style, the wine certainly doesn't hide is wild features, but isn't as tough and robust as the wines that see more skin contact. Bright and delightful effort - but perhaps one better suited for earlier consumption than cellaring. Perhaps slightly pricey at 60 GEL (20€) in the Pheasant's Tears restaurant.
    (89 pts.)
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Chinuri - Georgia, Kartli (2.9.2019)
    A white wine made from Chinuri grapes sourced from Gori, located in the historical region of Kartli. The wine sees 2 hours of skin maceration before pressing the wine. Made in non-interventionist fashion and bottled with minimal sulfites. 12% alcohol.

    Slightly hazy golden yellow color. Fragrant, somewhat wild and slightly animal nose with aromas of bruised pear, some smoky tones, a little bit of nuts and slivered almonds and a hint of resinous, phenolic spice. The wine is light-to-medium-bodied and quite wild on the palate with flavors of sweet golden apples, some leather and animal funk, a little bit of smoke, light notes of hay, a hint of acetic roughness and a touch of savory resinous character. The wine is moderately high in acidity with no discernible tannins. The finish is long, wild and quite nutty with flavors of hay, some wizened pear, a little bit of leathery funk, light smoky tones and a vinegary hint of acetic roughness and burn. Overall the wine feels so funky and acetic I was expecting to taste some mousiness in the aftertaste, but no - the wine remains clean.

    A wild yet quite approachable and enjoyable wine that isn't really white wine, but isn't a tough, savory Georgian amber wine either - more like a missing link between the two. Overall the wine is quite wild and very much alive, making it quite fascinating in its own right, but perhaps I would've hoped to see some more noticeable Chinuri character. The wine is very sauvage with quite noticeable "natty" character and while it really isn't faulty in any way, maybe a little less funk would go a long way. Perhaps slightly pricey at 60 GEL (20€) in the Pheasant's Tears restaurant.
    (88 pts.)
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Goruli Mtsvane - Georgia, Kartli (2.9.2019)
    An amber wine made from Goruli Mtsvane grapes (different variety from Kakhetian Mtsvane) sourced from Gori, Kartli. Fermented and macerated with the skins for 2 weeks, then aged in sealed kvevri. Made in non-interventionist fashion and bottled with minimal sulfites. 12% alcohol.

    Relatively cloudy and quite deep orange color with a pale amber rim. Rather sweet-toned and fragrant nose with aromas of butterscotch, dried stone fruits, some wizened sweet peach, a little bit of honeywaffle, light nutty tones and a lactic hint of creamy Brie cheese. The wine is dry, full-bodied and oily on the palate with complex, savory flavors of peppery spice, some phenolic bitterness, a little bit of wizened stone fruit, light fruity notes of ripe apricots and a hint of chopped nuts. The wine is quite round and mellow with its medium-to-moderate acidity, but the restrained tannins lend some nice firmness to the mouthfeel. The finish is long, savory and very gently tannic with complex flavors of chopped nuts, hay, some dried apricots, a little bit of apple jam, light notes of cooked cream and butterscotch and a touch of leathery funk.

    A very pleasant, harmonious and quite complex orange wine that feels - true to the Kartli style of wines - quite smooth and approachable, at least if compared to the often more serious and structured Kakhuri (Kakhetian) amber wines. Overall the wine feels rather wild and somewhat funky, as so many Pheasant's Tear wines do, but the emphasis is still on the fruit notes and the complexity that comes from the skin contact, not on the natty funk tones. Although I would've enjoyed a bit more acidity and/or more noticeable tannic backbone, the wine is nevertheless pretty attractive, nuanced and very drinkable.
    (91 pts.)
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Chinuri-Danakharuli - Georgia, Kartli (2.9.2019)
    According to the bottle, this is supposed to be a "rosé", but this really isn't your run-of-the-mill rosé, but instead more like a Georgian take on the traditional Spanish clarete: the wine is a blend of white Chinuri and extremely rare red Danakharuli, both macerated with the skins for 2 weeks. Made in non-interventionist fashion and bottled with minimal sulfites. 12% alcohol.

