This guide explores the best Kakheti Wine Tour options, from premium, all-inclusive to self-guided and budget tours. Kakheti is Georgia’s premiere wine region, and the destination that hosts the majority of all of Georgia’s wine tourism (even though there are wine regions all over Georgia).
Most visitors opt for a Signagi (Also spelled: Sighnaghi) wine tour, a Telavi wine tour, or a general Kakheti wine tour that may visit both Signagi and Telavi and other parts of the Alazani and Iori valleys (Kakheti’s two main wine producing valleys).
In this guide, I’ll outline the best Kakheti wine tours from Tbilisi (because almost all Kakheti tours start and end in Tbilisi), focusing on how each price point offers different value for money. Also, general information about the Kakheti wine region and the most important grapes/wines to try, top Kakheti attractions, and Kakheti wineries to visit for the best wine tasting experience.
I write this guide as someone who first came to Georgia in 2016, has lived here full-time since early 2019, has visited over 200 wineries in Georgia, and tasted many thousands of Georgian wines. I’m also WSET 2 (distinction) and in training to pass the Georgian sommelier exam. I didn’t just spend a few days in Kakheti and then write a guide based on researching other people’s blogs, I’ve really lived every part, extensively. I know hundreds of winemakers personally. It’s been an honor to get to explore the region in this level of depth.
Best Kakheti Wine Tour From Tbilisi – Summary / FAQs / Pricing
Best is a relative term, so here is a summary of the best in each price category.
In a hurry? Skip the rest of the article, just read this section to choose a tour.
At 4 different price points, each has value for money within its category. The more you pay, the more you get, it’s really just about your interests, budget, and expectations. All these tours have great reviews but the reviews are also relative to the value for money, the budget tour is not even close to being as special, high quality, or authentic an experience as the premium tour.
Premium Authentic. Eat This! Food & Wine Tours.
If you want the full Kakheti experience with layers of culture, a variety of lesser-known dishes as well as the classics, and an extensive focus on quality wines, personal interaction with the winemakers and an indulgent amount of food & wine (lunch & dinner included) this is the tour company for you.
- Premium wines, exceptional experience, hospitality, and food.
- All-inclusive all day. Indulgent lunch & dinner,
- Food & wine tasting/pairing menu options
- Real supra (Georgian feast) with toasts and free-flowing wine.
- Fine artisan wines (qvevri / natural) & meet the winemaker experiences guaranteed on every tour.
- Interactive and personal small group (7 people max) tour experience.
- The difference in price between this and the next price category down is not a lot, but you really get a lot more for that bit extra cash.
Get a 5% discount with code FFT5
Book The Best Tours:
- Vines & Villages (Signagi) 1-Day – Multi-course wine/food pairing menu for lunch. Family home supra (feast) with a winemaker, and more artisan wine plus Signagi and history stops in-between. Compare modern Georgian food and wine to historic culinary traditions.
- Vines & Mountains (Telavi) 1-Day – Meet The Artisans! Full focus on bio qvevri wines and all-artisan tastings. 3 wineries, including a visit the qvevri builder’s workshop.
- Wake Up In Wine Country (Signagi & Telavi) 2-Day – A combination of all the best elements of the above two tours, a deeper and broader dive into Georgia’s food & wine culture, and wake up to sensational views of the Caucasus mountains.
Pricing: By joining a group, the typical average price is around 400 to 475 GEL per person per day, fully all-inclusive specialist/elevated lunch, and a traditional dinner. = $150 to $180 USD.
Standard, Small-Group 1-Day Food & Wine Tour. Traffic Travel Tours.
A real taste of Kakheti but not the whole hog. The price is only marginally less than the premium authentic equivalent with Eat This! Tours, but you don’t get dinner or quite the same level of decadence.
- Traditional, hearty home-cooked lunch of classic Georgian dishes, with decent family family wine. No Dinner.
- A visit to the touristy but interesting Khareba wine tunnel (mass production wines).
- Signagi visit, and wine tasting of natural wines with an established artisan producer at their restaurant.
- Small groups up to 10 people.
- Would suit those who want less indulgence and a shorter day (~9 to 10 hours) with a mix of family and mass-tourism experiences, rather than a pure focus on more independent wineries.
- Learn more and Book Here.
Pricing: 320 to 420 GEL (depending on group size). Traditional lunch, no dinner. = ~$125 to $160 USD per person.
Affordable / Budget. Gamarjoba tours.
It’s very cheap because mass-tourism and larger groups keep costs down, plus you pay extra for lunch.
- Visit 2 commercial mass-production wineries (Khareba and Kindzmaruili Corporation). Low-price wine tasting is included at both.
- Sightseeing in Signagi.
- Larger groups.
- Lunch at a tourist restaurant with a nice view (typically) but you pay for your food and wine at lunch, so factor that into your budget (maybe 30 to 50 GEL per person if eating cheap options only).
- Meet people, fun day out, but basically no experience of real artisan food and wine. ~8 to 9 hours, and with ~5 hours of driving in total, as Khareba is across the valley from Signagi.
- If your normal experience of wine is a $7 bottle of Yellow Tail, rather than wines in the $15+ range, you’ll probably still enjoy the wines enough,
- Good way to see the countryside and get a first taste if you are on a backpacker budget, but you aren’t really exploring the historic wine or food scene in a meaningful way.
- Learn More & Book Now.
