Armenia . Vayots Dzor

Grand Armenia

In Armenia wine, food, music, dancing, and friends all blend into one marvelous mélange that satisfies the palette and ignites the soul.  With the recent discovery of the world’s oldest winery in Armenia (over 6000 years old), Armenia’s has solidified it’s claim as the birthplace of wine.  In this tour, we seek to give our guest a comprehensive picture of wine culture in Armenia.

Day 1 Arrival in Yerevan

Welcome at the airport and transfer to hotel. Our guests have the evening free to explore Yerevan.

Day 2 Yerevan

After breakfast we’ll take a tour of Yerevan. After a stroll down Northern Avenue, Yerevan’s new pedestrian street, we will arrive at the Freedom Square, the home of the Opera and Ballet Theatre (architect A. Tamanian). The design and layout of the building were presented at the 1936 World Exhibition in Paris and awarded with Grand Prix.

Not far from the opera is the Cascade. The Cascade is a monumental sculpture garden, art museum, and staircase. Along with a monument to the great A.Tamanian, the Cascade houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, which includes a world-class sculpture garden and indoor modern art museum. With works from Botero, Chihuly, Arshile Gorky, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynn Chadwick, Barry Flanagan, and Jaume Plensa, and many others.

We’ll follow this up with a visit to one of Yerevan’s true treasures: the Matenadaran. In the sphere of ancient manuscripts, the Matenadaran is one of the richest deposits of manuscripts and documents in the world. There are over 17,000 ancient manuscripts preserved, covering all areas of Armenian culture. For lunch we’ll have lunch at La Piazza, one of Yerevan’s newest and trendiest restaurants located on Northern Avenue.

In the afternoon we’ll visit to Ararat Brandy Factory and Museum where our guests will explore the 120-year history of one of the world’s most renowned brandy factories, and see the oldest Armenian barrels produced and the awards that Ararat has won down through the decades. The visit includes a cognac tasting.

Thereafter we’ll cross the street to Ararat’s local primary competitor, the Noy Cognac and Wine Factory. Built in 1877 and made famous by entrepreneur Nikolay Shustov prior to the Russian Revolution, the factory not only produces premium cognac, but also has an unrivalled wine cellar, complete with wines that are ca. 100 years old. Our degustation at Noy will include their best cognacs and some of their oldest wines.

For dinner we’ll head to the recently opened Kharpert Restaurant at the Tufenkian Hotel. The restaurant’s concept is based on receipies from cookbooks from 450 years ago, when Armenian cuisine had fewer Persian and Turkish influences.

Day 3 Yerevan – Khor Virap – Aghavnadzor – Rind – Areni

After breakfast and check-out, we’ll drive towards Khor Virap Monastery (4-17th c.) whose name means deep dungeon. This complex is the place where the founder of the Armenian church, St. Gregory the Illuminator, was imprisoned for being a Christian evangelist. He was freed when Armenia became Christian state in 301 A.D. Its location, near the closest point to Mt. Ararat within Armenian borders, offers a spectacular view of the mountain, the national symbol of Armenia.

From there we’ll drive to the Vayots Dzor region, which is Armenia’s most storied wine growing region. It is here that Areni-1, the world’s oldest winery (over 6000 years old) was discovered recently in a local cave.

As we enter Vayots Dzor we’ll drive through a rocky canyon and experience the unique scenery in the Amaghou Valley, before arriving at our first stop – Trinity Winery. Trinity is a private organic winery that has yet to launch a commercial label, but it is quietly collecting a passionate following for it’s unique rosé wines and it’s blow-your-socks off areni (a deep, full-bodied red) wines. We’ll finish our degustation here by sampling Trinity’s grappa. By bringing you this exclusive experience, you’ll truly be able to say “I was there at the beginning” of what has the potential to become a winery of worldwide fame.

After Trinity we’ll head to the village of Aghavnadzor where we’ll have a leisurely lunch in the garden of a local family. We’ll try a variety of traditional home-cooked dishes and sample homemade clay-jar wine, as well as participate in a master class on how to make Armenian flatbread or lavash.

In the mid-afternoon, we’ll take a hike to Shatinvank Monastery. Built on the Yeghegis River in 929 AD, Shatinvank was one of the largest religious and cultural centers in the province. Among other things the monastery had a mill, a canal, and a bridge

After the hike, in the late afternoon light, we’ll head to Zorah Winery in the village of Rind. Twelve years in development, Zorah released its first vintage in the autumn of 2012 to worldwide acclaim. Producing exclusively areni wines, Zorah’s Karasi Areni 2010 was ranked by BusinessWeek as one of the top 10 new wines in the world in 2012. The 360-degree mountain views from the Zorah Estate are thrilling and the wine is an absolute must to be experienced.