    Deep, youthful ruby color with subtly purple overtones - overall the appearance reminds me more of a Beaujolais Nouveau than anything remotely "rosé". The nose is wild, pungent and very distinctive with aromas of beetroot, some burnt hair, a little bit of floral violet character, light lingonberry tones and a funky hint of sweet leather. Once you come to grips with the nose, it feels quite attractive and fascinating. The wine is lively, light-bodied and quite wild on the palate with dry flavors of tart lingonberries, some beetroot, a little bit of ripe cranberry, light sappy notes of herbal spice and a nuanced hint of almost floral bretty funk. The structure relies more on the fresh, high acidity than on the quite light and easy tannins. The finish is dry, quite long and lively with gentle tannic grip and fresh flavors of tart lingonberries, some beetroot, a little bit of brambly raspberry and a hint of earthy funk.

    A very fresh, enjoyably crunchy and very easy-drinking "rosé" that feels more like a light red wine. Bright, dry and lively, the wine drinks wonderfully on its own, but its good acidity makes it also a versatile food wine. The nose feels quite striking at first, but after getting used to it, the wine is very balanced, sophisticated and harmonious with good emphasis on the purity of fruit and only a subtle undertone of more "natural" funk lending some nice complexity to the wine. Recommended.
    (92 pts.)
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Chitistvala - Georgia, Kakheti (2.9.2019) (not pictured)
    Tasting the wine at the Pheasant's Tears restaurant, we were told that as far as everybody knows, Pheasant's Tears is the only winery in the world making varietal Chitistvala wine at the moment - this 2018 was either their 2nd or 3rd commercial vintage. However, they expected a few wineries to start producing Chitistvala in a few years. Made in a non-interventionist fashion from grapes that are crushed and moved to earthenware kvevris to ferment and macerate with the skins. After the fermentation is complete after 2 weeks, the wine is racked to another kvevri to age. Bottled with minimal sulfites. 12,5% alcohol.

    Youthful, luminous and beautifully translucent raspberry red color. Aromatic, fruity and quite crunchy nose with fragrant aromas of raspberry marmalade, some blueberry jam, a little bit of overripe red cherry and a hint of boysenberry. The wine is lively, sappy and medium-bodied on the palate with crunchy, acid-driven flavors of tart cranberries, brambly raspberries, some peppery spice, a little bit of stony minerality, a hint of boysenberry and a touch of ripe blackberry. Contrasting the sweet-toned nose, the wine is wonderfully bright and crunchy on the palate with high acidity and balanced medium tannins. The finish is lively, fresh and gently grippy with long, dry flavors of boysenberries, some brambly raspberries, a little bit of tart cranberry, a hint of stony minerality and a touch of bitterness.

    A wonderfully delicate yet focused and serious effort from a variety nobody's ever heard from. Contrasting the muscular and extracted red wines of Kakheti, this felt more like a high-quality Cru Beaujolais in comparison. Very elegant and enormously drinkable, this is great stuff with or without food. Priced according to its quality at 75 GEL (25€).
    (93 pts.)
  • 2018 Pheasant's Tears Saperavi - Georgia, Kakheti (2.9.2019)
    A very traditionalist Georgian Saperavi: made in a non-interventionist fashion from Saperavi grapes that are crushed and moved to earthenware kvevris to ferment. After the fermentation is complete, the kvevri is sealed with the wine, grape skins and stems. The wine is left to age on the skins for 6 months, after which the wine is racked to another kvevri to settle. Bottled with minimal sulfites. 12,5% alcohol.

