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!
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!
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?
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!
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!”
She even gave a brief interview from the trough, demonstrating her excellent Georgian for the camera!
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”!
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!
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.
Not to be outdone, Father Tcha Tcha made a toast shortly thereafter:
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!])