It's no secret that we have a poorly concealed ladycrush on Georgia. We have written about it frequently, so much so that some of our favorite Carpetblog posts were written in or about Georgia. We fail to understand why our adventure-seeking, sybaritic Istanbul contemporaries have not yet shelled out the $300 for the two-hour flight to Tbilisi for a weekend. Do they not know passport control officers give you a bottle of wine after they stamp your passport? We have often worried that, in a haze of propagandizing, we have oversold the place. This has never happened. After a decade of living and travelling around the world, Georgia remains our favorite country, full stop, and everyone who has surrendered to our pleas to go agrees.
We just spent five days there, celebrating the fourth-annual Thanksgiving throwdown -- always a highlight of our year. After the turkey funk wears off, we try to do something somewhat adventurous. One year we visited the village of Sighnaghi, another year we cluelessly watched Georgia stomp the US in rugby, last year we went to the high Caucasus village of Gudauri. Each activity usually shares in common excessive consumption of food, wine and/or chacha. Things were a bit tamer than normal this year, mostly because key rogue elements stayed home.
We headed out to the Schuchmann winery in the Kakheti wine region. This was the first time we'd been out to this eastern Georgia valley, which is crammed up right to the base of the snow-dusted Caucasus, a view we've come to love and miss.
Overall, the German-owned lodge and restaurant were a bit disappointing. They were well-appointed but with service so sweetly incompetent that we commented "What this place needs is some Turks to whip it into shape." Thse are neither words we frequently say nor words Germans want to hear, but Turks can usually run a hotel pretty well.
But let's talk about the important thing: the quality of Schuchmann's wine, which was fantastic. We didn't get the tour we'd hoped for but we tried a variety of their wines, both European- style (aged in steel vats) and Kakhetian-style (aged in underground ceramic pots called Qvevri). We didn't much care for a traditional white called Kisi which tasted like it had gone off but apparently, we were told, it's supposed to taste like that. We much preferred the European-style 2008 Saperavi, the cabernet-like red for which Georgia is best known. They also have a 2008 Saperavi, but aged in Qvevri. We might have tried it. It can be hard to keep track.
Sometimes, after drinking a lot of wine, we worry that our judgment gets impaired -- there's plenty of hard data to suggest this is more than a vague perception -- and that the wine we've drunk a lot of isn't quite as good as it was on that cold night in front of a fire at the foot of the Caucasus with a friend.
The next morning, these residual warm feelings drove us to buy six bottles of the European-style Saperavi. The possiblity that we could be making a mistake occured to us. But, and here's the rub, it was only 6 Lari ($3.60) per bottle*. We figured it was low risk investment and it's not like it could be any worse than a 25 TL ($14) bottle of Turkish.
This, officially, is our favorite cheap wine, possibly ever. We served it at dinner last night with a bit of trepidation given our clouded judgment that night. The reaction was strongly positive. We concluded that it is actually too good to serve to the common riffraff who typically dine chez Carpetblogger.
So this is what we suggest: Germans at Schuchmann, bring in some Turks in to clean up the service at the hotel/restaurant so it justifies the rather steep rate. In exchange, teach the Turks how to make a decent wine. This is a win-win situation. We are happy to facilitate.
*That's the price at the winery with a tax-free card. It was 8 Lari without the card and 10 Lari ($6) in the supermarket in center Tbilisi. This a deal at all those prices. The 2008 Khakheti-style Saperavi was 30 Lari ($18) at the winery. The labor-intensive Qvevri aging explains the substantially higher price. We can't recall trying it so can't comment on whether it's worth it. It probably is.