Pricing: 100 GEL plus the cost of buying lunch and extra wines (~50 GEL) = ~$60 USD pp.
Independent / Self-Guided
The number one consideration here is drinking and driving. The drink drive limit here is zero. Not half a glass of wine, but zero. So unless you have found yourself a designated driver who wants to miss out on the wine, you either need to:
- Hop on a minibus/martshruka (~15 GEL per trip, normally crowded and uncomfortable)
- Take a direct private transfer (from ~150 GEL one way)
- Self-drive, stop only at the factories with small wine tastings during the day (and the driver can spit the wine out).
Make Signagi or Telavi your final destination and visit one of the easy-to-find wine rooms which are within the town centers and hence walking distance from most accommodation.
Signagi Central Wine Rooms Which Have An English Speaking Host:
- Restaurant Mtevani. Old Cellar, good wines, affordable tasting, very central. Typical Kakhetian food. Can taste solo.
- Cradle of Wine. Artisan cellar, American owner who is now embedded in Georgian life and winemaking, scheduled cultural presentation and wine tastings daily. Good view from the terrace. Food is possible, but it’s not a restaurant, book in advance.
- Okros. Long standing institution, making bio wine since 2004. Diverse selection. Mountain views from the terrace. Typical Georgian traditional food.
There are also plenty of restaurants with great views in Signagi, but I’ve found the artisan wine selections to be limited in most, they focus on homemade wines and/or large production wines.
Telavi Central Wine Rooms:
- Miloravas. Speaks English, and great artisan wines. Good homemade food (book in advance only, and groups smaller than 2 people likely cannot book at all). Nice garden and small home marani (wine cellar).
- Baida. A restaurant that makes their own wine with great Georgian food and a lovely garden with a view. No cellar on site, and no wine host, but a good option to just enjoy at a very reasonable price.
- Esquisse. Design hotel with their own range of wines and higher-end food. Again, not a family winery but if you want a more sophisticated option and to spend a little more, it’s a great environment.
- Sesikeli. Very small home cellar. Does not speak English. Making some interesting artisan wines. Food may be possible on advance request if you have enough people.
City cellar doors aren’t quite the same as getting out to the vineyard, and some places only speak limited English so not like having an expert guide and translator, but where there is good wine there can be fun, so if you don’t have the budget for more, then why not. The costs may work out similar to a budget tour, but you get a bit more for your money as you do all the planning and booking, rather than having a tour company do it.
Price: Your final spend will depend on whether you opt for a more expensive full family dinner with a winemaker, or a restaurant meal and cheap wine tasting. And if you take a public bus, transfer or rent a car. So anything from 100 GEL per person per day to 300 GEL and up. At which point, you may want to consider the convenience and expertise of a professional tour to get the most out of your trip.
How Long Do I Need To Spend In Kakheti Wine Country? How long does a typical Kakheti wine tour last?
- Anything less than 9 hours (from Tbilisi and back) and you’ll spend more time in the vehicle than experiencing the food, wine, and culture.
- 2 Days is the best, but 1 long day (10+ hours) is also enough.
- Most good Kakheti 1-day wine tours last 8 to 12 hours.
The main consideration is that the most impressive parts of Kakheti are about 2 hours drive from Tbilisi. This includes Telavi (North Alazani) and Signagi (South Alazani). So a round trip of at least 4 hours to do either one. And 5.5 hours of driving in total to do both.
So when you look at the cheaper and shorter tours which are 7 to 9 hours, you realize half the time is spent driving. Finding time to sit down with a winemaker’s family, really explore the wines, and have a supra (Georgian feast) just isn’t possible.
The main thing tourists misunderstand is that a real Georgian artisan wine tasting takes time! If you go to a wine factory for a production line style tasting, like the budget tour groups do, then you can do a short tour and taste 2 to 3 wines in 35 minutes. But it’s lame. If you go to a family home, visit their small marani (wine cellar) sit with the winemaker tasting 3 to 5 wines, chacha (grappa), and snacks while discussing the history and technique of ancient qvevri wine – this takes 1.5 hours. But it’s way more authentic, immersive, and fun (with way more wine too!)
Then if you want to visit more than one artisan, or have homemade lunch with them as well, it becomes obvious why a short tour just doesn’t make sense.
Once again it really depends on your preferences, budget, and time. If you don’t love wine but just want to taste some to tick it off your Georgian to-do list, then maybe a factory tasting is ok. If you are on a weekend trip to Georgia, a half day may be all you have, and even just a quick lunch with wine would meet your expectations.
But if you have the time, missing out on epic Caucasus mountain views, and a visit to Signagi and/or Telavi would be a real shame. And, even if you are not a big drinker, being caught up in the immersive cultural experience of a family supra is not just about wine, it’s about food, togetherness, hospitality, and an emotional journey through the human experience – discussing every topic from peace to love to family and friends. I’ve written more about the Supra here.
For me personally, any tour where 50% of the trip is in the car, is not much fun. I’d rather get more time at wineries and for cultural experiences. So even the 8 to 9-hour trips seem like a wasted opportunity and too rushed. I consider a proper day trip to Kakheti as needing at least 10 hours. And preferably spending 2 days so you can wake up in wine country with panoramic mountain views, is my preference.
