If you come to Georgia for wine, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in the sweet little town of Signagi. Or at least, if you're smart you will. It's about 1.5 hours southeast from Tbilisi towards the Caucasus. It's a picture perfect, hilltop touristic town, complete with an image ruining casino. But that shouldn't stop you as it's perfectly situated for exploring the wine area of Khaketi and when you come back sweaty from it all, you can eat and drink at the Pheasant’s Tears wine bar.
Owned by friend and American ex-pat, John Wurdeman, the list is packed with the best of Georgian wines, Pheasants Tears and his buddies, even a few that are not totally natural. John is afterall, a nice guy. And if you get a yen for something else, Ganevat (it's true, if you can't find FanFan in NYC, go to Tbilisi or Signagi)Puzelat and Princic and friends are on the list.
I've been in Signagi on all three of my trips to this country. This last June I was in Georgia for near to a month, working on a book as well as overlapping with the second annual qvevri conference, I returned, several times. Alone, with John and with about 30 of my new best friends. But when in town, there wasn't a day I didn't eat or drink something from the wine bar.
John's chef, Gia is one hell of a talent and pulls strongly from the riches of the spice route, sumptuous , heady, sensual. There are always local surprises whether newly foraged Cesar mushrooms.
Or, how about some creeping vine? Sure it sounds as if it.s out of an Avengers movie but is more delectable than broccoli rabe.
A few nights got tossed under the two sheets to the wine and chacha wind bridge. I had no complaints.
But as it happened, on the last night of the conference, some of us were put up at the newly opened Kabadoni hotel.
I needed it. Badly. And I needed it so much that when I found out I could downgrade my room to an $80 number, I said, sign me up.
I was on the road a lot, on couches and day beds and needing privacy and a little pampering. So sue me.
Now, look it’s still Georgia. On the Wednesday I went down for breakfast I was told I was out of luck until 8. Nothing happened at 8. Finally someone realized I needed a coffee and that happened around 9. Coffee was great (be prepared for a lot of instant in this country--this was espresso machine pumped and not bad). And so was the freshly made matsoni, thick yogurt. As usual, the electricity goes out once a day, but it's Georgia. I am not big on spa, even though the prices for treatments were silly reasonable (most around $40-$50). I stayed in and worked instead of checking it out or heading the sauna. This is what I do. I book into a hotel and work. Weird. I know.
There are guest houses in town, for as low as $15 I hear. They are sweet, people are friendly and a good choice for longer stays, but sometimes a hotel, views, fab sheets and wifi are needed. If you’re willing to forgive the Kabdoni's lack of obsessiveness of detail, after all, thanks to John, they also have Franck Pascal Sagesse on the wine list and the rooms, even in the big boys, are lots cheaper than the Georges V.
Hotel Kabadoni/Tamar Mepe Street/ Signagi 4200