Eno-gastro-photo tour in Armenia with Karen Hovhannisian

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Sep 4, 2020 – Sep 9, 2020

Genre: Gastro, Genre, Landscape, Travel

Enrollment is open

Manager: Karen Hovhannisian

Lead photographer

List of participants is visible to the club members, who have attended at least one workshop.

Workshop participation fee

880 €

Includes photography workshop participation fee, cost of accommodation in twin occupancy on BB basis, local intercity transportation costs.

Single occupancy supplement 200€. Advance payment 380€.

Additional expenses

Air tickets, visa costs, lunches, dinners, personal expenses (alcoholic beverages, etc.)

The amount of those expenses is determined by yourself, depending on the airfare you choose, the necessity for obtaining a visa, your possibilities, and individual culinary preferences.

About the workshop

It’s not a typo — we’re going “eno” not “ethno”!

Those who have been here know that any trip to Armenia is inevitably about wine, but this time we took it further, and wine (and enology) here is the centerpiece of the project.

Within those several days we will visit six of the best Armenian wineries in three wine regions throughout the country. And we will taste the wine of those producers that are not on our “visit list” right in the beginning of our journey, during the Yerewine fest, and on the only day of our program, when we will be away from the wine-making regions — on the shore of Sevan lake.

Different regions, different terroir, climate, different altitude, different scales of wine production, and different attitudes towards winemaking — we have made every attempt at giving you the most profound overview of winemaking in Armenia.

Nevertheless, this is definitely not a trip for professional wine experts, but rather for hedonist photographers, with great food and wine awaiting for us at the wineries, rather than boring professional degustation sessions, and with lots of time for us to engage in what we love no less than wine and food — visiting the small villages, admire the beauty of the mountains, meet the hospitable locals and take loads of photos!

And to make it so that nothing prevents us from doing all that, this time we have decided to make the program All Inclusive. You will need money only four souvenirs or for buying some wine to take with you back home, otherwise, all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and all wine is already included in the price!

Program hide

Day 1: Friday, September 4

Arrival to Yerevan. It’s only 15 minutes ride from the airport to our hotel in the central part of the city. There are services like Yandex Taxi and GG Taxi that operate via phone apps, and that work with credit cards, and there’s also wifi in the airport, so getting to town is pretty easy.

We take a little rest, and off we go! In only several blocks from our hotel, on what have once been a calm street (and what now is a street, where dozens of wine bars and small restaurants are located), today you’ll find all the local wine existing, in abundance. Just couple of letters change, and Yerevan becomes Yerewine. Wine from the best wine makers, all types of cheeses and other things to go with wine, music and dances — that’s the right way to start a wine tour in Armenia.

Towards the evening, we’ll make a «break» in one of the restaurants in the vicinity, and get back to exploration the wine soul of the city. We’re «scheduled» to try seven glasses of wine tonight — that’s how much the organizers of the fest thought would be just right for us.

Day 2: Saturday, September 5

In the morning we wake up to have a breakfast with a view to Ararat mountain (at least if it is kind to us, and decided to show up its beauty rather than cover up in a cloud), and head towards the south. A little bit of a cultural program — we visit Khor Virap monastery with probably the best view to the biblical mountain. But we won’t forget why are we are here, and already here, in Ararat valley, will have the first wine tasting. Tushpa Wine Cellars is rather untypical for Armenia, where most of the grapes grow on the slopes of the mountains. Their wineries are in fertile Ararat valley on the altitude of mere 850 meter above sea level (that’s very low for Armenia). And so the wine os also untypical for Armenia — untypical, but very worthy. Welll learn a bit on the wine production, take a walk through the wine cellars, and will try three types of wine, with cheese and lavash to accompany.