    Dense, fully opaque and quite youthful purplish black color. Sweet, dense and still rather lactic nose with bold, concentrated aromas of blueberry pie, ripe dark plums, some blackcurrant jam, a little bit of ink and light floral notes of violets. The wine is ripe yet surprisingly dry, crunchy and medium-bodied on the palate with lively flavors of tart lingonberries, fresh blackcurrants, some blueberry yoghurt, a little bit of ripe bilberry, a hint of sweet plummy fruit and a touch of sappy herbal spice. Overall the taste is remarkably pure and fruity for a Pheasant's Tears wine since the wines are quite known for the noticeably funky overall character. The wine feels very balanced with the structure relying surprisingly on the high acidity instead of the tannins that feel surprisingly ripe and round, only growing slowly in intensity by piling up on the gums. The finish is juicy, fresh and gently grippy with bright flavors of blackcurrants, some lactic blueberry yoghurt tones, a little bit of tart lingonberry, a hint of inky character and a sweet touch of ripe plummy fruit.

    A very nice and really tasty Saperavi that feels remarkably pure and clean for a Pheasant's Tears wine, but also all too primary; the overall taste is quite dominated by the lactic notes of blueberry yoghurt, and I imagine it will take some years before they disappear. Good stuff that is bound to get better with age. Perhaps now a bit all over the place, but will definitely get better as it settles down and loses that lactic tone.
    (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Pheasant's Tears Saperavi Black Wine - Georgia, Kakheti (2.9.2019)
    This is a special edition of the original Pheasant's Tears Saperavi 2007. The 2007 vintage was the first commercial vintage of Pheasant's Tears, but as other kvevris of this wine were bottled in normal schedule, one kvevri was left sealed in the way traditional Georgian kvevri wines were made: kept sealed for a special occasion. This wine was made just like the original vintage 2007 was made: in a non-interventionist manner, crushing the grapes, moving the must with the skins and stems into a kvevri, fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts and then left to age with the skins in a sealed kvevri for 6 months. However, after the 6 months the wine was transferred to another kvevri which was sealed and kept unopened for 10 years. Bottled unfiltered and with minimum sulfites. 12,5% alcohol. This wine was sampled in the Pheasant's Tears restaurant alongside the most recent vintage of Saperavi, 2018. Prior to opening the bottle and tasting the wine I was informed that all the bottles had shown a noticeably musty nose that is reminiscent of TCA, but since kvevris don't see any contact with chlorinated materials and the aroma seems to disappear with air, it isn't TCA, but instead some other kind of fault. The sommelier suspected that the wine might've been not completely fermented when it was racked to another kvevri and the off aromas might've come from the Saperavi continuing to ferment in a sealed kvevri (as normally kvevris aren't sealed before the wine has fermented to dryness).

    Dark, somewhat translucent and slightly maroon-hued blackish-red color. Sure enough, the nose feels very funky, earthy and rather corked upon the first sniff - not very pleasant. However, there are some aromas besides the corky off aroma: wizened dark forest berries, some inky tones, a little bit of animal funk, light sandy soil, a hint of sous-bois and a touch of ripe plummy fruit. With some air the musty, corky note really seems to dissipate, slowly being replaced with a sweeter aroma of cooked vegetables. The wine is ripe, slightly sweet-toned and silky on the palate with medium body and fascinating, complex and somewhat savory flavors of ripe blackcurrants, some wizened bilberries, a little bit of leather and cedar that reminds me of aged Bordeaux, light musty notes of cork, a hint of beetroot and a touch of damp leaves and sous-bois. The wine is wonderfully high in acidity, but the firm, robust tannins typical of Saperavi have resolved pretty much, lending more firmness than grip to the mouthfeel. The finish is more dry than sweet-toned with somewhat funky and complex flavors of sous-bois, animal funk, some sweet cooked beet root notes, a little bit of something reminding me of sausage, light bitter notes of chokeberries and lingonberries, a hint of burnt hair and a developed touch of cedar.