- 4 to 6 hours is not enough. A lot of people ask about shorter Kakheti wine tours. With 4 hours you could just about drive out to Khashmi (the first wine village you’ll reach at the border of Kakheti – only 20 minutes from Tbilisi airport) and have lunch with wine tasting in the village there. 6 hours, about the same but 2 wine tastings. The main issue with this plan is no sightseeing or attractions. There is really no attractions of note in Kakheti which are less than 2 hours from Tbilisi. So, wine and food, yes, but a full trip with some photo stops and history too… Not possible in 4 to 6 hours.
- 8 to 9 hours, Signagi or Telavi with lunch (restaurant – because it’s much faster and cheaper than a family homemade lunch) + wine and an additional short wine tasting (family artisan).
- A full one-day wine tour (10 to 12 hours) from Tbilisi to Kakheti is enough to get a real taste for Georgian wine and food and explore a little variety. For real wine enthusiasts, a 2-day tour in the Kakheti wine region is better to explore differing appellations and wine styles and get way more depth of understanding and variety. But 3 days to take things slower and explore more off-track wines, is great too.
- 10 days is a minimum to explore a little of all the major wine regions across Georgia. But your liver may hurt if doing this all at once. It’s better to make Tbilisi your base and do 2 to 3 trips over the course of a couple of weeks or more if you have the time.
What is the best time of year to visit Kakheti for a wine tour?
Each season offers unique experiences for wine travelers. Here’s a concise breakdown of each season and its activities:
- Late August to Early November – Harvest Season: Attend the Rtveli festival as most harvesting occurs between September 5th and October 20th. Kakheti starts in late August, and Racha extends until mid-November. Enjoy dry weather and cooler temperatures compared to summer.
- November to March – Off-Peak Wine Maturation Season: Experience a slower pace with fewer tourists, allowing winemakers to host you without distractions. Note that some places may not offer tours during this season. The weather can be unpredictable, but accommodation prices are lower. Some specialist tours may even provide the opportunity to taste young wines directly from the qvevri.
- April/May/Early June – New Wine Season: Witness the opening of qvevris countrywide as winemakers prepare to bottle the latest harvest. This period coincides with numerous wine festivals, making it ideal to taste a variety of wines in one location. Wine tours are popular, especially in May and June, when the weather is typically dry but not excessively hot.
- June/July/August – Summer Peak Mass-Tourist Season: Tbilisi’s old town buzzes with activity as tours and tourists abound. Expect busy streets and hot weather, with temperatures ranging from 35 to 40 degrees Celsius in late July and August. However, Kakheti offers slightly cooler temperatures compared to Tbilisi.
So, the best time to visit Kakheti specifically, depends on your preferences. I like March as the skies are often clear, revealing snow-capped mountains, and no haze in the valley. May/June are perfect normally. Sept/Oct are amazing for the weather and for the harvest. But even the heat of July can be fine, and December can be surprisingly warm and sunny some years.
Do I Need To Book A Wine Tour Or Winery Visits In Advance? Can I Book a Wine Tour Once I’m in Kakheti or do I Need to Book in Advance?
Booking in Advance:
- Most restaurants and factory wineries (mass-tourism) accept walk-ins.
- Small family wineries may accept walk-ins just for wine tasting, if they happen to be around when your roll up. But for a full meal (which can take hours to prepare) booking at least 24 hours in advance is required.
- Medium size wineries can often host walk-ins for wine tasting and food, but during high season you may have a long wait or be turned away, so best to book.
Should You Start Your Tour in Kakheti, or in Tbilisi?
- Good guides and drivers are not based in Kakheti.
- Almost all tours start and end in Tbilisi, but some custom pickup/drop-off can be arranged if you book via a premium company, or book a private tour (higher prices)
In many wine destinations around the world, the norm is to head out to wine country, stay in a nice hotel and then book a day trip or half-day trip around the local wineries. However, Georgia is not a mature market for wine tourism and demand for this type of tourism is simply not enough to justify the best quality guides (or ANY passable guides) living full-time in wine country.
All the best guides (who speak good English and know their stuff), vehicles, and drivers are based in Tbilisi and some in Kutaisi. This is where 90%+ of the work for them originates. Even if you are already in wine country, the driver/guide will still depart from Tbilisi in the morning to come meet you, and charge accordingly.
My recommendation, if you want to spend extended time in wine country independently, to minimize your costs, is to depart on a tour from Tbilisi, and get dropped off at the end of the tour in wine country at your hotel there (if the location is not near the tour route though, the company may not provide this service, especially on a budget tour you may just have to get out on the main road and find your way).
Premium tour companies are more likely to offer custom options or coordinate a taxi for you at the end of the tour.
Final Summary Of Kakheti Wine Tour Essentials
Ok, that’s it for the main summary section. If you just want to book a tour, now you know the basics. If you want learn more about the Kakheti wine region, the wines, Kakheti attractions, where to stay in Kkaheti and a host of other FAQs as well as some winery suggestions, then keep reading below.
A reminder of the 3 bookable tour recommendations:
- Premium Authentic. Eat This! Food & Wine Tours. Learn more and Book Here.
- Standard, Small-group 1-Day Food & Wine Tour. Traffic Travel. Learn more and Book Here.
- Affordable / Budget. Gamarjoba tours. Learn More & Book Now.
Kakheti Wine Region & Wines
- Kakheti is Georgia’s biggest and most popular wine region, and the epicenter for the vast majority of wine tourism.
