My Weekend in Kakheti

This weekend I was invited by the Minister of Education to a vineyard in Kakheti, an eastern province of Georgia.  The entire fourth group and those of us from the second and third groups who live in Tbilisi were all told to meet at a hotel across town at 8 am (Curses!) to catch the bus to Kakheti.

I dutifully woke up at six and made my way groggily to the hotel by metro, taxi, and foot.  We piled onto a big bus and drove off towards the wine region!

This roadside fortress just happened to be passing by so I asked for its photo.

When we arrived we had a brief speech by the headmistress of the vocational school at which we were being hosted.  The school is a professional school for the training of vineyardeers (winers?  grapists?) and beekeepers.  I have to admit it was very scenic!

Typical sight at the Kakhetian Vineyard.

We were then led over to a table where a mild banquet had been prepared for us.  The table was laden with food and drink–wine, juices, mineral water, and, of course, what feast would be complete without tcha tcha?

This fat Georgian priest went around with a carafe in one hand and shot glasses in the other asking people, "Tcha tcha?" and then forcing them to have a shot. Mind you, this is at ten thirty am.

After letting us eat some khatchapuri and watermelon, the event coordinators implored us to “please hurry!  Come pick some grapes!”  Not wanting to be an ungrapeful guest (Zing!), I made my way over to the vines and found myself a red bucket with a small knife inside.  Time to pick some grapes!

No pictures were taken of me frolicking, alas. At least not with my own camera....
Grapes straight off the vine were pretty frickin' delicious.
After snipping a bucketful of grapes, I dumped them into a wicker basket on a donkey-led cart

Having successfully harvested grapes, Liis, Helen, Sarah Ball and I were just chilling by the horse when one of the Mariams (The two TLG officials who came with us this day were both named Mariam) came up to us and said, “Would you come this way please?  Follow that man with the camera.”  Okay, we thought, and Liis and I set off after the camera man.

He entered a small hut where we found a grape-stomping trough.  Someone gestured to Liis and said, “Put on the shoes!  Come (stomping motions with hands) the grapes!”

Liis told us that it "Feels very squashy!" and when she and the dude here stomped on the grapes the flow of juice down the sluice increased dramatically! I wouldn't have thought it would have worked so well! I suppose that is why I am no wine-maker.

She even gave a brief interview from the trough, demonstrating her excellent Georgian for the camera!

While this was going on a young goateed man was trying to persuade me and Terry to jump in the grape vat. Little did I know that this unassuming gentleman was the Minister of Education himself!

After stomping grapes, we left the hut and learned how to make…chuchu..somethings.  I forget the Georgian word for them, but I call them “Candles.”  They are a snack made with this caramel-y grape mash in which you dip a string of nuts.  The goo coats the nuts and when it cools you have a “candle”!

Not every day you get to dip a string of nuts into a bubbling pot of caramel-colored grape goo!

From the vat of grapepaste we moved on to another small hut where we were taught how to make Lavash.  Lavash is this tasty Caucasian bread that is both crispy and soft.  It has an unusual shape to it, not unlike some sort of paddle or boat-shaped vessel, and it’s made by taking a length of stretched-out dough and slapping it to the inside of a huge round stove.  Behold as Liis demonstrates yet another traditional Georgian method of food preparation!

Tell us, Liis, how is it slapping dough inside an enormous oven?
"It's hot! It's really really hot!"

Since it had been a whole thirty minutes since we had eaten, it was high time for another Georgian feast.  This time the food was more meat-based and we had mtsvadi (Lamb kebabs) with lots of Georgian wine.  The Minister of Education toasted us very kindly and sat eating and drinking with us for a good while.

The minister is very young but seems like a very smart, charismatic guy. It was nice of him to invite us to the vineyard!

Not to be outdone, Father Tcha Tcha made a toast shortly thereafter:

In contrast to the Minister, the Priest ended his toast with "Bottoms up!" (Also, is it odd that the two characters here are the Priest and the Minister?)

Please forgive the above photo’s blurriness–I was taking it without flash so as not to interrupt his toast.

As we emptied our plates and drained the wine jugs the Mariams told us it was time to go.  We piled back onto the bus–all a bit drunk by 1 pm–and began our two-hour drive home through the beautiful Kakhetian countryside.  All told, it was a very good start to the weekend!

(For a more concise, visual, Georgian-language version of this story, please see the Ministry of Education website! [click the blue word ‘video’ at the bottom for a video of the weekend, go figure!])

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8 thoughts on “My Weekend in Kakheti

  1. The “chu chu stuff” which looks like candles is churchkhela AKA Georgian Snickers.
    My absolutely favorite Georgian snack, it was originally developed as food for warriors. Nutricious, delicious, portable, you can eat it on the run using only one hand while hacking someone to death with the other hand, it’s the all around best food for busy modern day warriors. Never goes bad. Easy to smuggle back into the US in your luggage. Don’t go home with out it.
    See also:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churchkhela

  2. “After stomping grapes, we left the hut and learned how to make…chuchu..somethings. I forget the Georgian word for them, but I call them “Candles.””
    It’s called churchkhela. And avoid saying “chuchu…somethings” in public 😀

  3. > how to make…chuchu..somethings

    Raughley, ‘chuchu’ means hmmmm…. male reproductive organ in Georgian.

    Be careful using that word in public.

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