    A complex, fascinating and rather weird old Georgian red that seems very musty and somewhat corked at first, but slowly starts to clean out in the glass with air. Over the half an hour or so the corky note never disappeared completely, but faded away so much that the wine became quite pleasant to drink after awhile. Based on this, it is highly recommended to decant the wine at least for an hour or two before serving it and letting the people know that the nose can still be quite offensive, but the wine itself is nonetheless in sound condition. It really doesn't feel like the wine needs further aging, but I can imagine it keeping well for years more. Priced according to its quality at 120 GEL (40€).
    (93 pts.)
Posted from CellarTracker
day3tasting.jpg
While discussing with the waiter about the wines I learned that while they try to work as naturally as possible, they do employ sulfites. I didn't catch who thought it was a good idea to make wines without any sulfites and which one of the winery people argued against it, saying that using no sulfites would be acceptable if the wines were consumed only within Georgia, but if the wines are to be exported, some sulfites are needed to make the wines survive the trip to other countries. I was somewhat surprised to hear this, since I've had my share of very funky and mousy Pheasant's Tears wines in the past, but nevertheless thought it's only a good thing to have some sulfites there. If I recall correctly, the amount they used was something in the ballpark of 20-30 mg/l.

At some point some people in the nearby courtyard broke into song and sang a haunting, beautiful Georgian polyphonic song. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience be sitting in a restaurant in Sighnaghi, drinking Georgian wines and hear some people just randomly start to sing songs in the unique, local style of harmonization. At times the backing voices sounded something not unlike an accordion underneath the lead singing. Really exceptional. (When I later went to see what was happening there, I saw John Wurdeman sitting there with a bunch of people, a bottle of chacha (local grappa-like distillate) and several bottles of wine.)

Another quite Georgian experience was when we left the restaurant and headed back to our hotel: we were guided by a local turkey. That, however, felt less magical and more absurd.

There she goes, our guide turkey:
day3turkey.jpg
In the evening we went to eat in the local restaurant Nikala. We had some vine leaf dolma, eggplant with walnuts (I didn't eat these) and a bunch of khinkali dumplings filled with mushrooms and sulguni cheese. Cost us something like 80 GEL (26€ / $28) with wine, tea, Georgian brandy and tips included.
day3dolma.jpg
day3khinkali.jpg
Finally, as we arrived to our hotel, the hotel owner was there pouring samples of his own wines (as everybody seems to be making their own wines in Georgia) and while sampling his wines I mentioned we were going to travel to the town of Lagodekhi the next day and he contacted his friend to pick us up the next morning and drive us to our next destination!

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#18 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 15th, 2019, 7:21 am

Forgive me if you know already, Otto, but John's interest in Georgian folk music was largely responsible for him travelling to Georgia initially, and his wife is the leader of Zedashe - a song and dance ensemble based in Sighnaghi. So music is very much part of John's life and Pheasant's Tears. If you are interested you can stream Zedashe's music from Spotify, and doubtless other platforms.

Looking forward to the next installment!

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#19 Post by Matthew King » September 15th, 2019, 8:44 am

Thanks for the detailed notes, Otto. I know how long these types of post take!

One question for you. And I know it's a broad one. What are the Georgian people like? Outgoing or quiet? Curious about outsiders or guarded?

It may be impossible question to answer. But there are cultural differences between, say, Italians and Finns that you can just tell ... [cheers.gif]
"Please don't dominate the rap Jack if you've got nothing new to say." -- Robert Hunter

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#20 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 15th, 2019, 9:00 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:
September 15th, 2019, 7:21 am
Forgive me if you know already, Otto, but John's interest in Georgian folk music was largely responsible for him travelling to Georgia initially, and his wife is the leader of Zedashe - a song and dance ensemble based in Sighnaghi. So music is very much part of John's life and Pheasant's Tears. If you are interested you can stream Zedashe's music from Spotify, and doubtless other platforms.

