HAMMONDSPORT, NY (WENY) -- There's a connection growing in the Finger Lakes, linking grapes and a wine that's native to a country a world away, back here to our region. A grassroots effort is also underway to shine a light on that connection through education and culture, spearheaded by the non-profit, Saperica, Inc.

"So the mission of Saperica is to promote the Saperavi grape variety, as well as other Georgian grape varieties here in the Finger Lakes, but also throughout the United States. We started in the Finger Lakes because that's sort of the U.S. home of these grape varieties," explained Saperica co-founder Erika Frey, who runs the organization in partnership with Lasha Tsatava.

The pair both have a passion for Georgian wine, and work together to share its origins, history, and culture with the Finger Lakes and beyond. Georgia and the Finger Lakes share a kinship over wine, with a number of producers in the Finger Lakes growing native Georgian grape varieties, such as Saperavi and Rkatsiteli. Georgia, known as the "cradle of wine" in the world, has been making wine dating back 8,000 years.

"When I discovered Georgian wines and the history that was behind them, I felt like this kind of sort of this puzzlement of why doesn't anyone tell this story?" Frey said.

Saperica's Lasha Tsatava is originally from Georgia, and now lives in the United States. He is thrilled to see Georgia's wine and gastronomy being recognized and celebrated in areas like the Finger Lakes. 

"I think not only for me, any Georgian, for any Georgian it's an honor, it's a dream, it's a journey that our culture is so intertwined with wine and vine, to see that community connection, and our cultural influence on another side of the globe, and the embracing of the communities of this connection, it doesn't get any better," Tsatava said.

On Friday, Frey and Tsatava hosted a wine tasting event at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery in Hammondsport, where people tasted and compared Georgian wines of Saperavi and Rkatsiteli with their Finger Lakes counterpart. From traditional methods, to the use of qvevri or amphora, guests explored the differences in how the same grape tastes when produced in different parts of the world. 

Dr. Konstantin Frank was the first to bring Georgian and other European grape varieties to the United States, after he left the Ukraine in the Soviet Union. The fourth-generation family-run winery produces Saperavi and Rkatsiteli wines as part of its lineup. 

"Konstantin, because he was born in Odessa, Ukraine where he spent most of his professional life being a researcher, a professor of viticulture, so basically the science of grape growing, and he had a lot of Saperavi, Rkatsiteli planted. And this is of course during Soviet Union time, and those two grapes were chosen as the grapes of the Soviet Union, and were planted en masse. So Konstantin had a lot of experience with these varieties, and he knew in the Finger Lakes when he arrived here, this would be a perfect home for them. They’re cold hardy varieties, they produce very distinctive wines, and they also produce a large diversity of styles. So I think all these factors led Konstantin to want to plant these varieties to sort of as something from his homeland that he was really proud to introduce to America," said Meaghan Frank, Vice President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery.

Tasting and educational events like the one at Dr. Frank's are a lead up to Saperica's flagship event of the year, the Saperavi Festival. Also hosted at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, the festival combines education about Georgia's wines, tastings by Georgian and American wine producers, culminating in a supra - a traditional Georgian feast, marked with a series of toasts. 

"The toasts, the connection, and the tradition of Georgian supra, where you could meet a total stranger but through the toast, and conversation, you can connect with another human being and understand them on a more intimate level. It’s the culture that doesn’t need the translation. And yes, the reason might be the Saperavi grape that connects us, but we’re all human beings and the Georgia supra is one of the ways, and toasts, to connect as human beings to start with," Tsatava said. 

"We’re really trying to build that community of people who are working with these same varieties, and being able for them to connect not only with each other, but also people from Georgia as well," explained Frey.

The Saperavi Festival will be held on Saturday, June 8th, with the traditional Georgian food for the supra being prepared by Chama Mama Restaurant in New York City.

For Frank, she's proud to host the event and help foster the growing relationship between the Finger Lakes and Georgia, in partnership with Saperica. 

"It feels amazing, in one word. It feels like such an honor; I feel like we’re all in the right place at the right time. Erika and Lasha are just so passionate about these two regions coming together. And from my perspective, the Finger Lakes has always sort of been an underdog in the American wine industry. We’ve had to overcome a great deal throughout our history. And Georgia, [...] having to undergo so many conflicts, they haven’t had 100 years without a war; just having that fight and that tenacity and that pride of place – I think these value really connect our regions," Frank said. 

To learn more about Saperica, click here. Tickets for the Saperavi Festival are available on Eventbrite.

To learn more about the Saperavi Festival, watch the video below: