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Alvaderi Monastery

Taste Wine in a Centuries Old Monastery

We get even closer to God at the tasting table of Alaverdi Monastery, set with serious stemware and shiny spittoons. We’re in Kakheti now, the lush agricultural region southeast of Tbilisi, where ranks of vines spread for miles, and even four-year-olds know about qvevri. Alaverdi’s 11th-century limestone silhouette rises against the dramatic purplish shadow play of the Great Caucasus ridge. In the 19th century, the fiftyish red-bearded black-robed winemakers were here, explains Father Gerasim, but the czarist colonialists whitewashed the monastery’s rare frescoes. In the 20th century, atheist Soviets destroyed most of the 8th century wine cellar, storing gasoline in the qvevri. But in 2006, the monks started over and blessed their first vintage. Now they’re running a model facility, marketing their wines under a savvy “Since 1011” label to drive home its millennial history. My own idea of paradise? The celestial ice cream made from buffalo yogurt and monastic honey sold at Alaverdi’s little café.