Looking forward to the next installment!
Yes I do know very well, the whole history of Pheasant's Tears is already quite legendary and I have read several accounts of it - the last time while reading through Woolf's book Orange Revolution.
Matthew King wrote:
September 15th, 2019, 8:44 am
Thanks for the detailed notes, Otto. I know how long these types of post take!

One question for you. And I know it's a broad one. What are the Georgian people like? Outgoing or quiet? Curious about outsiders or guarded?

It may be impossible question to answer. But there are cultural differences between, say, Italians and Finns that you can just tell ... [cheers.gif]
It's a difficult question to answer, since we spent so little time there and we met relatively few people during the time - and I really wouldn't want to paint a wrong picture if I got somehow wrong impression.

To me, Georgians seem very friendly and hospitable, but also somewhat quiet - although apparently the discussions between the locals can get quite heated; several times we thought people were aggressively shouting at each other - at least from a Finnish perspective - but apparently it was still just normal, if quite vivid discussion. Georgians' hospitable nature and friendly attitude towards complete strangers became quite apparent when people just came to ask if they can be of help or even offering a drive when we were walking down a long, quiet street in a small village.

However, customer service is a completely different thing there. It's not like waiters, cashiers and other customer service people are arrogant, but the overall feel is somewhat cold and curt. People in those jobs don't smile much (or at all), nobody greets you and answers are often quite blunt. I don't know if this is a thing of ex-Soviet countries, but I've noticed the same kind of thing in Estonia, where I've been numerous times - for the longest time the customer service there was rather blunt, but I have been told it's a cultural thing - people expect customer service people to keep their distance and that kind of behavior feels appropriate, unlike very friendly and too pally behavior.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#21 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 15th, 2019, 3:12 pm

I think that is a very perceptive and nuanced description.

I think it is also fair to say that Georgians know how to have a good time with family and friends, and that often involves food, wine and singing, and sometimes dancing.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#22 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 15th, 2019, 9:58 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:
September 15th, 2019, 3:12 pm
I think that is a very perceptive and nuanced description.

I think it is also fair to say that Georgians know how to have a good time with family and friends, and that often involves food, wine and singing, and sometimes dancing.
That definitely seems to be the case! We never managed to bear witness to a supra (a Georgian feast), but basically every article about Georgia mentioned this part of their culture and during winery visits this aspect of their cultural heritage was never left unmentioned. [wow.gif]

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#23 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 16th, 2019, 1:34 am

There are also non-touristy youtube videos of supras, which I have enjoyed watching. I'm not so naive as to take that as evidence for normalcy, but at the very least it shows that's how the participants like to be seen.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#24 Post by g.colangelo » September 17th, 2019, 7:55 am

Otto, this is very timely! I am heading to Tbilisi in a week from now and was looking for information on restaurants and wineries. My time will be very limited because I will be there for work, but should have one free day, and the evenings of course. Would you suggest Pheasant's Tears if you had to restrict yourself to just one winery?
Are there worthwhile alternatives in Tbilisi?
Thanks!
G i l b e r t o

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#25 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 17th, 2019, 9:08 am

At 15 miles or so from Tbilisi, there is Iago's Wine to the NW and Gotsa Wines to the SW - both making natural wines in qvevri. They're both worthwhile to visit IMO, but very different to each other, and different again from Pheasant's Tears. I wouldn't like to unconditionally recommend any one over others, but they all have a fair amount written about them on the web to help you decide what suits you best, and they can be located on google maps.

Perhaps one important factor that might not be obvious is that Pheasant's Tears (the restaurant at least) is located in the town of Sighnaghi, which has great views over the Alazani Valley where most Georgian wine is made, and the journey from Tbilisi is a bit of an event in itself. And there are other winemakers in the same town, including Okro's Wines, which I see Otto visited. The other places are more isolated in the countryside.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#26 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 17th, 2019, 10:29 am

Steve beat me to it. I was going to recommend going to Iago's myself, since if staying in Tbilisi, it doesn't really make sense to take a taxi to Sighnaghi (1h15 to 1h30 in one direction) just for one wine tasting in a restaurant. The winery itself isn't even in Sighnaghi, but - to my understanding - more middle of nowhere. However, if willing to take the taxi drive, one can visit both Pheasant's Tears restaurant and Okro's Wines at one go, since they are 10 minute walk away from each other. One gets to see the stunning views over the Kakheti valley (aka. Alazani valley) as well.

