A Day of Cellar Door Experience & Relaxation in a Wine Bath
19.06.2017 - 19.06.2017 30 °C
Schuchmann Winery, Kisiskhevi
- Why rush?!
- We are lingering a day in the Kekheti region. We plan to drive part of the wine route and visit some wineries. A day of cellar door experiences, a sip here, a sip there. No church, no Fortess no Monastery.
- If you needed a CFM fix, from here in Kisiskhevi , you could easily make a trip to Alaverdi and see its cathedral - built in 11C to an overall height of 50m - it remained the tallest church in Georgia for nearly a millenium. And Gremi Fortress is not far away either.
- Anyway for us, it's a relaxed start and an invigorating swim for SG in the outdoor pool surrounded by vines. The water is fresh but bearably so.
- Breakfast is average but the coffee is good enough to render a truck brew unnecessary.
- Our first visit today is to the Chavchavadze Estate in Tsinandali, just a 5 minute drive from the Schuchmann vineyard. According to Lonely Planet, it is a must see. It is one of two homes belonging to Prince Alexander, the other being in Tbilisi. He was one of most colourful and influential characters in Georgian history.
- Looking around his former home which is now a museum, makes a change from the usual CFM ( Church, Fortress, Monastery ) routine. It's interesting to see how the rich and famous lived in Georgia in 19C. But Alexander, born into a well connected diplomatic family as he was, used his silver spoon to great effect and achieved much in his life. He was educated & cultured, spoke 7 languages, wrote good poetry, achieved on merit a high rank in the Russian army but was principled enough to later join the Georgian rebellion against Russian rule.
- Alexander being widely travelled and well connected, furnished his home beautifully with fine Georgian & European artefacts - particularly from France. It was not only 'things' that he brought to Georgia from abroad but also concepts & activities. He was a social innovator, a trend setter of his time. For instance Alexander introduced to his homeland the English game of billiards, the idea of horse riding for leisure and perhaps most importantly, the European system of wine making!
- Wines that we taste from the Chavchavadze estate are therefore really special - it was here that the whole European wine business started in Georgia back in 19C.
- The Chavchavadeze estate is busy with visitors any day. But don't let that put you off. Today there is a large group of school children on a photo shoot. They must be members of a dance school given their costumes and posture. A female teacher is shouting out instructions to her pupils to create the 'best' photo. Judging by her physique it is a while since she was able to do the splits herself.
- Wandering round the lovely gardens of the estate ( but don't expect RHS Wisley standard ) we come across the renovation work of Chavchavadze's old wine cellar that is mentioned in the 2016 Lonely Planet edition. It's still in progress. Indeed it looks as if there is hotel accommodation being built. One of these days, but not necessarily soon, you may be able to stay on the Chavchavadze Estate itself.
- Next we visit the Shumi Winery in Tsinandali; it is adjacent to the estate entrance.
It's worth going here because the wine tasting is free as is the guided tour around the little museum. Of interest is the 3000 year old Qveri pot and the equipment used to make chacha - the colourless spirit that is a by product of the Qveri fermentation process. During storage in the Qveri pot the grape pulp sinks to the bottom. When the clear wine is removed, this residu is heated up. The alcoholic steam is then cooled to produce the chacha liquor. It's as simple as that!
- At the Shumi winery, like at all the other cellar doors, you can purchase any wine that tickles your palate. We sample with great reservation and self control since it's lunchtime and we're on the road.
- Our last Cellar Door experience is 20 miles or so away in the Kvareli area. The Khareba winery is famous for its 8 km of tunnels that were dug into the hillside back in early 1960's by the Russians. Today it is privately owned and used to store more than 25000 bottles of wine at a constant temperature of between 12-14 C. It is heavily commercialised and a handsome charge is made for the various wine tasting packages. We opt for a guided walk through the tunnels without wine tasting. The tour really just reiterates what we have already learnt from our previous cellar door experiences. But the lunch we eat in the restaurant, located up a lookout tower is reasonably priced and delicious. The views over the vineyards across the Alazani valley are pretty special.
- We return home - to the Schuchmann Winery. On balance it is probably one of the best cellar doors to visit / and or stay in this area. Many people come here for a lunchtime experience since the setting is so lovely and the restaurant food is really quite good.
- As previously mentioned the winery was set up by Mr Schuchmann in 2008 in the centre of the Kekheti wine growing region. It classifies itself as a premium quality vineyard with tourist facilities such as spa, swimming pool, children's playground and sadly, a crazy golf course. Staff also provide travel services ( transport , sightseeing etc ) that can be tailor made if you require and are willing to pay. It is blissfully peaceful except when the barman down poolside plays his music too loud or the dogs become agitated about someone or something - as they seem to do when night falls.
- It's mid afternoon and the winery is a busy place. It's not just for tourists. It's a wine business too.
- A long HGV from Ukraine is parked up by the loading bay. The packing department seem to be working frantically - sticking labels on bottles and putting them into boxes. It is apparent that Schuchmann branding differs according to the country of export and customer requirements.
- The truck driver speaks a little German and so SG is able to chat with him - he is cooking a meal in a small lower compartment down one side of the truck. He has a journey of 3 days / 2 nights back to the Ukraine via Batumi driving over 500km a day. He has no co-driver. As evening draws in and the vineyard workers finish their shift, he closes the curtains in his cab and goes to sleep. We wonder how long he will have to wait for loading to start. The truck will accommodate a lot of boxes of wine.
- Schuchmann Winery also offers guests a pamper session or two in its beautifully decorated Wine Spa. In fact you can smell it as soon as you enter the hotel. You could say it's intoxicating. One of the many treatments on offer is a wine bath. What decadence!
- A warm red wine bath for 10 minutes followed by a 30 min massage with Schuchmann made grape seed oil is lauded with the usual incredible attributes - it moisturises, acts as an antioxidant (to wine drinking?!) is anti-ageing & leaves your skin soft and elastic. Please may it work really well ....
- SG is not good at selfies - her arm does not seem long enough to give the right angle. She obviously needs the dreaded selfie stick. Anyway SG spends most of her 10 min soak trying to take a respectable selfie. With vine leaves appropriately placed. It's neither easy to take nor is the result very good. Reluctantly it is published - for a laugh.
- By the way the massage is good. And yes very relaxing.
- The evening ends with another son & lumiere show over the vineyard - put on for free by Mother Nature. It is the second major thunderstorm we have witnessed within a week. Is God angry about something?