Wine Tour to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh
Group: 4–8 pers.
Let’s be honest, when Armenia and alcohol are mentioned in the same sentence the first thing that comes to mind is brandy… brandy, even more brandy, and then maybe pomegranate wine and potent fruit distillates. That said, an incredible wine renaissance has begun to flourish in the small highland country. New and commendable wines regularly appear on the foothills of Mount Ararat where, through recent archaeological digs, the world’s oldest winery was discovered. Some of these wines have already been added to elite wine guides, while acres upon acres of rocky hills are being planted with vineyards. Armenian experts continuously experiment with indigenous and classical grape varieties, using both ancient and modern methods. In Yerevan, new wine shops are spreading like wildfire, engendering a new culture of wine tasting. This fall we invite you to join us on a trip to Armenia, where you will partake in this delectable wine revolution and experience the vibrance and joy of Armenian wine.
Over the course of 9 spectacular days, we will visit four wine-making regions: Aragatsotn Province, Ararat Valley, Areni, and Artsakh. For most of the trip we will stay in Yerevan, except for a few nights that will be spent right next to vineyards in Yeghegnadzor and Stepanakert. The daily itinerary will include several visits to some of Armenia’s historic and ancient wine-making destinations. We will meet a number of winemakers, historians, and experts who will shine a new light on local wines and traditions. You will get the chance to partake in grape harvesting, and even experience making your own wine (guided by a seasoned wine-maker of course). The itinerary also includes outdoor picnics, private feasts, and dinners at Armenia’s most notable restaurants. This trip is going to be a wine-tasting adventure and a gourmet tour rolled into one!
This is our first large wine tour of Armenia, so here’s our fair warning: the trip’s itinerary may be subject to change, and you should expect some unscheduled, though truly wonderful, outings. This isn’t some ordinary wine tour; it is going to be a real adventure!
Wine Tour Schedule
Day 1. Arrival in Yerevan
Welcome! We’ll meet you at the airport, send your luggage to the hotel, then head straight for Semina Wine Lab, a wondrous hub where a team of experts have triggered the winemaking boom of Armenia. Everything that is related to wine, from the quest for endangered autochthonous species to the creation of new blends, takes place here. Semina shares its manufacturing facilities with local winemakers, so we will have the opportunity to taste many unique experimental wines. Afterward we’ll check into the hotel and have some rest. In the evening we will begin at an enoteca called Invino, the place where wine-bar fashion first started in the Armenian capital. After enjoying Invino’s rich collection, we will have dinner at The Club, one of Yerevan’s finest restaurants.
Day 2. Journey to Aragatsotn (B/L)
After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll head towards Van Ardi, a small winery located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mt. Aragats (hence the name of the nearby region, Aragats-otn). This winery was established by Varuzhan Muradian, a former California resident who returned to his ancestral homeland only a few years ago. Upon moving to Armenia, Varuzhan brought back with him all of the knowledge and training which he received in California, now utilizing those techniques to produce six wonderful varieties of Armenian wine—yes, we will have the opportunity to taste all of them!
After Van Ardi, we will stop by the ruins of the ancient Agarak settlement, where people have lived since the early Bronze Age (more than four millennia ago). Over the years, through excavation, many rock-hewn wine presses and storages have been unearthed here. We’ll explore these caves with an expert archeologist and, by sunset, make it to the largest wine project in the region, Armas. Once at this state-of-the-art winery, we will take a tour and enjoy a short ride through the vineyards and orchards of the enterprise. Before we return to Yerevan, we will have a sunset dinner and wine-tasting, accompanied by a lovely view of hill-sides overgrown with grapes.
Day 3. Trip to Ararat Valley (B/L/D)
At the end of May, 1918, on the banks of the Arax River (near the border with Turkey) brave Armenian forces defeated the Ottoman army at Sardarapat, and thus enabled Armenia to establish itself as a state. This monumental valley is home to the vineyards of the Mkrtchian family, who own a small enterprise called Voskeni. Here we will meet the winemakers, taste their wine, and experience a famous local delicatessen: calf-head baked in a fire pit (“tonir”). Afterward we’ll tour the magnificent memorial dedicated to the century-old battle.
In the afternoon, we will drive back to Yerevan and meet vigneron and historian, Avak Harutunian, who is also the head of the Winemakers’ Union of Armenia. As we taste his wine, called Marani, he will tell us about the development of Armenian viniculture and the distinctive features of Armenia’s indigenous grapes. The day will end at Dolmama, a world renown restaurant that serves traditional dishes with a unique twist.
Day 4. Wine-Tasting and Exploration at Areni (B/L/D)
A long and intensive day is in store, so we hit the road bright and early and after a hearty breakfast. Our destination is the foothills of Vayots-Dzor Province, the village of Areni, where virtually every single villager is involved with winemaking. Here we’ll visit the Hin Areni wine factory, and after grabbing a cool bottle of white wine, climb the plateau and see a fantastic panorama of the entire Areni terroir. Next, we’ll traverse an ancient trail into the canyon which harbors one of the most impressive medieval monasteries in Armenia, Noravank, a splendid structure surrounded by red cliffs. Of course, the main revelation of the day will be the Areni-1 Cave, where a few years ago excavations unearthed the most ancient vestiges of viniculture in the world. The grape seeds discovered in local amphorae are 6100 years old!