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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#27 Post by Otto Forsberg » September 17th, 2019, 1:19 pm

So then, day 4 - From Sighnaghi to Lagodekhi.

After we woke up, we went for a stroll through Sighnaghi to get some breakfast, since the hotel we stayed in had no breakfast option. We settled for a bottle of Saperavi-flavored lemonade, a cheese pastry and a sweet ponchiki (a custard-filled doughnut).

After our breakfast we were planning to go to Okro's Wines, located at the highest peak of the village center. Since different sources said the winery restaurant was going to open at both 10 am and 11 am, we decided to play it safe and arrive past 11, after checking out first some spectacular views over the Alazani valley into the direction of the Caucasus mountains.
day4sighnaghi.jpg

Okro's Wines is a small family-run winery founded in 2004 by John Okruashvili, specializing in natural wines all vinified in clay kvevris. All the wines are made from organically farmed grapes, fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts and vinified without any sulfites at any point.
day4okros.jpg

Well, it turned out that they actually opened at 12 o'clock, so we decided to spend an hour or so at the neighboring café. At noon we tried our luck again - this time successfully - and asked for a wine tasting. We were guided to the large terrace of the winery overlooking the Alazani valley and John Okruashvili's sister Jane came to present us the wines.
day4wines.jpg
  • 2017 Okro's Wines Mtsvane - Georgia, Kakheti (3.9.2019)
    Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Macerated for 2 weeks with the skins in kvevris, after which the wine is transferred to another kvevris to age. Vinified and bottled without any sulfites. 11,3% alcohol.

    Cloudy, medium-deep yellow-green color. Fruity, ripe and somewhat cidery nose with aromas of canned pear, some volatile notes of nail polish, a little bit of pineapple and a hint of apple jam. The wine is lively, medium-bodied and slightly oily on the palate with flavors of ripe golden apples, some fresh pear, a little bit of nail polish VA, a hint of some sweet funk and a touch of stone fruit. The wine is fresh with high acidity, while the tannins feel very light and easy. The finish is ripe, sweet-toned and slightly funky with flavors of juicy golden apples, some sweet nail polish character, a hint of white peach and a touch of leathery funk.

    A tasty, approachable and somewhat cidery amber wine from the more natural end of the spectrum. The fine feels like it could turn mousy with some air, but for the moment it feels very clean and fruity, if somewhat volatile as well. I'd perhaps enjoy it a bit more with somewhat cleaner character, but it is enjoyable as it is. A wild yet quite easy-drinking Kakheti orange wine, if there ever was one. Quite nice, but nothing groundbreaking.
    (86 pts.)
  • 2017 Sister's Wines Kisi - Georgia, Kakheti (3.9.2019)
    A non-interventionist kvevri wine made from Kisi grapes. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts. Macerated for 7 months with the skins in sealed kvevris, after which the wine is transferred to another kvevris to settle. Vinified and bottled without any sulfites. 14% alcohol.

    Deep, luminous amber color. Very rich and potent nose of resinous phenolic character, cloudberry jam, some caramel, a little bit of wildhoney, light nutty tones of chopped hazelnuts and a hint of aromatic wild herbs. The wine is dry, medium-bodied and rather assertive on the palate with focused and quite robust flavors of earthy spices, some wildhoney, a little bit of resinous phenolic character, light sappy herbal tones, a hint of bruised apple and a touch of sweet, floral spice. The wine is noticeably structured with its high acidity and quite grippy tannins. There's some acetic volatile acidity roughness to the mouthfeel that slightly increases towards the aftertaste. The finish is lively, long and quite tannic with intense flavors of juicy cloudberries, spicy red apples, some floral tones, a little bit of dried herbs, a hint of resinous character and a touch of acetic roughness. Despite the hint of VA, the aftertaste feels clean and pleasant.