- It’s made up of 2 valleys. Alazani – the most popular wine zone with amazing mountain views, 2 hours from Tbilisi. And Iori Valley, still with plenty of viticulture and 45 minutes from Tbilisi, but lacking any historic attractions of note, or the amazing mountain scenery.
Kakheti is the most extensive, famous, and highest-producing wine region in Georgia – by a long way. Of Georgia’s 29 PDO appellations (also called microzones), 20 of them are in Kakheti (as of December 2022 – but new PDOs are being added every year right now).
Kakheti is famed for its bold and tannic amber and red qvevri wines, but there is a lot else to discover too in Georgia’s most prestigious wine region.
The vast majority of tourists starting from Tbilisi take a 1-day wine tour to the Kakheti region. If you are a wine enthusiast with more time and want to explore deeper, then 2 to 3 days will allow you to gain a much fuller understanding, as well as discover some of the lesser visited microzones.
Encompassing two verdant river valleys, Kakheti is nestled between the towering Caucasus mountains to the north and the Gombori range to the south. The most renowned of these valleys for wine, the Alazani, extends in a northwest-to-southeast direction and stands as Georgia’s premier wine production area. A drive of approximately 2 hours from Tbilisi will bring you to The Alazani Valley.
South of the Gombori mountains, the Iori valley extends towards Azerbaijan. Despite becoming increasingly barren as you move southwards, the primary south-facing Gombori slopes are adorned with vineyards that yield exquisite wines. The Khashmi microzone, the closest section of Kakheti to Tbilisi, is found within this valley, being just a 45-minute journey from the heart of Tbilisi.
As the terrain further south merges into Azerbaijan, the aridity escalates, leading to unsuitable conditions for wine cultivation. The southern side only hosts a minimal amount of planted vineyards.
In terms of budget-friendly wine tours, Kakheti is basically the only wine region with an array of options, although a limited number are also available in Imereti (from Kutaisi). But, when it comes to real artisan wine and food, a specialist tour is much better, if it fits your budget, rather than the cheap mass-tourism tours which will take you mainly to wine factories and tourist restaurants.
Can I Visit Both the Alazani and Iori Valleys in a Single Day?
It is possible to visit wineries of both the south Alazani and Iori valleys in a single day, including a stopover at Signagi, the historic mountain stronghold. Alternatively, a scenic mountain pass across Gombori leads to Telavi and access to the northwest sectors of Alazani, which is a great place to explore artisan wines, food & culture on a 1-day trip.
Though a one-day itinerary to both Telavi and Signagi can be accomplished, it can result in a rushed experience, especially for those wishing to thoroughly savor the wines and gastronomy of the region. This schedule would entail brief wine stops rather than an immersive wine-tasting and family dining experience. For a more comprehensive exploration of both regions, a 2-day excursion, at a minimum, is advisable.
Best Georgian Wines / Grapes From Kakheti – What Types of Wines can I Expect to try During a Kakheti Wine Tour?
The most prolific grapes to look out for are:
- Rkatsiteli (White – the most planted in Georgia). A high-yield, versatile grape that can be used in almost any style from dry to sweet. Too many flavors and aromas to mention, but apricot, yellow plum, red apple, pear, and walnut are some common ones.
- Saperavi (Red – the 2nd most planted in Georgia). Also high yield and very versatile, it’s a bold red with “teinturier” (having both red skin and red flesh – rather than pale flesh). Used in many microzone wines from Napareuli to Kindzmaruili, Mukhuzani, Khasmi, and more. Dark red fruits like cherry and blackberry are typical central characters, but its profile extends in every direction. Dry to sweet wines.
- Kakhuri Mtsvane (White). A more vibrant grape than Rkatsiteli, often used to add complexity to it. Peach, floral, citrus, and tropical fruits are common flavors. Primarily dry wines.
- Kisi (White). Also, a more vibrant and aromatic grape that makes beautiful single-varietal wines with complexity. Expect pear, citrus, stone fruit, and walnuts. Primarily dry wines.
- Khikhvi (White). A rarer grape that has found quite a renaissance in recent years. Some similarities to Kisi but it also stands with a character all its own. Primarily dry wines but made sweet as part of the Kardenakhi PDO. Expect wildflowers, honey, and stone fruits.
- Some other rare grapes to look out for: Jgia, Simonseuli, Rkatsiteli-Muscat (a hybrid of the two), Red Rkatsiteli (makes rose wines). You may also encounter grapes from other parts of Georgia but grown in Kakheti, as well as European grapes (like Cabernet, Chardonnay etc.) but grown in Kakheti. It depends on who you visit!
All areas of Kakheti offer a variety of different wines of all different styles, from lighter whites, like Tsinandali (Rkatsitel-Mtsvane blend made without skin contact) near Telavi, or Manavi (100% Mtsvane) in the Iori valley.
To powerful reds, like Kahshmi’s Saperavi, or Mukahazani’s (often oaked) Saperavi.
Or vibrant ambers like Kisi from Akhmeta & Magraani (northwest of Telavi), or Tsarapi (Made with Rkatsiteli) from Kardenakhi (near Signagi).
Are There Any Food or Cheese Pairings Included in Kakheti Wine Tours?
I’ve been pretty disappointed by how little attention has been made to food and wine pairings since I arrived in Georgia first in 2016. It’s pretty much “well, amber Rkatsiteli goes well with pork bbq (mtsvadi) and Saperavi goes will with beef or lamb”. Pairings are seemingly rudimentary and not fully thought through. The idea of an international-level tasting menu, outside of a few specialist restaurants in Tbilisi, is basically unheard of.