We don’t stay here too long, since in just about an hour’s time, we’ll get up towards the mountains and find ourselves in Vayots Dzor region — hope of the most famous Armenia grape: Areni. Now we’re already 1800 meters up the sea level, the soil is rocky here, and wine gets its famous character right. I’ve chosen one of my favorite producers — Trinity Canyon Vineyards. It’s a rather small one, almost a «garage winery» established in 2009, when three friends realized that the wine from the other producers is not good enough for them, and decided to make their own. They don’t try to win in numbers, but are very demanding for the quality of whet they’re doing, and they’re not afraid to experiment. One of their wines is called Jazz — and each year they make a new type of wine under that name, just like in jazz, they’re full of improvisation. They have local indigenous grapes, as well as Syrah, Cabernet and other «usual suspects», and their other wine is called Crossroads, and is all about how to make a perfect blend of local and foreign grape varieties.

Besides wine tasting and discussions, we will have «khndjuiq» here, a traditional Armenian feast, with barbecue, lots of snacks, unlimited wine, traditional toasts and fun. Traditionally such a feast can last for three days non stop, but we will try to squeeze it in two-three hours. We’ll then have a walk in Areni village, and make a stop near Hin Areni winery, but this time not for wine tasting, but to get a few bottles of their wonderful wine for tomorrow. Towards the sunset hours we will drive by the fantastic gorge with read rocks to the beautiful Noravank monastery — wine makes you appreciate the beauty more, and here is a perfect place to «please the eye».

Guess that’s enough for today, time to have some rest in a small and quite original hotel in Yeghegis village. We’ll also have a light supper here, guess we won’t need more than that and maybe a glass of wine to go with.

Day 3: Sunday, September 6

It’s worth staying in this hotel only for the view you will have in the morning to the mountains around it. One doesn’t want to leave this place — it’s good to sit sit on the terrace and hear the silence, broken only by a distant roaring of the river in the gorge and admire the fantastic scenery around you.

But still, after breakfast it’s time to go! We’ll take a walk in the nearby village, and will start our drive still up the mountains by a road, which is one of the most beautiful in Armenia. Right on top of it, we’ll stop at the Selim Caravanseray, which once, in middle ages, provided shelter to numerous traders along the Silk Road. The scenery towards the Vayots Dzor region from here can take breath away, and here, watching the rocky terrain, you get to know the character of the Armenian wine better.

We set off to the mountain plateau further. Here both Armenian and Yazidi (the largest local minority group) herders bring their cattle in the summer months.

And here they have their own temporary summer villages. Maybe they will be here already in May — it all depends on how warm will the spring be, we’re in the mountains, so even if it’s warm in the valleys, here we can still see snow. We slowly descend towards the shores of Sevan lake. The climate here is too harsh for wine growing, so no wine is made here, but still, any trip in Armenia, even if it’s a wine—trip, should include Sevan in the itinerary. Moreover, we have the wine us!

We’ll have a lunch in a rural restaurant that we know for years, and then, without rush, and stopping in the villages, near a beautiful monastery right on the shore of Sevan, on a huge medieval cemetery, and near a train carriage that got here from God knows where, we’ll drive towards the hotel, which many of you have already been to, right there near the lake.

We will have some time to walk around and take photos, and then, already after the sunset, will gather up together in the restaurant to taste the daily catch of the fish from the lake and maybe a shot or two of local famous buckthorn vodka.

Day 4: Monday, September 7

In the early morning hours Sevan is very different, and it would be good to wake up early to walk around the beach once again, before the breakfast. And after the breakfast, we’re on the road again!

We can either stop at the peninsula, to take a photo—walk in the area of lakeside motels and campings, still deserted at this time of year, and to walk up to the Sevanavank monastery and enjoy the view of the lake from above the hill. Or else, we can stop in Tsaghkunk village and walk there — judging from our experience, it’s one of the most photogenic villages in the whole country.

Our next stop is in Arzakan village. Sevan is still too cold for most of us for swimming, but here, in Arzakan, there are hot springs, so nothing prevents us from taking a bath here. We’re in the middle of our trip to Armenia, and a warm mineral pool might be a great idea to relax, wash away the tiredness, and get ready to what comes next. And if choose not to, there is always an option to walk around in the village or have a glass of wine instead.

