Kakheti_ugogeorgia

Welcome to wine country, the amazing land of Kakheti. If the mountains are the crown of Georgia’s superb landscape, then Kakheti is its glowing heart. This wide and fertile valley presses up against the white topped Caucasus to the north and the Azerbaijan basin to the south. Kakheti is the birthplace of wine. It was here, at the dawn of agriculture that humans first worked out that storing grape juice in clay pots underground created something very special – and that’s something the Kakhetians have never forgotten. The history of winegrowing in Kakheti starts in the 6th millennium BC. The earliest known evidence of viticulture – grape residues on potsherds, have been discovered dating from this time in Kakheti. Other finds testifying to the antiquity of Kakheti’s wine industry include whole wine cellars, the world’s oldest known wine press and even a figurine drinking a horn of wine dated to 900 BC. Of approximately 2,000 grape varieties in the world today almost 500 are Georgian, and some believe that the word ‘vino’ from which the English word ‘wine’ comes from, is actually a derivation of the Georgian term “ghvino”. Ever since the Bronze Age, it seems, Kakheti has been obsessed by wine. The stupendous cathedrals of the 12th and 13th centuries are surrounded by enormous fields full of wine pitchers. At the Alexander Chavchavadze house Museum, the cellar contains vintages dating back to 1814.Today, vineyards cover the best parts of the region. Georgia’s most famous terroirs are mainly found in Kakheti, some protected by European law, including Tsinandali, Teliani, Napareuli, Vazisubani, Mukuzani, Akhasheni, Gurjaani, Kardenakhi, Tibaani, Kindzmarauli, Manavi, Eniseli, Gremi. While large companies have started producing top quality wines for global export, the most authentic way to drink Kakhetian wine is in the home of a local. Everybody in Kakheti produces their own vintage, and each one seems better than the last. The blazing august sun is hot enough to ripen any grape to perfection, the morning fog and the abundant rivers flowing down from the high Caucasus help fill them with bold flavour. From the full bodied and fruity reds like Kindzmarauli, to the clear, crisp, pale-straw coloured Tsinandali, Kakhetian wine has something for all palettes. But there is more to Kakheti than wine alone.

kakheti_ugogeorgia

The region was for a long time the most prosperous in Georgia, and contains some of the country’s largest and most lavish churches, such as the magnificent Alaverdi. The Ikalto Academy was a great centre of learning back in the eleventh century, akin to the contemporary universitiesof Oxford and Cambridge. But today, the picturesque city of Sighnaghi is probably Kakheti’s main attraction. The city is surrounded by one of the world’s longest extant town walls – each tower on this wall was a sheltering place for local families during times of war. Now however, peace has well and truly descended on Sighnaghi, and many Georgians call it by its nickname ‘the city of love’. Winding streets with overhanging balconies, vine covered courtyards and plazas, as well as excellent restaurants and hotels, make Sighnaghi the ideal place to explore the rest of the region. And thee is plenty more to explore in Kakheti. The stunning Vashlovani National Park in the South is more like Africa than Europe, and is home to Georgia’s only remaining population of native leopards. Nearby are the fabulous monasteries of David Gareji, set in an unforgettable semi-desert landscape. In the north of the region lies the Great Caucasus range, and the hidden world of Tusheti – an almost medieval landscape of castles, watchtowers and shrines. But as is the case in all of Georgia, the best thing about Kakheti is the Kakhetians themselves. Known throughout Georgia for their wry sense of humor, as well as their hard working attitude, it’s no wonder these people produce some of the world’s best wine. Kakhetians always have a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts, and visitors to Kakheti always leave with exactly the same.

 

Wine Cellars “Pheasant’s Tears”

“Pheasant’s Tears” is founded by American practicing painter John H Wurdeman V. The idea to start this company was born from a passion for Georgian culture and heritage. At Pheasant’s Tears hand-crafted natural wines are produced according to ancient Georgian principles from luscious, healthy grapes. All wines are fermented and aged in a special vessel called qvevri – clay vessels lined with organic beeswax and buried in the earth. The name of the cellar comes from a Georgian tale in which the hero claims that only a wine beyond measure could make a pheasant cry tears of joy. You will have a chance to taste different types of finest Georgian wine.