However, the very first, bookable, and scheduled Kakheti food/wine pairing menu that can be booked daily (rather than a one-off occasional event) is now available on this tour with Eat This! Tours.
Do the Vineyards and Wineries Cater to English-Speaking Visitors?
- Large wine factories always have someone who will speak English. These locations are normally focused on providing a tourist experience, so you may miss out significantly on authenticity, but you will have facilities and organization that meet tourist expectations.
- Medium-size wineries sometimes have someone who speaks English.
- Family home wineries occasionally have someone who speaks English. Call in advance to check. Though facilities may be less developed, this is more than made up for at the good family wineries with bags of authenticity and exemplary hospitality. Of course, it depends who you visit, I’ve also been to places with miserable hosts, but that is less frequent than welcoming hosts.
Can I Buy Wine Directly from the Wineries in Kakheti?
- YES. All of them. And the prices are always lower than buying the same wine in Tbilisi, or internationally.
- Expect to pay 15 to 100 GEL on average per bottle, depending on the quality and style.
- Shipping small amounts of wine abroad is really difficult here. Taking wine in your suitcase is recommended though shipping just a few bottles is sometimes possible at a high price. Wineries will rarely organize this for you.
- Large wineries are setup to sell. Family wineries are way less pushy and you normally should ask about buying wine. Most are for sale except perhaps some rare or limited edition wines.
Are the Kakheti Wine Tours Suitable for People with Dietary Restrictions or Allergies?
- Most tours can cater for this, but it’s best to ask in advance.
- Vegetarians are in luck as Georgians have a “fasting menu” for Lent and even for specific days of the week outside of Lent for some people, so it is available year-round in many locations and is always vegetarian.
- Dairy-free is harder than you’d think as this is a big dairy country, but certainly possible.
- Gluten-free is no issue if you eat meat, there is lots of meat! Vegetarian and gluten-free is tricky, but possible. Vegan and gluten-free, good luck!
- Vegan is normally possible, but quite limited outside central Tbilisi.
- Walnuts are in so many dishes! So, take care if you have a nut allergy. Again, a focus on bread, meat, and dairy will save you in most cases. But watch out for meat dishes with walnuts in (like Kharcho) and even bean dishes (like lobio) often have walnuts or meat mixed in.
- Occasionally the distinction between veal and beef is not made (normally due to translation errors). If you refuse to eat veal, you can try using the phrase “baby cow” to check, or use google translate. On proper restaurant menus, it’s normally clear, I’m referring to home places without a menu.
Where To Stay: Kakheti Main Towns / Areas & Accommodation
The region of Kakheti, as a whole, is the Kakheti PDO. Beyond that, the area splits into 3 main zones.
Telavi, Tsinandali, Akhmeta, Gurjaani, Velistsikhe, Vazisubani: Alazani Northwest (Right) Bank
Approximately from Akhmeta (PDO) in the northwest to Tibaani (PDO) in the southeast, beyond Signagi. The area sits upon the east-facing slopes of the Gombori mountains and stretches along the Alazani valley. Vines are planted at varying altitudes from ~700m down into the flatter valley floor. This is one of the prime areas for the most distinctive wines of Kakheti. Powerful, tannic amber wines and rich, bold reds.
There are many levels of accommodation all the way along this side of the valley, and sitting on the lower slopes of the Gombori range, many places have a clear view towards the stunning Caucasus mountains.
This area includes a large number of all of Georgia’s applications (PDOs):
- Akhasheni, Akhmeta, Akhoebi, Gurjaani, Kardenakhi, Kotekhi, Mukuzani, Teliani, Tibaani, Tsarapi, Tsinandali, Vazisubani, Zegaani.
HOTELS On The Alazani Right Bank (Gombori / Telavi Side)
- Tsinandali Estate – 5 Star. Radisson collection, the highest standard hotel in Kakheti. With spa and pool. Tsinandali.
- Chateau Mosmieri – 4 Star wine hotel with pool, vineyard, restaurant and terrace with Caucasus views. Tsinandali.
- Esquisse Design Hotel – 4 Star wine and design hotel with a pool, in Telavi.
- Ampelo Resort – 4 Star Resort Style. Kardenakhi, near Signagi.
- Vazisubani Estate – Luxury Boutique 4-5 Star at 19th-century estate with vineyard, a pool and terrace and Caucasus views. Vazisubani.
- Boutique Hotel Kviria – 4 Star boutique wine hotel, in Telavi. Small pool.
- Akhasheni Wine Resort & SPA – 4 Star spa resort with Caucasus views. The vineyard is a larger commercial operation but the facilities and location are good. Akasheni.
- Seventeen Rooms Hotel – 3 Star with comfortable rooms in Telavi.
- Park Hotel Tsinandali – Modern 2/3 star hotel sharing some facilities with Tsinandali estate.
- Chateau Ikalto – 2 Star family-run hotel. Near Telavi / Akhmeta. Makes their own wine in an old cellar.
- Bucha’s Guest House – Budget family home winery guesthouse on the outskirts of Telavi.
- Milorava’s Guest House – Budget family lodgings in central Telavi. Small home winery.
Take a look at all Hotels Near Telavi.
