Heading east, we drive for about 90 minutes until we reach Areni, a village popular for the production of wine. While legend says that Noah and his sons founded the village and planted the first grapes here, archaeological evidence places the first cultivation of grapes to at least the 8th century BC.
Excavations in the area revealed items dating as far back as the Bronze Age, yielding large clay jars used in wine-making. Whatever the case, Roman historians reported that by the 2nd century AD, Armenians were already making wine and exporting them to other regions.
Wine production, albeit the modern version, is the topic of our tour in the Hin Areni Wine Factory. As in Chateau Mukhrani in Georgia, a guide takes us to a room where the grapes are processed and to the cellar where barrels of wine are stored and aged before being exported around the world.
After the wine tour, we have another round of wine-tasting and a lunch at the adjacent restaurant.
Areni also holds historical significance as well with a number of archaeological finds discovered in the area. Most notable is a 5500-year-old-shoe, which was accidentally discovered by a post-grad student in 2008.
There’s some contemporary discoveries as well, like the traditional restaurant our guide Gor brings us one afternoon. Looking like an assuming house in a street off the main highway, the restaurant serves meals in a traditional way, which means flat bread is served along with vegetables and herbs, followed by the meat and fish. It’s a virtual feast, and the portions are so large that, even with our group, we leave with several takeaway bags.