Tsinandali

Tsinandali is a village in Kakheti, famous for the estate and its historic winery which once belonged to the 19th century nobleman Aleksandre Chavchavadze (1786–1846) – a poet, translator, soldier, businessman, innovator in agriculture and the first modern Georgian oenologist. His exemplary life and achievements played a huge part in introducing new values, promoting social and economic welfare, and changing the trajectory of Georgian culture.
To facilitate viticulture and wine-making, Aleksandre constructed a wine production facility, steam vodka brewery and huge underground wine cellar at Tsinandali. His personal wine collection, which survived partially to this day, consisted of 70 brands and 16,500 bottles, including a Georgian Saperavi of vintage 1839. At present this wine cellars are under recontruction, thus they are closed for visitors.
Poet’s house-museum is the best place to listen the charming story of the powerful family that left a lasting mark on Georgia’s history.

Telavi

Telavi is the main town an administrative center of Georgia’s eastern province of Kakheti with about 30 000 inhabitants. First archaeological findings from Telavi date back to Bronze Age. It served as capital of Kakheti in the 10-11th and later in 17-18th centuries. During the so called Golden Era of the Georgian State (12-13th centuries), Telavi turned into one of the most important political and economic centers of the Georgian State. After the disintegration of the united Georgian Kingdom in the 15th century, the role of Telavi started to decline and the city eventually became an ordinary town of trade and crafts. Telavi regained its political importance in the 17th century when it became a capital of Kingdom of Kakheti. By 1762, it turned into the second capital (after Tbilisi) of the united Eastern Georgian Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti. The reign of King Erekle II, who was born and died in this city, was a special epoch in the history of Telavi. During this period (1744-1798) it grew into a strategic and cultural centre. Erekle II established there theological seminary and founded a theatre. His reforms changed fundamentally the political, economical and cultural orientation of Kartli-Kakheti and, subsequently of the whole Georgia. His name became a symbol of freedom and national independence of the Georgian people.
The town is famous for its picturesque sights, a house-museum of Erekle II, university, drama theatre, art gallery and other cultural and educational centers.

Sighnaghi

A small Kakhetian town of Sighnaghi, is originated in the current form of a town on the ruins of a previously existing fortress in the second half of the 18th century during the reign of King Erekle II. He has ordered to build a town with the fence in the place of an old stronghold.  Sighnaghi was a royal town and served as a center of Kiziki, one of the districts of Kakheti region; it was administered by Mouravi (manager). The fortress occupied nearly 40 ha of land and was able to harbor whole population of Kiziki in case of enemy invasion. Once Imperial Russia annexed Kartl-Kakheti (in 1801), Sighnaghi became a center of Mazra.
Today we can witness the power of former fortress from the walls which left to this day surrounding the present old part of the city and farther beyond it. There are 23 towers built-in in the fence, which were named after adjoining villages (such as Bodbe, Velistsikhe, Mirzaani etc.).
Besides the mentioned fortress, which is listed among one of the major and famous Georgian fortresses, today Sighnaghi impresses travelers with its unique charm, because a couple of years ago the main part was fully reconstructed and now it looks like a sweet fairy tale town with colorful houses, wooden balconies, flowers and amazing view to Caucasus Mountains. Sighnaghi is also known as town of festivals – folk music, dances, food and, of-course one of the biggest autumn wine festival is hosted exactly in this pretty town. Moreover Sighnaghi is called town of love – once decided you can have a wedding there any time, day and night.