Kvareli, Gremi/Shilda, Napereuli, Lagodekhi: Alazani East (Left) Bank
Approximately from Magriaani (PDO) in the northwest to Lagodekhi in the southeast, stretching over 100km. This area sits on the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, downward into the flat river valley. Characterized by softer tannins, typically, and more subtle wines, but that by no means is to suggest lower quality or interest.
Accommodation here sits in the foothills of the Caucasus, and mainly with views back towards the Gombori range, and the sunset too. The biggest concentration of accommodation is in Telavi.
A few applications (PDOs) lie on this side of the valley:
- Kindzmarauli, Kvareli, Magriaani, Napareuli.
Best Hotels On The Alazani Left Bank (Caucasus / Kvareli Side)
- Lopota Lake Resort – 4 Star Resort including the winery Chateau Buera. Napareuli.
- Chateau Artwine – 4 Star, Large rural hotel with pool and vineyards. Napareuli.
- Babaneuris Marani – 4 Star, grand country hotel and vineyards. Near Akhmeta.
- Chateau Kvareli – 3 to 4 Star boutique hotel, part of Kindzmaruli Corporation. Kvareli.
- Giorgi Ushikishvilis Chateau & Marani. 3 to 4 Star bombastic chateau and hotel, central in Akhmeta.
- Twins Wine Cellar Hotel – 3 Star hotel with a large pool, wine museum and vineyard. Napareuli.
- Chubini Winery & Cabins – 2 to 3 Star rooms/cabins at a small family owned artisan winery. Shilda.
- Chateau Bruale – 2 Star, simple countryside accommodation and good artisan wines. Near Kvareli.
Take a look at all Hotels Near Kvareli.
Take a look at all Hotels Near Napareuli.
Signagi, Khashmi, Manavi Iori Valley (Left) Bank & to Dedoplis Tskaro
This valley runs mostly east-west along the Gombori mountain range. Most plantings (including both PDOs) are on the southern-facing slopes of the Gombori, with some lower in the valley towards the river and beyond.
As you reach Signagi in the east, the river turns south but there is also some viticulture around Dedoplis Tskaro, which sits between the Alazani and Iori valleys.
There is less accommodation in the Iori Valley than in Alazani. Signagi itself has a lot of accommodation with the majority having either a village view (of Signagi) or a Caucasus view, and just a few places with views on the other side of the ridge, facing south.
Currently, applications (PDOs) in the Iori Valley area are:
- Manavi, Khashmi.
Best Hotels in Signagi & Iori Valley
- Kabadoni – 4 Star Boutique Spa Hotel. Indoor pool with amazing Caucasus views. In Signagi.
- Ambassadori Kachereti Golf Resort – 4 Star (they claim 5 star) resort will all resort facilities including a golf course. Kachareti.
- Giuaani Hotel & Winery – 4 Star boutique hotel with medium size winery and good food. Manavi.
- Lost Ridge Inn, Microbrewery, boutique hotel & Ranch – 3 Star Boutique. Near Signagi.
- Chateau Khashmi – 3 Star. Small hotel with great wines and a pool. 25 minutes from Tbilisi airport. Khashmi.
- Hotel Traveler, 2 Star, standard hotel. In Signagi.
- Royal Villa – budget 2 star guesthouse. Signagi.
Take a look at all Hotels Near Signagi.
Georgian Wine Crash Course – Download Free Guide
For a crash course in everything you need to know to get familiar with Georgian wines, download our Georgian wine crash course. You’ll also get our wine tasting review card and guide so you can understand how to taste and appreciate Georgian qvevri wines.
Top 6 Food/Wine Attractions In Kakheti Wine Region
Obviously wineries… But for wine & food lovers, what are the top must-do’s?
Supra: The Georgian Feast
- A memorable supra is marked by a dynamic and articulate tamada (toastmaster), who engages everyone present and sets the tone for an interactive event.
- It features a variety of scrumptious dishes, premium wines (not merely bulk-produced ones), polyphonic singing, and dancing.
- A mediocre supra, while still enjoyable, may lack some of these elements or present them at a basic level.
- You won’t get a supra at regular restaurant (unless invited by a group of Georgian friends). Most restaurants don’t offer a tamada service, it’s just not a thing to do that.
- Visiting a family winery and booking the full hosted dinner is the best way to have a good supra, but not every winemaker is a great tamada, nor speaks good enough English to be eloquent. So you really need to find the right one, and it’s quite hard to find at an exceptional level.
You can find a more comprehensive discussion about the supra here.
A real family supra is included on this tour. Polyphonic singing is not always guaranteed but often happens. Make sure to mention it in your booking request to check.
Wine Tasting: Family Winery vs. Commercial Winery
Obviously, wine tasting is one of the most important reasons to visit Kakheti. But, some tastings are better than others, it depends on what you want.
- Factory (commercial) tastings are normally brief, and hosted by a staff member. Though the wine quality can vary, in general most factory tastings are focused on mass-produced wines, though some offer premium range tastings. These are places that make millions of bottles per year and funnel through masses of tourists daily.
- Medium size wineries (Up to 300,000 bottles per year) provide a little more intimacy and often a more experience host, as they may not be funneling tourists through, so they have only experienced hosts, and less of them. But it depends, of course. Prices for tasting are normally comparable to the big factories, but it’s just a more personal experience.
- Artisan Winemakers (less than 25,000 bottles per year). At these places you normally meet the winemaker, and/or members of their family and taste the wines with them. You get personal attention, sometimes you may be the only guests with them at that time, or even that day (especially if you visit in low-season). You also typically get much larger servings of wine than at commercial location!
