In the middle of nowhere, outside the village of Gremi, which is itself down the road from the popular castle & tourist destination of the same name, sits an unlikely place where great wine is made.
Temi Community is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving people with physical and mental disabilities, the homeless, orphans and other socially vulnerable groups living on the margins of Georgian society.
Established in 1989, Temi aims to provide opportunities for those people to live full and happy lives. The residents live on-site (currently, the facility is at capacity) and do what they can to contribute to a self-sustaining community. They prepare group meals. Learn carpentry skills. Tend to the garden or the cattle. Sing, dance and paint.
For the last 18 years, they have also been making wine. Just a little at first, then a little more, and now quite a bit more. They currently have about 17 acres of vineyards and are producing some of the best all-natural organic qvevri wine in Georgia. You can find their wines in fine restaurants and shops in Tbilisi, and people are taking notice internationally as well. Said one Japanese wine professional:
Temi is the most beautiful tasting wine we have encountered. To my embarrassment , I cried in front of the producer. It was not only that I was moved by its beauty. I could not react but cry to the various things Temi wine reflected, like a spotless mirror.
Temi is currently in the process of building a large, modern facility on their land for tastings and dining. There you can also rent bicycles for your own self-guided bike tours through wine country.
We spent time in their marani (cellar), where several of the qvevris were still full of new wine, finishing its fermentation.
We also enjoyed the company of the gentleman who is responsible for the community…
And of course we had a few glasses of their wine.
Again, Temi is still a little off the path (our driver had trouble finding it, even after stopping to ask a few people), but it’s worth it. Great project, great people.
On the more “conventional” side of wine tourism, you’ll have a hard time finding a more educational experience than the one you get at Twins Old Cellar in Nepareuli.
Twins was started in 1997 by (you guessed it) twin brothers. Unlike most of the commercial producers we went to, everything they make at Twins is made in qvevris. Currently, they have 107 of them and are the largest qvevri-only producer in Georgia.
They take advantage of every opportunity to share their expertise and enthusiasm for this winemaking technique with their guests, from the giant replica qvevri outside the facility…
To the exceptional educational exhibits and displays at the museum, showcasing the history of qvevri winemaking in Georgia.
The tasting was fantastic, and included chacha, the super-strong liquor distilled from the sediment left at the bottom of the qvevri. Pouring the wine from little glass pitchers was a nice touch.
And in a stroke of marketing genius, Twins sells bulk quantities of their qvevri wines in custom made plastic qvevri-shaped bottles. Brilliant.
(I was told yesterday that a 4-liter bottle of their wine — all-natural, organic — goes for 10-12 lari in Tbilisi wine shops. That’s around $5. For four liters. Or around $1 per standard-sized US bottle. Insane.)
There’s so much more that happened during this excursion out east. So much more that we ate and drank, so many more people we met and so many more experiences that will not soon fade from our memory. It’s a magical place.
So please: come to Georgia. Experience all of this and more for yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.