    A very impressive, attractive and beautifully fragrant orange wine from the assertive, structure-driven Kakheti end of stylistic spectrum. The wine has seen quite a bit of skin contact and it really does show - but only positively - in the firm, almost Barolo-like structure of the wine. Despite being extremely natural in style, the wine is very clean with good emphasis on purity of fruit - i.e. no noticeable funk or any faults like mousiness here. The elevated level of VA shows a little, but it never feels distracting or unpleasant. Terrific stuff that is quite tough and tightly-knit now, but perhaps some cellaring might be able to resolve the firm structure of the wine a little? Highly recommended.
    (94 pts.)
  • 2017 Sister's Wines Tavkveri - Georgia, Kakheti (3.9.2019)
    A non-interventionist kvevri rosé made with the free-run juice from crushed Tavkveri grapes. Fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts and aged in kvevris. Vinified and bottled without any sulfites. 11,5% alcohol.

    Rather pale, clear raspberry red color, still surprisingly deep color for a rosé - I guess Tavkveri skins release color into the juice quite easily. Somewhat restrained and quite spicy nose with aromas of dried spicy herbs, some brambly raspberry tones, a little bit of red apple and a hint of earthy animal funk. The wine is dry, moderately full-bodied and quite lively on the palate with somewhat sweet-toned and pretty intense flavors of fresh raspberries, some red apples, a little bit of lifted nail polish character, light fruity notes of white peach and a hint of clay. The wine is moderately high in acidity. The finish is ripe and juicy with lively flavors of sweet golden apples, a little bit of white peach, a hint of earthy funk and a coarse, slightly unclean touch that feels it could turn into subtle mousiness with a bit of air.

    A nice, pleasant and juicy naturalist rosé with good balance between ripe, sweet-toned fruit and freshness. Overall the wine feels like a fruity summer wine, but its quite wild and somewhat funky overall character makes me think that the wine is on the verge of showing mousy THP character. The wine might be clean enough to drink at the winery, but I worry it might turn unpleasantly mousy and funky if kept either open or in too warm temperatures for any longer than a brief moment. An interesting, drinkable rosé, but buyers beware! Keep the wine cool at all times and empty the bottle quickly - don't let it stay open for too long.
    (86 pts.)
  • 2017 Okro's Wines Saperavi Budeshuri - Georgia, Kakheti (3.9.2019)
    Made from non-teinturier Saperavi variety, Saperavi Budeshuri, sourced from the Alazani valley. Vinified in kvevris with a completely hands-off method, macerated for 2 weeks with the skins, no sulfites used at any point. 11,8% alcohol.

    Luminous, somewhat translucent and quite youthful blackish cherry red color with a pink raspberry rim. Brooding, sweet-toned nose of very ripe raspberries, some ripe red apples, a little bit of raspberry, light boysenberry tones and a hint of blueberry jam. The appley note makes the nose feel more like a dark rosé than a classic red wine. The wine is dry, medium-bodied and juicy on the palate with slightly extracted feel yet coming across youthful and quite crunchy with clean, vibrant flavors of chokeberries, wild forest fruits, some blueberries, a little bit of of brambly black raspberry, a hint of stony minerality and a lifted touch of VA. The structure relies mostly on the high acidity than on the tannins that feel quite ripe, round and easy for a Saperavi. The medium-to-moderately long finish is gently grippy with juicy flavors of tart and crunchy forest fruits, some black raspberries, a little bit of crunchy cranberry and a subtly acetic hint of VA.