You’ll only taste small-batch wines, and most of these family producers focus on bio wines (though not all, so its worth asking). What you rarely get at small producers in kakheti though is white classical wines (because they normally make amber wines and typically qvevri) or sparkling wines (complex, time consuming and not part of the Georgian tradition) or sweet wines (require expensive equipment).
For a 1 or 2 day trip, my preference is a balance focused mostly on artisan winemakers, but a visit to a medium size winery will give you the chance to taste a more diverse range of wine styles. For a 3 day trip, including a big factory as well can give you some interesting context.
Embark on an exploration of Telavi’s bustling open-air market to discover authentic Georgian fare. Taste a variety of handcrafted mountain ham, cheeses, jams, spices, and churchkhela – Georgia’s renowned dessert (made from walnuts and thickened, dried grape juice).
The market also offers the opportunity to savor homemade wine and chacha – a Georgian variant of grappa. Often found in repurposed plastic soda bottles at the market, this potent clear beverage is derived from grapes cultivated directly in the locals’ backyards – the epitome of homemade! Don’t expect to find refined wines in this setting; instead, brace yourself for a raw, moonshine experience.
Tsinandali Estate (Chavchavadze Estate)
In the early 1800s, Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, an influential figure in the Georgian nobility, inherited the Chavchavadze estate from his father, which he transformed into a stunning hub of intellectual and cultural activity, adorned with a magnificent garden.
The estate was frequented by illustrious poets of the era, such as Alexander Pushkin, as Prince Chavchavadze was renowned for his literary soirées and various cultural gatherings.
The grand estate comprises a museum, picturesque garden, vineyard, wine cellar, hotel, and café. You can spend your time touring the vineyards, bicycling around the expansive garden, or partaking in a cooking masterclass. Of paramount importance, don’t miss out on the wine tasting! The Tsinandali Estate is the birthplace of bottled, European style wine in Georgia, a practice that began sometime between 1814 and 1841. Prior to this, wine was typically stored in qvevris or other containers, rather than being bottled in the European fashion.
The Alaverdi Monastery, a UNESCO (tentatiive list) site, is Georgia’s 2nd largest church (after the Sameba in Tbilisi) and is located near Akhmeta. So if you book a wine tour including the Telavi area, it may be included.
Founded and built in the 6th century by Monk Joseph ‘Abba’ Alaverdeli who left Antioch and decided to settle in Alaverdi. In the 11th century, King Kvirike the Great expanded the church, and monks began making wine in large underground clay pots known as ქვევრის (qvevris).
Monks continue making wine at Alaverdi Monastery to this day, and the cathedral’s მარანი (marani – wine cellar) boasts the longest continuous wine production in Georgia since 1011 AD, though wines were almost certainly made there before the oldest records were made.
Join “Rtveli” Wine harvest (Late August to Late October)
Kakheti is Georgia’s wine-making region. If visiting in September, visit any village and join villagers in რთველი (rtveli) – the picking and harvesting of grapes. It is a massive collective effort and everyone will be grateful for the extra help. If you want a real family harvest, rather than just a tourist simulation of harvest activities, then you can see real Rtveli tours here.
I’ve written about the full Rtveli family experience here.
There are also important attractions that are not food and wine related – like visiting the mountain village of Signagi, the former summer palace of King Erekle II. Or Nekresi monastery.
Sighnaghi Wine Tour – The Most Popular 1-Day Itinerary For Kakheti.
Signagi is a beautifully renovated 19th-century fortified town, which was built as King Erekle II summer palace, on a ridge high above the Alazani valley, facing the Caucasus mountains. Fresher air, lovely views and some historic charm. The 19th century town supplanted an older settlement of which little remains. The fortification walls are the longest in Europe.
You can take a wine tour easily from Tbilisi to Signagi and back and that’s how most tourists visit – Signagi is actually a little quiet at night, even in high season, as most tourists only come for the day.
Another option is to make Signagi your overnight stay location, visit one of the wine rooms that is easy to access by walking, and enjoy a nice morning with views from the old town the following day, and maybe lunch at a panoramic restaurant, before heading back to Tbilisi.
If you are spending more time in Signagi and want to take a 1-day or 2-day wine tour both starting and ending in Signagi, then the options are very limited. The demand for this type of trip is relatively low, and for drivers & guides, the best money is made being based in Tbilisi, so they still have to drive out to you and get home, in most cases. There are a few drivers hanging around in Signagi town square by the fountain during the summer, but the quality of vehicles and skills of the guides in English or information is less reliable (most would be working from Tbilisi if they were the best in the business).
My easy suggestions for wine right in Signagi were in the self-guided summary section above. There are enough options to satisfy the average visitor but its not quite the same as actually heading out to a vineyard or family home winery, as there is very little viticulture at the altitude where Signagi is located, so it’s all cellar doors in the town.
Telavi Wine Tour
Telavi is the capital of Kakheti. It is also the heart of the North Alazani Valley, embedded in the middle of some of the densest wine growing in Georgia. The whole right bank of the Alazani stretches southeast, and it’s back-to-back vineyards the whole way.
As such, the options to to explore wines of all different varieties, and sizes (from mass-produced to micro-produced) is vast. Telavi is a great jumping-off point for any guided tour arriving from Tbilisi over the Gombori pass, or as a base for self-guided exploration.
