How true!! Our first week back in Tbilisi has been nothing short of phenomenal - catching up with every old friend has been a joy. No hospitality comes close to that of the Georgian's. In addition to picking up all the threads I'd left behind, we've also, in short order, set up bank accounts, confirmed a full film schedule through November which will take us across the country several times (as well as to historic locations in other countries through the region), acquired a new apartment which we hope to keep for a long time to come, bottled the wine I started fermenting last fall, and taken our first days of footage. The tropical storms have passed through, and now the hot summer sun has settled in and seems here to stay. So much more to come!
(The sitting room in our renovated 19th century apartment home.)
Late last September, I spent time in the central Georgian wine region of Ateni, and spoke with a winemaker friend and cultural historian, Prof. Nikoloz Vacheishvili, about an ancient rose style of wine named Khidastauri - it was famous hundreds of years ago, but hasn't been made in many decades. Together, we discussed how to make it again - I was grateful that he gave me a free hand in the cellar to craft it. Three days ago, we visited him again to help him bottle his own 2014 wines, which included the Khidastauri. Before bottling, we gave it a quick taste, and were pleased to discover it carries both a memorable weight and delightful lift, thanks to a touch of petillance which gives a Txakoli-type impression. I loved the color as well! Can't wait to make more of it this fall.
(JQ with Khidastauri: what a color!!)
Our first two days of footage included a horseback ride at a ranch above Sighnaghi in Kakheti, and crossing a flooded river over a rickety wooden footbridge to view Ateni's vineyards and help Nikoloz bottle his wines by the most hands-on, low-tech methods I've ever seen. Like so many of the other Georgian winemakers we speak with, he's just starting to explore separate bottlings, based on single vineyards and differing degrees of skin contact, and his new wines convey the sensation of rich melancholy and crisp minerality.
This weekend will take us to Western Georgia, where we'll film a giant summer supra/feast, tea fields and tall tree-gripping vines, radical open qvevri burials and unexplored experimental grape nurseries, along with the wine facilities of a 5,000 year old pagan city. Guarmajos!
(The ancient central-Georgian stone city of Uphaltsikhe, capped by a 'modern' church)