This Wine Guy Is Helping Put Georgian Food on Americans’ Radar
How an American convert to Georgian orthodoxy became an evangelist for the country’s culture
Supra, the first Georgian restaurant in Washington, D.C., has lately been a focus for Noel Brockett’s traditional Georgian feasts, where friends, family, and strangers pay $125 to partake in what, to him, is a sacred act.
“In America,” he says, “you’re always a little bit wary about whether to drink the first toast to God. But in the western part of Georgia, where this wine is from and where my wife’s family is from, you always say, ‘Glory to God, and peace to us.’” So, as he always does, Brockett begins the meal with these words.
The son of a Baptist preacher, the phrase is not unlike ones Brockett would have uttered growing up in the church, though in a context that, admittedly, involved far less wine. Today, Brockett sells wine full-time as the director of sales and operations for a Georgian wine importer, regularly leading feasts for the restaurant that is one of the business’ biggest customers (and it’s going to get bigger, with the opening of a sibling restaurant, Tabla, in late 2019). He sees no contradiction between his work and his beliefs, only symbiosis.
But sit at his table long enough and you’ll sense that the toasts and mini-sermons he weaves into the meal are more than rehearsed rhetoric. They’re a glimpse into the Orthodox Christianity that has shaped these meals over centuries and has been shaping Brockett since he converted from an American evangelical tradition to this one in his early 20s.
For him, the meal is liturgy as rich with meaning as the services he attends on Sundays, with flavors and rhythms remind him of the goodness and nearness of God. They’re also an opportunity to invite others into a Georgian culture so rich with food, wine, and significance that it will whet their appetite for more.
“So may God bless our meeting tonight, and may he always receive the honor and glory,” he says to end his first toast, which was long and deep enough to…