Shuamta Monastic Complex

In the village of Shuamta (“a place between mountains”) is located Shuamta Monastic Complex – New (Akhali) Shuamta Monastery and Old (Dzveli) Shuamta. These two monasteries absolutely differ from each other in architecture and were built at different times.
Old Shuamta monastery is a complex of several ancient churches. The small church is dated from the 5th century, the other two – bigger and smaller domical churches – the 7th century. The churches have paintings from the 12th century.
New Shuamta Monastery was built in the 16th century. This monastery is still active. According to the legend the monastery was constructed by Tina, the Queen of Kakheti. In her youth she had a dream where she saw the site of the future monastery and she was asked to build this temple. At that time the place appeared unfamiliar. After her marriage with Kakhetian prince Levan, Tina was traveling across Georgia, and in Shuamta she found the same view she dreamt. That was how the monastery was founded and later Tina to

Nekresi Monastery

Nekresi Monastery complex is standing on a hill and facing a beautiful view of the Alazani Valley. Although it was founded by St. Abibo Nekreseli, one of the Thirteen Syrian monks who came to Georgia in the 6th century to strengthen Christian faith but already in the 4th century one of the first Christian churches was built here. Thus Nekresi Monastery ensemble includes several structures built in different times. The main church of Assumption of the Virgin was built in 6-7th CC. Nekresi Monastery experienced numerous of Muslims invasions. There is a legend which tells about one of it: when Nekresi was attacked by Muslims, defenders of the monastery let the pigs out of the monastery. Muslims soldiers saw the pigs on their way, ceased hostilities and left the monastery in the peace. In commemoration of this rescue the pig was announced as Nekresi protector and up to now the Nekresi st. Virgin temple is the only one church in Georgia where pig can be sacrificed.

King Erekle II museum in Batonis Tsikhe Castle

Batonis Tsikhe citadel is located in Telavi town. It served as the residence of Kakhetian Kings of the 17-18th centuries.The castle encloses two churches, the ruins of the 11th century royal baths, the pantheon and the Persian style Palace of King Erekle II. At present there is established house-museum of King Erekle II, the Ethnographic Museum and the Picture Gallery.
The museum houses King Erekle’s belongings and along with them: numismatic collection, early medieval sarcophagus, late medieval armor, and collections of XVII-XIX c.c. cooper household objects, weapons, Khevsuretian (East Georgian mountainous region) clothes. It is said that King Erekle II was born and died in the south-east part of the castle.

Ikalto Religious Academy

Late in the 6th century Saint Zenon, one of the “Syrian Fathers”, founded the Ikalto Monastery 7-8 km west of the town Telavi. The Monastery was famous as one of the most significant cultural-scholastic centers of Kakheti as well as of the whole of Georgia because of the Spiritual Academy in which outstanding Georgian philosopher Arsen Ikaltoeli used to live and work. Archaeological excavations revealed numerous workshops, wine-cellars, a smithy, store-rooms and other household rooms grouped around the Academy building. The Academy of Ikalto trained its students in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, geography, geometry, chanting, etc. Besides the theoretical courses, the students were skilled in pottery making, metal work, viticulture and wine making, pharmacology, etc.
Ancient Academy of Ikalto is also famous for the fact that Shota Rustaveli, the outstanding Georgian poet of the 12th century, used to study there.

Gurjaani Kvelatsminda Curch

Gurjaani Kvelatsminda is a wonderful example of a transitional period in Georgian culture. This 8th century church of Dormition of the Virgin is unique in the way that it is the only one two-doomed temple in Georgia. One of the traditions related with church raised from local people told story that the miracle of Virgin Mary happened here, when milk was overflowing from the walls of the church. This is why it was frequently visited by nursing and “dried up” mothers. Nowadays it is a site for an active monastery.

Gremi Architectural Complex

Gremi is a 16th century architectural monument – the royal citadel and the Church of the Archangels. The complex is what has survived from the once flourishing town of Gremi and is located east of the present-day village of the same name. The complex was built by King Levan on a rocky hill. In the 16th century Gremi was the capital of Kakheti Kingdom, it functioned as a lively trading town on the Silk Road and royal residence until being razed to the ground by the armies of Shah Abbas I of Persia in 1615. The town never regained its past prosperity and the kings of Kakheti transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid-17th century. Although the most of gorgeous town was destroyed, but fortunately at present we can witness its glory by visiting Archangels’ Church complex, composed of the Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel itself, a three-story castle, a bell tower and a wine cellar. This object is one of the most impressive in Kakheti.

