Baia: A Georgian Wine Story @ College Ave. June 13th
Thursday, June 13th
$15 ($5 Club Members)


The story of Baia is about 3 young siblings (Baia, her younger brother Giorgi, and her sister Gvantsa) from a small town in Georgia with a dream of making great, revolutionary, and most of all uniquely Georgian wine that would wow the world. Their journey takes them to the city (Tbilisi) then back to their hometown, where a small break would change their lives forever. We won’t spoil the ending quite yet, but no one in Georgia knew what Baia wines were in 2015. Now, 9 years later, we’re pouring them for you in Berkeley. These are some of the highest-quality organic Georgian wines being exported, coveted by restaurants and wine bars all over the world.


Baia, Gvantsa, and Giorgi grew up in Obcha (about 100 miles from Tblisi). Their parents and grandparents were traditional winemakers, and they had happy childhoods growing up around the vineyards, participating in the winemaking process that was dominated by older Imeretian techniques—short maceration and minimal amounts of skin used during fermentation. When Baia went to agronomical university in Tbilisi, she brought these wines with her and quickly learned that all of the top restaurants and wine bars were looking for something different. So she returned to her hometown. She started dabbling in some new techniques, and one of her main obstacles was that it was taking her too long to bottle everything by hand and the quality of the wines was suffering. In a lot of entrepreneurial success stories there’s a break here or there that needs to go right or things may never work out. This is that break. She entered a local agricultural startup competition and won. The grant paid her 5000 GEL (only $2000 USD at the time). This was just enough to buy a used wine bottling machine. Exactly the jump-start that she needed to increase production and quality.


At this point (2015: the first vintage of the Baia label), her siblings were already working with her, and now that they had this machine they could totally reshape their winemaking processes: extending the maceration process of up to 3 months, Quevris being treated individually, all with an eye on moving toward organic everything. This all happened so fast, but one thing was still missing: They lacked the techniques to create the sustainable vineyard environment that they coveted. So, Gvantsa went to Germany to learn from one of the best biodynamic wineries in all of the Mosel.


This is all happening, again, so fast. At the same time, Baia had to figure out how and where to sell that first 2015 vintage that was made using their newly acquired bottling machine. She still couldn’t afford a car (and the village is a long 100mi train ride from Tblisi), so she and Giorgi lugged as many bottles as they could and delivered the first batch to restaurants and wine bars via public transport (a case of wine weighs about 39 lbs; no mean feat). Despite all of the obstacles, these wines were immediately beloved by the Tblisi wine scene. Not only were restaurants and wine bars ordering more bottles than she had but the press got wind of this story. Soon she and her siblings were appearing on TV shows in Georgia.


The organic transformation was well under way at this point (Gvantsa was back from Germany), but production was once again a problem. They somehow found hundreds of old family pitchers (that they were able to quickly get into wine carrying condition) and were able to use these to harvest enough grapes to produce 8,000 bottles—all of which were immediately sold because their demand was so high. At this point they were already a success—why not take this thing to the moon!—so Baia and Gvantsa decided to go back to enology and agronomy school respectively while Girogi took care of the operation at home. From there it was off to the races, and about a year and a half later they first started exporting their wines to foreign markets. Today, the 3 of them work together in the vineyards and in the cellar to produce some of the best wines to come out of Georgia that are now not only coveted in Tblisi but by wine bars and restaurants throughout the world. Come taste these tomorrow night and see the end result of this Georgian wine story for yourself.



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