After visiting this cave, we’ll taste wines at Old Bridge Winery, a small enterprise owned by the Khalatian family, which manufactures no more than 10,000 bottles per year (we will have the opportunity to taste the 2009 and 2012 blends). We will also visit the medieval bridge which was a part of the Great Silk Road and gave the winery its name. At the end of this explorative day, we’ll have dinner at a guesthouse in Yeghegnadzor, and spend the night there as well.
Day 5. From Viniculture Theory to Practice (B/L/D)
This entire day will be spent at Trinity winery, a compact enterprise founded by three friends. Here our program will go beyond classical wine-tasting. First, the wine-maker, philosopher and connoisseur of customs, Hovakim Sagatelian, will enlighten us about the rules and principles of traditional Armenian feasts. Thereafter, we’ll climb the mountains to the vineyards and participate in grape harvesting and wine-making. In about six months, once the wine has aged in huge clay vessels (called “karas”), you will receive a few bottles of the wine which you helped make! We’ll spend the night in Yeghegnadzor once again.
Day 6. On the Road to Nagorno-Karabakh (B/L/D)
Today we’ll drive 200 km to Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh. As we venture south, the landscapes outside your window will range from striking highlands to arid canyons and deep dark forests. En route, we will stop at Mirhav, a boutique restaurant in the small yet utterly charming town of Goris. In Stepanakert we will first visit David, a wine-maker who is experimenting with two local grape species, Charents and Khndogni.
After some wine-tasting, there will be time before sunset to hike in the Karkar River canyon to an abandoned village of millers, and to splash about in beautiful waterfalls. We will spend the night at a guesthouse owned by a local wine-maker named Hovsep (Joseph). Rest assured, dinner will imperceptibly transform into a tasting of the host’s luxurious wines and liqueurs.
Day 7. Southern Karabakh (B/L/D)
We’ll travel to Hadrut district, the former historical province of Dizak. The main adventure of the day will be the ascent of Mt. Dizapait (2480 m) associated with many legends and myths. At the summit, there is a medieval basilica called Kataravank, and in fair weather breathtaking views of Karabakh and bordering Iran can be seen from the mountain top. After descending into the foothills, we’ll have lunch at a campfire.
In the afternoon, we will go to the village of Togh, the historical capital of Dizak, where the Avetisian family has established a wonderful winery. Here we’ll taste some of the best Armenian wine, Kataro, made with indigenous Khndogni grapes. On the way back to Stepanakert, we’ll make a stopover at one of the most ancient trees in the world, a 2000-year old platanus.
Day 8. Back to Yerevan (B/L)
We head back from Karabakh to Yerevan. En route, we’ll make a stopover at Tatev and ride the hi-tech aerial tramway (the longest in the world!) across the Vorotan River canyon to visit a 10th century monastery. The view of the canyon is simply breathtaking, so we’ll lunch there. Then, we will visit the Armenian Stonehenge, a megalithic compound, called Zorats Karer, that has been dominating the desolate plateau for five millennia.
In the late afternoon, we’ll be in Yerevan and have dinner at Wine Republic, one of the most captivating wine restaurants in the city. Wine Republic carries all Armenian wines, so you will also have the chance to purchase any of the wines that you enjoyed during your travels across Armenia.
Day 9. Rest at Lake Sevan (B/L)
When the city gets hot and stuffy Yerevanites like to escape to Lake Sevan. Today we join them for a little sun, rest and leisure. Here, on the coast, we’ll visit a cheese-maker named Arman, who ages his cheeses in wine, and blends them with spicy herbs, experimenting with various species of mold. We’ll also taste the best baklava in Armenia, made in the town of Gavar. Of course, we will also enjoy a traditional lunch of fish from Lake Sevan. Back at the capital, there will be time to walk around the city and buy souvenirs. In the evening, we’ll give you a ride to the airport so you can fly back home with treasures from your Armenian wine adventure.
Map of the Tour
If you have some special preferences, we can organize an individual wine tour just for you. All you have to do is get in touch, and we’ll come up with something special.
- Full services of a Caucasus Explorer Tour Leader with local guides and drivers
- All transportation (minivan)
- Meals and tastings as specified (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
- Accommodation throughout (Twin)
- All entrance fees, sightseeing, excursions and activities as per the itinerary
- Nagorno-Karabakh Visa(s)
- Meals / services other than specified
- Medical insurance
Booking and Payment
- Single person supplement – $350
- For booking or any questions please contact Dmitry Egorov [email protected]
Flights to Armenia
Other Wine Tours
Каньоны и вулканы. Экспедиционный тур в Армению