As the sun is setting we’ll finally move on to the town of Areni, where we’ll have dinner at Old Bridge Winery and Goat Farm. Old Bridge is a micro-winery that produces a quality Areni in very small batches. They also happen to be the leading goat farmers in Armenia, so as we watch the sunset, we’ll enjoy an amazing barbeque dinner of goat meat, different goat cheeses, and other Armenian delicacies, along with delicious wine to top off the day. wine is an absolute must to be experienced.

We’ll overnight in a quaint bed and breakfast in Areni.

Day 4 Areni – Noravank – Echmiadzin – Yerevan

After breakfast and check-out, we’ll start our moring with a brief wine tasting at Areni’s best white wine producer, Getnatoun Winery. Their Narine brand wine (which use native voskehat grapes) have just won gold at a major competition in the US.

From there, we’ll travel to Noravank Monastery. Built in the 13th-14th centuries and surrounded by dramatic red and grey limestone cliffs, Noravank is the only church in Armenia decorated with a unique relief representation of the large-headed and bearded God the Father with large almond shaped eyes blessing the Crucifix with his right hand and holding in his left hand the head of Adam, with a dove - the Holy Spirit - above it. Noravank is a highly artistic monument reminiscent of the tower-like burial structures of the first years of Christianity in Armenia.

Next we’ll drive to Maran Winery, which is near Echmiadizin, the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Although Maran is a boutique winery, it occupies a massive site that in Soviet times was Armenia’s largest winery. Built by German POWs after World War II, Maran’s 12 cellars (of which only two are in use) are massive underground constructions and provide a glimpse into the wine industry that was in Armenia. Buildings aside, what makes Maran special is their Bagratouni and Bagratouni Reserve wines. These delicious white wines competitive with the better chardonnays from California. After a wine tasting, we’ll enjoy a barbeque lunch in Maran’s garden. After lunch we’ll head to Echmiadzin to visit the Echmiadzin Cathedral which was constructed in 303 A.D. and is the first church built in the world. It continues to be the oldest church in Christianity. According to the Annals of S. V, St. Gregory had a vision of Christ descending from heaven and striking the Earth with a golden hammer to show where the new cathedral was to be erected.

We’ll also visit other famous churches including the Church of St. Hripsime (618 A.D.) and The Church of St. Gayane (630 AD). Etchmiadzin is the residence of the Catholicos, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

On the way back to Yerevan we’ll visit the Zvartnots Cathedral. It was a circular cathedral of VII century.

As the day draws to a close, we’ll head back to the In Vino Wine Bar and Store to sample Armeau, Armenia’s first ice wine label. Using Canadian know-how, Armeau comes in red and white vinatages and is a truly unforgettable wine. As it is not yet commercially available, it will be yet another early adopter experience, where our guests will be able to claim they were among the very first to try the wine!

For dinner we’ll head to Yerevan’s home of funk and fusion, The Club, where we’ll enjoy live music and food that is a tremendous blend of Armenian and Italian fusion.

We’ll overnight in Yerevan.

Day 5 Yerevan – Ohanavank – Amberd Castle – Yerevan

Following breakfast, we’ll head out to visit the Ohanavank Monastery (5-13th centuries), and the Amberd Fortress (7th century).

For lunch we’ll head to ArmAs Winery, a massive new winery that has only just opened. Working with leading Italian specialists, ArmAs is seeking to bring Armenian wine to a whole new level. We’ll sample their areni (red), and rosé wines as we enjoy delicious Armenian food and a view over the entire Ararat Valley and Mt. Ararat.

After a long lunch, we’ll wrap our tour with a visit to Armenia Winery. Armenia has been around for several years, but only recently began working with leading French specialists to develop a super-premium wine. The result of their efforts is their new Tariri brand of red (an arena blend) and white (a blend of native and global varieties) and we’ll be among the first to try it.

For dinner we’ll head back to Yerevan for a party at the Tumanyan Khinkali restaurant. It’s a suitably festive place to conclude this amazing tour. We’ll overnight in Yerevan.

Day 6 Departure

After breakfast and check-out we'll transfer to the airport departure.