The grape deconstruction day – A visit to the Sula Vineyard

In the religious and spiritual space that Nashik provides amidst the banks of Godavari river where the Kumbh Mela which is the largest congregation of humans is held, the Tryambakeshwar temple or Shirdi Sai baba temple there is a surprising spurt of vineyards in the vicinity. Nashik since time known was famous for grapes and its production. Here most of the grapes are exported. The soil and weather favor a grape cultivation. The scene was already laid out for vineyards to crop up in this area. This change is now finished with most of these vineyards opening up tours and tasting! A short travel from Mumbai – about 180 kms and you will most certainly be able to write your heart out as a days travelogue!

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The wine and the view at The Tasting Room

When you plan to visit a vineyard, you are bound to have wine. So automatically a stay is recommended and the day visit becomes a weekend sojourn. There is no better option around Mumbai for a perfect weekend! On one such occasion we loaded the car and set off for Nashik. It was a rather hastily planned weekend, however, in such short distance trips, it hardly matters.
The drive to Nashik is via the NH3. The road has its historical importance as it connects Mumbai and Agra. At Agra it meets the Grand Trunk Road which joins Lahore to Kolkata. So this road has the status as one the road with very high goods movement. The road was notoriously famous for the traffic snarls and accidents due to the narrow bridges and a single carriageway. In the last few years the highway has dramatically improved as a dual carriageway with two lanes each for traffic. The narrow bridges are no where to be seen – at least on the stretched I have traveled to. The drive now is smooth and you don’t really know when you have crossed to the other end. The scenery I believe is something that you find all over the country and nothing much to mention about the drive. It takes about three hours if you drive without a stop.

Sula is about 12 kms off the highway and with the assistance of the GPS it is easy to reach. Throughout the way you dont even get a glimpse of what is on offer. Even when you get off the highway, you are taken through an industrial area and a barren landscape at the end of it. The moment you turn into the gates of Sula Vineyards – it is as if you are teleported to a different world. Its like the Napa Valley of India.

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The grape plantation in the vineyards
The manufacturing unit of Sula Vineyards
The first thing you notice is the neatly lined grape plants leading to a massive building behind. The height of the plants is small small that the fox and the grapes story just gets bashed and beaten up. I guess, some cons of growing up. Moving ahead, the building has proper directions with a reception, shop, restaurant etc all in one place. We went inside and booked the wine tour for the evening. It gets booked really fast – so it recommended that, it is the first thing you should do – especially if you are traveling on weekends. Another thing I recommend is not buying anything just yet fro the souvenir / wine shop just yet. After the tour you will be a lot more knowledgeable and be able to make a much more informed decision.
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Amphitheatre at Sula Vineyards
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The architecture of the vineyard
On purpouse we choose to have the tour 2 hours later. The idea was to go on the upper level – The Tasting Room – the restaurant and enjoy a glass or two of wine. Special mention to the views from this semi open restaurant from the upper level. It is one of the most relaxing sights I have witnessed. We got on to ordering the wines and we tried their Brut and Sauvignon Blanc and the Shiraz. Why would you have anything else apart from the award winning ones? I’m no connoisseur of wines, but they do rank very high in my all time wine list. There selection is so varied that you might have come back another day to try all. There is delicious tapas that is served with the wine. The onion rings, garlic bread and patata bravas amongst our favorites. This is one place where you have wine in one hand, wife in the other accompanied with good architecture and beautiful sunset. The only thing you lose here is time or the sense of it.
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Crushing machine for the grapes

On realizing that it was close to the time of tour, rather unwillingly we left the comfort of the view and chair in search for some wine knowledge. Our guide took us around the factory, giving a basic history of the owner, and the factory. The important piece of information I picked was that the grapes to eat are very different from the grapes used for wines. The grapes used for wines can cause throat infections if consumed in large quantities. We were shown the crushers, and how every part of the grape is used. Be it for manure or for grapeseed oil, every single part of the grape in some way or the other used. Further inside, the fermentation tanks and the barrels where special aged wine are stored. The barrels somehow are always the mantle piece in the story, be it in Edinburgh – The scotch whiskey experience or here. There is a certain amount of pride in procuring and maintaining these barrels. The tour ends with wine tasting. There are 6 selections of wines offered with an explanation of which ones are made out of what flavors. The amount of sugars in the wines which defines the dryness of them and how some of the without sugar ones can be had by diabetic patients. One other dot that my brain connected on that day was – Champagne is actually sparkling wine made in Champagne!

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Barrels to store the wine
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The wine tasting room – Sula Vineyards

We retired for the night at a friends place very close to the vineyard. There are however very good options to stay. Beyond by Sula is just about 3 kms away from the here and Rajvi gives a very good account of living here in her blog –

Us at our friends place where we stayed
Vegetarian Perspective
You are bound to be satisfied with the tapas options here. It compliments the wine really well. If you are yearning for a proper meal, you might be a little disappointed. Even Solice, the other restaurant on campus largely offers tapas. You have to drive about 4-5 kms away for the same. Nashik has some pretty famous Maharashtrian food joints. But details on them in some other blog post which is more relevant to Nashik.
All in all, it is an activity that you wouldn’t imagine in India. It is very good to see such spaces crop up in the alcohol space and even better to see people from all classes and masses accepting and enjoying the same. I came out a bit more knowledgeable, a bit happy and a bit sad to leave the place. There is one thing I know for sure, if there is no weekend plan, I can visit Sula Vineyards again and again purely for the love of wine and the view!

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