Tbilisi has an amazingly (to me) large number of wine bars and shops. It seemed there was at least one on nearly every block. With only a few, short days to sample them, I clearly didn’t visit them all. Nonetheless, I came home with some favorites (mentioned here) and some non-favorites (perhaps a different post?).
So, what makes a wine bar great? The same factors that make any establishment great: good product, friendly and knowledgeable staff, comfortable environment, and, often, a certain je ne sais quoi. I found 3 places that fit these conditions within 1km of my hotel.
I stopped in Tsangala’s on my way to look at the Clock Tower, which is less than 100 m away.
In just a very brief look on the shelves, I spied producers Baia, Orgo, Okro’s, and Papari Valley. Good product? Check. The nice and friendly staff very politely informed me that I could not have Orgo’s sparkling Mtsvane by the glass (I tried!), so I simply took the recommended Tsinandali – in this case 85% Rkatsiteli and 15% Mtsvane. I had forgotten to write down the producer – and it was not one with which I was familiar, but while the wine was clean, fresh, and pleasant, it isn’t one I would seek out from all others – especially with the other great producers on the shop’s shelves. I felt completely comfortable accepting staff recommendations, and would do so if I made it there again. (Another “check” for friendly, knowledgeable staff).
The real star of this place is its outdoor seating in a courtyard off a busy, pedestrian street. So, plants, greenery, and a comfortable place to sit while watching all sorts of people pass by. I was joined, in time, by a group of Russians who were having quite a bit of fun. I only wish I could have joined! The staff seemed very helpful to them, as well – though I had no idea what was being said.
So, good product, good staff, good atmosphere!
I came upon g.Vino by accident. I had seen it mentioned as a good wine bar, but I hadn’t planned on going since it was in a very touristy area, basically at the foot of the Bridge of Peace. But, it had a nice-looking patio and I was thirsty.
I felt immediately at ease with the cheerful, helpful, knowledgeable server. He greeted me almost immediately and brought me a wine menu, which looked great – the bar specializes in “rare natural wines from small wineries”, according to their website. The young server knew a lot about his offerings and, when he realized I was familiar with several of the wineries on the menu, he brought me a few to taste from which to select. One that he brought was a Shavkapito from Alapiana’s Marani. That, of course, was the first wine I drank; the labels are pretty, the Shavkapito is pretty, and the owners and winemaker are wonderful people. When I ordered another glass, the server again just brought me a few to try. Importantly, all the wines I sampled were good – no major problems that I noticed.
g. Vino got more points for their complimentary bread served with sunflower oil. I didn’t try any food from the menu, but their was a decent selection and the food at other tables around me looked good.
The interior had a few interesting features – like the collection of red mirrors, but I was much happier outside. The chairs on the patio were not very comfortable, but the rest of the experience totally made up for it.
Wine Observatory became my last stop of the night – at first because it was in my hotel, but then because I enjoyed it. The design is industrial modern, just like the hotel. The wine is easily visible on racks in a glassed-off wine room inside the bar. My eyes went immediately to the Tchotiashvili labels, none of which were offered by-the-glass. No matter, because Wine Observatory has friendly and knowledgeable staff! He poured me a very harmonious Vellino Rkatsiteli 2016, with a beautiful amber color. The food only came in large platters inappropriate for a #tableforone, so the server very kindly brought me a plate of breadsticks.
I came back the next night and had a glass of the 2014 Shalauri Cellars Mtsvane Qvevri wine. I liked it enough to buy a bottle to take back to the States (along with The 2015 Tchotiashvili Kisi limited).
Sadly, I was the only customer in the place each night I was there. It has only been open a month, and hopefully it will catch on. The lighting was low, jazz was playing, and the room had a nice feel.
Unlike other wine bars I visited (different post), these 3 were comfortable and accommodating, fine for a solo traveler, and – most importantly – had consistently good wine.