David Gareja

David Gareja is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the region of Kakheti, surrounded by impressive landscapes of desert colors. The complex was founded in the 6th century by St. David Garejeli, one of the thirteen Assyrian monks who arrived in the country at the same time. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.
Despite the harsh environment, the monastery remained an important centre of religious and cultural activity for many centuries; at certain periods the monasteries owned extensive agricultural lands and many villages. The convent was particularly patronized by the Georgian royal and noble families. The 12th century Georgian king Demetre I, the author of the famous Georgian religious hymn Thou Art a Vineyard, even chose David Gareja as a place of his confinement after he abdicated the throne.
The renaissance of fresco painting chronologically coincides with the general development of the life in the David Gareja monasteries. The high artistic skill of David Gareja frescoes made them an indispensable part of world treasure. From the late 11th to the early 13th century, the economic and cultural development of David Gareja reached its highest phase, reflecting the general prosperity of the medieval Kingdom of Georgia. New monasteries Udabno, Bertubani and Chichkhituri were built; the old ones were enlarged and re-organized.
Because the complex is partially located on the territory of Azerbaijan proper, it has become the subject of a border dispute between the two countries with ongoing talks since 1991.

Bodbe Monastery of St. Nino

The Monastery of St. Nino at Bodbe (commonly called Bodbe Monastery) is a Georgian Orthodox monastic complex and the seat of the Bishops of Bodbe located 2 km from the town of Sighnaghi, Kakheti, Georgia. Originally built in the 9th century, it has been significantly remodeled, especially in the 17th century. In the 16-17th centuries Bodbe was the important educational centre.
At present the monastery functions as a nunnery and is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Georgia, due to its association with St. Nino, the 4th century female evangelist of Georgians, whose relics are shrined there. According to the legend, St. Nino died in Bodbe in 335. She crossed the entire country healing and preaching people the true God. St. Nino bequeathed to bury her in this land. Later when tsar Mirian wanted to move her body to Mtskheta, all efforts to shift the ark with Nino’s relics from its place were in vain. Originally, a little temple in honor of great martyr St. George was built on the burial place. But this temple did not survive. In 850 instead of the old temple the new Cathedral, the main building of the complex, was erected. It is a classic temple in the best traditions of Georgian architecture. The interior is decorated by the 9th century paintings and fragments of the 12-17th century pictures.
Down the hill from the monastery church, the bell-tower lies the Spring of Saint Nino, where pilgrims – or visitors – are meant to plunge themselves three times into the frigid water. They say the spring has curative powers and absolves one of sins.

Alaverdi Monastery

Alaverdi Monastery was founded by the Assyrian monk Joseph (Yoseb, Amba) Alaverdeli, who came from Antioch and settled in Alaverdi – a small village and former pagan religious center dedicated to the Moon. At the beginning of the 11th century, Kakhetian King Kvirike the Great built a cathedral, today known as Alaverdi Cathedral, in the place of a small church of St. George. At a height of over 55 meters, Alaverdi Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Georgia, after the recently consecrated Sameba Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Alaverdi Cathedral was twice destroyed. Its first restoration was accomplished in the 15th century, the second one – in the 18th century after the disastrous earthquake. Restorations have changed the cathedral a little but nevertheless it remains the outstanding example of medieval Georgian architecture. The cathedral’s architectural complex is surrounded by a fortification. But in fact the most amazing is its interior. The high dome increases the feeling of space infinity. Alaverdi Cathedral has the fragments of wall paintings of the 9th, 15th and 17th centuries. From the 17th to the 18th centuries there was the dwelling for women of imperial descent who took the veil.