We’re slowly descending from the mountains and the climate becomes milder — we’re entering the second most famous, and very interesting wine region of Armenia: Aragatsots (literally, «foot of the Aragats mountain»). Some 20 years ago an Armenian finance and accounting professional from California decided to move here, together with his whole family, buying a plot of land for vineyards. About ten years later the first wine was born in what is now Van Ardi winery. Apart from traditional Areni grapes, other local ones, including Kakhet (which has nothing to do with Kakheti region in Georgia), Haghtanak and others. And

Areni itself here is very different than in Vayots Dzor.

We’ll take a walk in the vineyards, talk about wine, and we will obviously also taste the best wines from here during the lunch right here, in the winery restaurant.

Hopefully this will not take us too long, and after the lunch we will have time to go to Saghmosavan village to admire the beautiful medieval monastery right above the non less beautiful Kasakh river gorge, and continue up the mountain, towards the remnants of the medieval castle of Amberd, where the beginning of May is arguable the best season to visit. We’ll stop also in scenic Byurakan village on our way.

Towards the evening hours we will drive towards the final destination of our today’s journey — ArmAs winery in Nor Edessia village, one of the largest wine estates in Armenian. Vineyards and fruit orchards here stretch to the area of more than 200 ha, maybe not a huge thing compared to some of the wineries n France or Italy, but a lot for Armenia. Vieyards are in a valley overlooking both Ararat and Aragats, so it is beautiful around here.

But most important is the wine again — ArmAs is a very unusual and unique wine. Areni here tastes completely different (by the ay Areni is very «flexible» type of wine, which can taste both close to Pinot Noir and to Syrah or even Malbec), and Karmrahyut is something that can make you wonder. White wines are very interesting too here, made both from local Kangun and Voskehat grapes, and from Rkatsiteli, more known in Georgia.

We’ll have a tour around the estate, wine tasting and a wonderful dinner. And after the dinner, we will not need to go anywhere at all — we stay overnight right here, in a small hotel in the estate.

Day 5: Tuesday, September 8

In the morning we’ll have a breakfast and continue our way passing by the small, almost deserted villages. This is by far not the most touristic region in Armenia, but especially in this season, the rough beauty of this area will definitely prevent us from rushing by. We’ll drop by to the rather large by local standards town of Talin (not to be confused with Tallinn in Estonia!), and drive towards the well preserved, but somehow very toy-like fortress of Dashtadem.

We’ll walk around here, slowly getting ready to our next stop near the Arax village, at yet another of my favorite wineries — Voskeni. It has its own particular story — vineyards here were set back in 1925 by an Armenian businessman from Boston. But just like many other repatriates of the time, he was soon arrested by the Stalin regime, and only in 2008 descendants of his family have bought out the vineyards and established the present time winery.

Not the lightest of the stories, but the wine here, on contrast, in very light and easy, and would be ideal to accompany the lunch that we will have here.

After the lunch, we’ll take a short ride towards the Armavir town, and Metsamor, a very particular place. From the one side you have a huge megalithic complex dating back to II–I millenium BC, and quite impressive phallic symbols among the «exhibits», Ararat in its whole beauty, and from the other side, you have a view towards the Armenian Atomic Station. It worth taking some time here.

We continue further towards the Armenian Vatical — Vagharshapat town, where from the early Christian times and up until now, the residency of the Armenian Catholicos is located. We walk around the town, visit the churches and monasteries, and take photos.

In the evening we have the «cherry on the cake» — dinner and wine tasting at probably the most ‘Armenian" winery of all existing. The wines made at Alluria (named so after the river that flows by the Aylur village in what now is Turkey, and from where the family roots of the winery owners are) are very much distinguishable. Full of energy, very vivid and strong — they are full of sun that is there in abundance in this part of Armenia. We’ll take a tour in the winery, and taste both the classic and experimental wines (and trust me, they are keen on experimenting here), and we will certainly also try the local most famous food — kufta from Echmiadzin.

Time to go — in great mood, which cannot be spoilt even by the fact that our journey is almost over, we return to Yerevan, which is in just about a half-hour drive from here.

We might, if we wish, take another walk around the capital.

Day 6: Wednesday, September 9

Our journey is over unfortunately. But we will meet again one day, so don’t be sad!