Photo by Tec Petaja
Art, Antiques, and Authentic Fare
In the 1990s, artist John Wurdeman—born in New Mexico and raised in Virginia—was travelling in Georgia, following his passion for singing and recording polyphonic songs. But he ended up marrying a local musician. Soon after, he opened a boutique winery that now makes internationally acclaimed wines, followed by a wine bar and restaurant—all with Georgian partners. The restaurant is located in Sighnaghi, a beautiful, fortified hillside medieval town in the winemaking Eastern Georgian Kahketi region. Pheasant’s Tears is in the center of the historic (and now restored) part of Sighnaghi. The restaurant’s slightly rambling building contains Wurdeman’s artist studio, along with a carpet shop, antique-filled public spaces, a cobblestone courtyard, and an interesting wine cellar. The restaurant food is prepared by ebullient Chef Gia Rokashvili and is passionately authentic, but not parochial—reflecting Gia’s travels (he loves Indian food) and served tapas-style. Chalkboard daily specials might include just-caught mountain trout, rustic village pies with wild greens filling, seasonal vegetables in garlicky walnut sauce, smoky kebabs served with herbaceous condiments, or khashlama, a lamb stew in a slurry of sour plums simmered in tarragon, cilantro, and mint. All ingredients are organic—from foraged wild greens to mushrooms—and bread is made on the premises in tone, a clay tandoori-like oven. Stop in for a glass of qvevri-fermented natural wine at the restaurant’s wine bar, which acts like an informal travel agency and can arrange visits to local winemakers—one of whom may be sitting next to you at the bar. They can definitely set up a tour of Wurdemna’s Pheasant’s Tears winery. The restaurant’s entertainment is the resident Zedashe Ensemble, founded by Wurdeman’s wife, and Wurdeman often sings along.
By Anya von Bremzen, AFAR Contributor