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Published: July 30th 2019
I desperately needed a three day weekend away and after looking at various options, I decided on Georgia. While researching, however, I thought I would need at least a week to explore everything. Initially, I wanted to visit the caves, either Vardzia or David Gareja Cave Monastery. But, so many people recommended the Georgian wines, that I figured a wine-cation was what I really needed. So I decided that I would stay in wine country two days and the last day in Tbilisi. The country does not look that big, and on the map, I was hoping to stop off at a few places, but the ride to Ikalto was over a rugged mountain pass on two lane roads. It took almost two hours to get there from the airport.
I think I may need a break from Fly Dubai after this trip. The budget airline is generally good and closely affiliated with Emirates, but it was super crowded with very rude people and it ruined whatever good feelings I had. It was not helped by the cab driver that I'm pretty sure I got ripped off. The hotel had offered to send a driver for $50, but I figured
I would take a taxi (as per above, hoped to stop at a few places). Well, let's just say I was vastly overcharged. I was angry at first, but I felt out of options so off we went. After I simmered and stewed for about a half hour I decided to make the best of it and started talking. So, he made my trip a little more pleasurable but stopping at a few places and getting me some coffee. So, it was not terrible.
We stopped at the Gombori Mountain Pass, elevation 1620m, which was a little more than halfway to the hotel. The views were incredible, though it was a little cool and windy. There were old men selling honey and across the street a little house with lots of "coffee" signs. Also, there was a little alcove with a water spout coming out of the hillside with a cup right next to it. I saw these all over the place in wine country and loved it. Beautiful clear, cool mountain water free for the taking and with a little decoration besides.
We made it to my lovely hotel, Savaneti, in the little village of Ikalto, near
the town of Telavi. It was just after 11am, so my room was not quite ready, but I was able to enjoy the breakfast, which was winding down, and sit on the lovely enclosed patio, which had great views of the mountains, valley, and pool. The food was good too. There was a chicken with cream sauce dish, which I found unusual for breakfast, but absolutely delicious. After I finished, my room was ready and I went up to get settled and rest for a few, basically a nice two hour nap. My balcony views were incredible. After my nap, I went down and asked for a charger (I forgot mine!), set up a wine tasting appointment, and arrange for a driver for the following day for wine tasting. The staff were super friendly and helpful. So, despite the complete isolation of the hotel, it was so pleasant and relaxing.
I sat down for an early dinner / very late lunch. I got two small dishes. First was minced walnuts wrapped with roasted eggplant, served cold. I think this was my favorite dish. I also got mushrooms cooked in a clay pot. This was also good. I was able
to save some of both dishes for leftovers and had some for a late night snack. The cuisine here was good, as my friends had told me, but I noted the staples of this region in particular seemed to consist of mushrooms, walnuts, hazelnuts, eggplant, and honey.
After dinner, I went with Eka and Nata to do a wine tasting in a building further in on the property. Nata was the wine server (kind of like my old job) and Eka was translating. I found it funny because aside from the next day's driver, I noticed most of the people who spoke English well were generally young women. They said a lot of people spoke Russian and German schools were common. They said, in Russian, their names would be Ekaterina and Natalya. Lol! Anyway, Nata had a nice set up for me, with multiple glasses and three chilled wines waiting for me. Wines in Georgia are natively made in large clay pots, called Qvevri, and are usually made with the grape skins. I tried a dry white wine, which had a dark yellow color, an amber wine, and red wine, which was semi sweet. They were all delicious.
Afterwards, I went to my room, at my leftover eggplant, and enjoyed a glass of dry red wine on the balcony while watching the other hotel guests enjoy life by the pool. I think I was the only English speaker there. Most of the guests seemed to be Georgian, and many had kids with them. There was music playing and it just seemed to be a nice, peaceful, summertime atmosphere.
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