India isn’t what you call a wine country. Total wine consumption here is 1/8000th of France! That doesn’t mean you have no Quality wine here. Sula Wines constitutes about 70% of total wine share of the country. They have a beautiful vineyard which is a perfect getaway. One can comfortably spend an entire day here or stretch it to a long refreshing weekend. In this travelogue, I will share a day’s trip to Sula Vineyards.
The Where of it
Sula Vineyards in located in Nashik city, in Western region of India. It is in the state of Maharashtra, 180kms from the city of Mumbai. Nashik is called as the ‘Wine city of India’ with a climate that favors the growth of wine grapes. It was in 1996 that a Stanford Educated guy Rajeev Samant returned to his hometown, wanting to start something of his own. In that quest, he realized how perfect the soil of his estate and for the matter his city was for wine-grape growth. He was surprised no one was tapping this opportunity. He bought in few verities of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc and started the production which would drive the Wine industry in India. The vineyard takes 2-2.5 years to bear quality of grapes, in 1999, they got a perfect harvest and in 2000, Sula Wines entered the Indian Market. From humble 30 acres of estate to sprawling 1800 acres of vineyard, this is the journey of Sula Vines.
From Mumbai, the distance to Nashik is approx. 180 km which takes a good 4 hr. drive. We started off early at 7-30 am. It was a group of 9 college students looking for some fun! The route is beautiful, peppered with greenery and a distinct lack of urban life. Before you get off on the highway, make sure to get some food for the hotels and stops are few and far between. At every restaurant, you will definitely get the staple Maharashtra breakfast, (Missal pav, Bhajiyas, Poha etc.). It is suggested that you eat the local cuisine here. They are experts at these preparation and asking for something else will bring you surprises, and not usually a happy one.
We reached Sula wines in the city of Nashik around 12-30pm. The entrance is beautifully decorated with flowers marking the aisle. The canopy of trees is another plus here. The parking is a bit faraway, making it necessary to walk up for some distance. The aroma of the place will ensure you reach the destination alright. The door is adorned with larger than life Sula wine bottle that welcomes you inside. On the right is the inquiry room, left is a subsidized wine shop (very cheap!). We headed to the enquiry room, got our self some grape stomping passes and decided to skip the wine tasting as we had a wine-lover with us who knew just what to order. Apart from that, this was the first experience with wine for most of us and he didn’t want anyone to start off with the wrong wine!
The great grape stomp!
One of the fun parts of a vineyard, apart from the wines of-course, is the grape stomping. Out came the wooden container in the warm sunshine besides a garden. The area is made specifically for this activity. The tub contained some pre-stomped grapes and they would have been few days old for they were smelly! However, 5 of us (that’s the limit per session) cleaned our feet and in we went for a good 15 minutes. The worker bought fresh grapes at regular interval and thus began a hilarious show, attracting fellow wine lovers! We played train right inside the barrel, put on songs (cellphones, duh!) and danced way. We had almost falls but not really. We even had a round of Garba in the tub! (A Gujarat dance form, performed in a circle, includes lot or twirling!). The same routine continued for the rest of the gang. It was superb fun!
The wine and Cheese!
After this, we cleaned ourselves and headed for lunch. Now there are few exotic restaurant around the wine yard with exorbitant price chart. This meant that we students didn’t dare to step inside. We went to the beautiful deck overlooking the vineyard to enjoy some wine. The interior of the main deck is beautifully done with barrels and wine bottles making up the major focus. The wooden décor sets the right tone for a relaxed, grown-up feel. We took a corner table, overlooking the landscape and settled to enjoy.
It was close to 3-30 pm now, and yes we were hungry but decided to satiate ourselves with some appetizers and amazing wine. We orders a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc and a platter of assorted appetizers. It turned out to be our lucky day as there were some cheese enthusiasts returning from a long trip abroad. They had bought back some exotic cheese and decided to share it with everyone on the deck!
Looking back at the time, we went through the 2 bottles of fantastic wine and a platter of deliciously weird cheese. Light headed and happy we went on to buy couple more bottles from the shop and decided to head home.
Around Sula Wines:
En-route, there is a lake which you can’t miss. This is another attraction where you can spend some quality time. We played few games, waddled into the lake and had a great time.
Finally, at 6 pm we left from Nashik and were unbelievably hungry. This wait was rewarded with one of the best meals of my life! A humble hotel by the name of Akshya on the Mumbai Nasik highway became our savior! We attacked like a heard of hungry bears and the food was beyond compare. The traditional and simple of Sev-tomato sabje, dal fry, besan ki sabji, paneer fry, roti and rice was our choice of food. If you do find yourselves there, try their thecha, that’s traditional Maharashtra preparation of spicy condiments. It is hot enough to burn a hole through your tongue but as they say, a little bit won’t hurt!
After this belly filling session, we headed for Mumbai. We reached home by 11pm. This was among the most pocket friendly trips of my college days. The split came down to 1300/- including travel, wine, food etc.!
For those looking for more luxurious retreat, try Beyond but Sula a 30+ room hotel by Sula. They have wonderful spas, pool, restaurants and provides a lovely wine yard experience.
A piece of advice: For those who really love wine and have been to world class winery, come here with an open mind. There may not be as much gloss and glitter here but the wines and sinful, the view is mesmerizing and the rustic feel of the journey will make it memorable.