Telavi is quite a built-up city, by Kakheti standards anyway, so although vineyards are a short hop outside the city, the large number of cellar doors and maranis in the city are places where wine is fermented and consumed, and very few grapes are actually grown within the city, of course.
But, compared to Signagi, you are closer to wine, and there are more options. What you are lacking is the picture-perfect charm of Signagi itself, which is why the majority of Kakheti wine tours visit Signagi, instead of Telavi. And as mentioned above, doing both in one day would be more of a rushed sightseeing trip with lots of driving, rather than an in-depth food & wine exploration.
As with the rest of Kakheti, barely any professional English speaking guides are based full time in Telavi, you’d need to jump on a tour coming from Tbilisi. This one offers pickup and drop-off in Telavi or Tbilisi.
Kakheti Itinerary / Map: For Food & Wine Lovers
Some easy mini-itineraries if you want to self-guide. A bonus one in Imereti too.
Best Wineries In Kakheti
Vineyards in Georgia (Kakheti) – Self-Guided Trips
Read our more extensive guide here.
3 Kakheti Artisan Wineries With Home-Coked Food
3 options who speak English and make good artisan wine and good traditional food. Places that typically produce less than 25,000 bottles per year.
You MUST book in advance in order to get a meal. Wine tasting is sometimes possible without reservation but the winemaker may not be home, or the whole family could be out. You can’t guarantee anything unless you book. Solo travelers may not be accepted or may have to pay a supplement.
Wine tastings normally range from 30 to 120 GEL per person, depending on the amount and type of wines and your group size. To include a meal, expect 80 to 200 GEL per person, including wine, depending on the same criteria as well as the types of dishes (ie. khachapuri and salad is cheap, complex meat dishes are more expensive).
In the Iori valley, 1 hour and 20 minutes from Tbilisi, make this an easy stop on the way to Signagi, or a shorter half-day trip from Tbilisi and back.
Beqa (speaks English) has seen incredible growth and expansion on the back of making a diverse range of wines to a professional standard. Their rosé (still a rarity in Georgia from small producers) and saperavi are both excellent, and other wines in the range also express the dynamism of Georgian bio qvevri wines.
Their new wine room is below the vineyard, right opposite the family home. Their success has meant more and more visitors are coming to them, but with this, improved facilities. They still retain a family feel and artisan production, even as they scale up.
This small home winery is in central Telavi, so you can reach them on foot if you are staying in Telavi (which has ample accommodation options). They focus on making wine over growing grapes, instead buying most of their grapes. They are one of a limited number of artisan wineries making wine from international varietals, grown in Kakheti. Montepulciano and shiraz are often available, alongside some more typical Georgia varietals.
Their home-cooked food is great! They also have a small budget guesthouse, and a lovely little garden with a very broad and old vine. Family Matriarch, Tamari, speaks great English.
In the valley below Signagi. Kardenakhi area with Caucasus mountain views from their terrace.
The wines are well crafted. The family still live there and they’ve done a great job renovating the property and cellar to provide the old Georgian vibe. They have various seating options, with a covered terrace, outdoor area, indoor area, marani etc. The food ticks all the boxes, and the operation has grown so they have some assistance during the busy season.
This means you can normally book last minute, they are almost always open everyday in season, and one of the hosts will speak enough English. And if they have other guests that day, then even solos and couples can book to visit.
The Best 2 Kakheti Winery Options on a Budget or for Solo/Duo Travelers
Arrival without reservation is possible, though in peak season you could have a wait if you didn’t book. They accept any number of guests, even solo travelers. Prices for solo/duo visitors can work out cheaper than a home winery. Once you have 3 or more people you might as well go to a home winery, the only real benefit of these larger wineries is the acceptance of walk-ins without fuss, and there is always someone who speaks English.
A large corporate winery producing around 2.5 million bottles per year. Though it is certainly growing more touristy, with further development of their tourist facilities constantly, I consider it the most pleasant of the mass-tourism spots, and with some better wines to taste.
On-site, you can take an English tour (5 GEL) and visit their:
- Commercial factory.
- Wine history museum.
- Grape nursery.
- Cooking masterclass (fees apply).
- Restaurant with reasonable prices. Typical Georgian pub food.
Essentially, all the Georgian activities that you’d find elsewhere, but in more of a production line structure, as you’d expect with mass tourism.
Iberuli Range Tasting = 15 to 40 GEL. The kisi qvevri (or khikhvi, when available) is a genuinely decent example of qvevri amber wine. This wine range is a step above their basic, budget wines.
Once you add up the price of lunch, premium wine tasting, cooking class, museum, the cost of the visit is only marginally lower than going to do a full dinner, artisan wine tasting, and cooking class with a local family. The main draw is really convenience, flexibility, and that groups of 1 to 2 people can attend economically, which is not normally possible at home wineries, which want group bookings.
Located near Telavi, a short taxi ride, find them on Google maps.
I mentioned above that this is one of the most touristy spots, with average wines. That said, tourists seem to love it (provided they have not experienced the immersive proper family, artisan alternatives).
Like Shumi, they have some cheaper tasting options, cooking classes, easy visits for solo and couples, a restaurant with decent fare, low prices, and nice views. The wine tunnel is genuinely interesting.
Tasting 3 standard wines, and a visit to the wine tunnel, is 25 GEL. Find Khareba Here.