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Georgian wines

Rustic, old-world taste and a stellar match for Northwest cuisine

Sip a new sensation with well-priced vintages from the former Soviet republic

The country of Georgia, located in the Caucasus region between Russia to the north and Turkey to the south, has been cultivating wine grapes since 7000 B.C., making it the oldest wine-producing area known.

Until recently, it was difficult to find these wonderfully dry and rustic old-world style European wines in the U.S.
But in 2006, after tasting a Georgian wine that knocked his socks off, local wine distributer Keith Johnsen of Daqopa Brands worked with a small local team to create a supply chain to help open up the U.S. market to the wineries of Georgia, which had been devastated by the 2006 Russian embargo of Georgian goods.
Now, Seattle buyers can find these spectacularly valued wines, ranging in price from $8.99 to $19.99, in such local stores as Whole Foods, Esquin Wine Merchants, University Village QFC and West Seattle Cellars, which is having a Georgian wine tasting tonight, Thursday, Jan. 15 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. You can also find Georgian wines by the glass at Union and Purple Café and Wine Bar.
After two trips to Georgia, Johnsen began working with two established and well-respected Georgian wineries, mid-sized Mildiani and boutique producer Vinoterra, whose total production is around 4,000 bottles.
Both wineries produce wines from Saperavi and Katsiteli grapes: typical of the region, but completely unknown to most Western palettes.
Saperavi is a dry, deep red, with hints of black pepper and flint. It goes well with roasted meats and other hearty fare. The Mildiani Saperavi ($8.99) is an ideal wine for weeknight spaghetti and meatballs and affordable enough to buy by the case.
Vinoterra produces an astounding Saperavi that is aged the old-school way in giant earthenware clay amphoras (qvevri) that are buried under the ground. The wine spends 20 days in the qvevri prior to being transferred to steel, then oak casks. That primary qvevri fermentation adds round layers of clay and earth, making it a very special and unique wine.
Katsiteli is the white wine varietal grown in the Kakheti region. The Mildiani Katsiteli ($8.99) is quite possibly my favorite white wine ever. Versatile and dry, light fruits like grapefruit and pear are balanced by a nice acidity. This stunner pairs well with standard white-wine fare like fish and seafood, but also goes great with all manner of vegetarian dishes.
Vintoterra also qvevri-ferments their white wines, but for much longer than the Saperavi. The wine stays in the qvevri for six months and is stirred every four hours with a wooden paddle, before being moved to oak for longer aging. The result is a white with woody cedar top notes over hints of exotic dried fruits and nuts. Whole Food sells the Vinoterra Kisi for $17.99.
Says Erez Klein, regional wine buyer for Whole Foods, "The wines from Georgia have been especially well received as they pair wonderfully with Northwest cuisine."
If you have a shop, sale, event or great product tip you'd like to share, e-mail seattleshopping@nwsource.com.
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Georgian Wine Map
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