Weaving in the Birthplace of Wine
Forget the Georgian wine you may or may not have tried at your local corner store. Georgian wine is seriously delicious, and they are on the frontier of natural (and ancient) wine making traditions. Georgia is said to be the birthplace of wine, with some of the oldest varietals in the world and a unique, ancient wine-making process.
Kakheti, in the eastern region of Georgia, is the Napa/Sonoma of Georgia, but with lots of real castles and the other-worldly monastery complex of Davit Gareja. The food here is delicious, and there is wine you’ve never had before everywhere, and at all hours of the day. It’s pretty much a perfect destination.
We spent our time in Kakheti in the cutest little hilltop town of Sighnaghi. While there we were fortunate enough to connect with the owner of the Pheasant's Tears winery, which is at the forefront of natural wine making in Georgia (natural wine is fermented in the traditional qvevri vessels, pictured above). The photos below are from our private tour at the vineyards, but you must also visit their restaurant in Sighnaghi for the best food in the region.
On our way to the wine country, we stopped off for a visit of Davit Gareja, which is on the disputed border with Azerbaijan. Before arriving, I had been under the impression that this was a big tourist destination, but we were the only people there, and the various monasteries sparsely spread out amidst the remote, desert-lunar landscape made me feel like I had entered some sort of Star Wars universe.
One of the monastery complexes, Udabno, is reached only by a steep uphill path and that narrows on the side of the mountain facing Azerbaijan. The frescoes here are from the 10th to 13th centuries and are just incredible to behold. It’s truly remarkable that there is anything left of them after so much time and many a hostile takeover. Only later did we read that they’re also home to vipers, which we fortunately did not encounter.
This region is also home to the award-winning weaving studio, Pesvebi, which we visited one day. Pesvebi, which means “roots” in Georgian. The studio was founded by Nino Bakhutashvili in 2005, and is situated in Dedoplistskaro, in the Eastern part of Georgia. The aim of workshop is revival of the weaving techniques of local rugs. Towards this end, the studio embarked on a difficult trial-and-error method informed by the study of much ethnographic material, sketches, and old rugs kept in the families.
The studio presently has two main lines: traditional rugs and modern accessories. The modern accessories, such as the bags you see in the collection and also linked below, are a product of combining different materials such as handwoven rugs (or rug fabric) with leather, etc. Nino Bakhutashvili works with leather worker Nino Setruidze (both pictured above) to create these rug and leather bags. Their production is also remarkable for their use of natural dyes (see photos below), which make the colors more delicate and elegant. The workshop employees seven local women and number of apprentices.
We also had the opportunity to visit with two Tushi textile artists from Alvani villages, Manana Tavberidze and Maia Kakhoidze. The Tushi people come from a remote mountainous region in Georgia. Alvani is the area where many spend the winters and, increasingly, live year round.