    A bright, fresh and fine-tuned Saperavi that is very crunchy and approachable - even relatively delicate - for the variety, which most likely stems from the fact that this is not the classic Saperavi the Kakheti wines are known for. Despite the subtly volatile character, the wine is very clean in style with wonderfully easy-drinking overall character yet with good air of seriousness to it. Even though the wine is from the extreme end of the naturalist spectrum, it is remarkably pure with no noticeable funk. Most likely it can develop in a cellar, but unlike some kvevri Saperavi wines, the wine really doesn't require any further aging to be enjoyable. Nice!
    (92 pts.)
Posted from CellarTracker
Since the Kisi was so impressive, we commented on its outstanding quality to Jane Okruashvili. She seemed to take pleasure in what she heard and explained that the wine was actually not an Okro's wines per se, but instead a wine she made herself under the Sister's Wines label.

After the visit to the winery we headed back to the hotel, where our lift to the town of Lagodekhi was waiting.

It was only during the trip to Lagodekhi I understood how vast the viticultural region of Kakheti was. The valley didn't feel so vast from the hilltop town of Sighnaghi, but after descending zig-zagging roads for almost 400 vertical meters (1200 feet) to the village of Sakobo lying at the foot of the mountain right beneath Sighnaghi, the proportions started to hit me. It was mainly one straight road from there to Lagodekhi, yet it took some 45 minutes to get to the other side of the valley. The width of the valley turned out to be some 40 km (25 miles), but it seemed like less than half of that. I guess the Caucasus mountains might have something to do with the false impression, since right across the valley they rise up to the height of +3,000 m (~10,000 ft), but from afar and high up they seemed smaller and much closer than in reality, I guess? At least it really did feel like that when we sped towards Lagodekhi and the mountains just didn't appear to come any closer.

day4lagodekhi.jpg
Lagodekhi isn't really a touristy town; it is just a small, rural village right on the Georgian side of the Azerbaijan border. We didn't go to Lagodekhi after wine or food, but instead the natural reserve the village is known for, it being the oldest in Georgia. After we had settled in our lodging - a small guest house run by an elderly Russian couple - we went to walk around the village. Aside from the spectacular Caucasus mountains that loomed over the city, there was really nothing to see in Lagodekhi. We made our way to one of the two or three restaurants in the village and ordered a dinner.

day4wine.jpg
The menu had only two wines: "Saperavi" and "Rkatsiteli". Saperavi was 6 GEL (2€ or $2.5) and Rkatsiteli was 4 GEL (1.3€ or $1.5). We settled for Rkatsiteli and got a jug filled with orange wine. It tasted quite natural - even very slightly mousy in the aftertaste - and quite simple, but it managed to go nicely with the rich food with its savory flavors and bright acidity.

day4eggplant.jpg
Fried eggplant.

day4lobio.jpg
Lobio aka. bean stew.

day4khachapuri.jpg
Megruli khachapuri.

day4kebabi.jpg
Lamb kebabi.

All this was cost us 30 GEL (10€ or $12), tips included.

After the dinner we went to the local grocery store to buy some food supplies for our next day's trip to the nature reserve on the mountains.

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Paul Miller
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#28 Post by Paul Miller » September 17th, 2019, 1:31 pm

Thanks for the detailed notes. We've been considering this trip. A friend runs some photo tours, and he just added Georgia & Armenia. Would probably have gone this year except it overlaps the Chicago Marathon. We may go with him next year.

Here is a link to his tour:
https://photoenrichment.com/treasures-o ... i-georgia/

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Paul Miller
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#29 Post by Paul Miller » September 17th, 2019, 3:19 pm

Someone on Facebook just posted this from National Geographic

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/trav ... 1HRDB7jUlM

g.colangelo
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Re: Travelogue: Georgia (the country)

#30 Post by g.colangelo » September 17th, 2019, 9:27 pm

Steve and Otto: thanks a lot for the additional suggestion about Iago and Gotsa.
G i l b e r t o

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