The matriarch greets us at the gate to the area of the huts where the wines are made in buried qvevri.
I kid you not - this was the toilet facility - no seat only the Asian style squat toilet but it was clean and there was a grab bar to help with steadying yourself over the hole- this might be TMI for some of you but this is what it is like to travel to places where tourism isn't developed into an "if it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" experience. And despite the occasional discomfort, this is why we say #gonow Because, at some point some of this, if not much of it, will be gone and all that travelers will get is a sanitized version that has little to do with the authentic way of life we were able to see and experience.
the vines across the road from both the house and the huts -
their "winery" - many of the buildings were more than a hundred years old - the qvevri were buried in the yards of these huts and if you didn't know better you might think this was some strange burial ground as the qvevri are covered with what ever they can find to keep the clay moist and the seal a good one during fermentation-
snacks of fruit and filled breads and a sweet jellied dessert thing that was kind of on the pate des fruites spectrum.
Here the son opens one of the ready qvevri and we drink wine directly from it with our snacks!
the wine was actually quite drinkable- light but refreshing - no strange notes on the palate...
next on to the next winery and lunch in the garden there - Maradiuli Cellars
our al fresco lunch table - location for many toasts ----
a new kind of soup this one has fresh cheese globs in the corn broth... not my fave -
my plate shows the variety of things available - every meal had tomatoes and cucumbers (the best tomatoes we have had in years!) and fresh cheese and bread- frequently we had eggplant and this time of year pumpkin too -
with the winemaker -and host!
well we left the lunch so late that we missed the 4:30 closing of the monastery shown from the outside - LOL (I wasn't crying since I had already had my fill of churches in the first day or so LOL)
Then we were off to the monastery on the column of stone - where the closing time had come and gone but some of the group wanted to walk to get a closer view (many turned back when they saw what was involved) so we wasted another hour plus on this escapade--- there's a reason we pulled into the hotel at 9PM and had to rush off to dinner -
you can see the light is fading-
and we are doing switchbacks in the mountains are dusk racing towards the night's accommodations and dinner (because it's been a couple of hours since we have eaten - we are given snacks and wine on the bus)
the hotel rooms (what we saw in the few minutes we had before rushing off to dinner) were lovely and we walked down the street to dinner at Sapere - which was very good and many many courses and much wine...
creamy chicken soup (soup good - chicken had gristle)
dumplings in broth - one of the best dishes of the meal)
a burrata like fresh cheese made from buffalo milk-
grilled meat and corn side that was kind of like polenta -
we got back to the hotel around 11PM and got into the shower so we could save sleeping time in the morning - the breakfast room doubled as a disco in the evenings and had unusual decor but we knew there would be plenty of food along the way so no worries about slim pickings at breakfast....LOL-
stay tuned as we head into a region that never saw a road until the late 1930s - that place in the remote mountainous region of Georgia where people our age were told the folks lived to more than 100 due to their diet of Dannon yogurt .... raise your hand if you remember those commercials from way back when... some along - more food - more churches - more wine and more singing! Stay tuned!