Innovation distinguishes a Leader from a follower – Steve Jobs
What name comes to mind as a native Indian when I say ‘WINE’? I can bet for at least 95% gourmet-inclined Indians, it would be ‘SULA’
Well, that’s pretty much the reason I did not hesitate to take my weekend trip a little bit further to the loved & celebrated vineyard estate in the outskirts of Nashik. January to March is supposedly the best time to visit the world class estate, it’s harvest season & apparently now is when wine stomping is prevalent & encouraged at the vineyard.
While the estate boasts of fancy guest accommodation, this was a pitstop for me – so I am reviewing my experience from a guest visitor perspective. Read on, if that’s on your mind 🙂
14:00 hrs on a Sunday – A breath of Fresh air surrounds you as soon as you step out of your ride (On a weekend, finding a spot to park in the open space outside the main gate wasn’t a fight really!).
The entrance is GRAND and it does not disappoint ANY expectations you’d have from the head quarters of India’s largest winery.
Tourists flank the property, selfies are a culture & photography a religion in the world of Sula – like I said earlier, a Brand becomes what the customer believes it is & Sula through Innovation has secured a spot for itself in our minds.
I did feel a lack of directions that were put out for independent explorers like myself… Nevertheless, we waded through the sea of wine ‘connoisseurs’ (at least I’d like to believe that) and found ourselves at an entrance to what seemed like the Main Building.
We could see signs for a Gift shop, a tasting cellar and a large inviting Bottle room that displayed all house wines. Here they hung used empty bottles with a string to make a flamboyant exhibit of their BEST-sellers.
Next stop was the Tasting Cellar, we had no idea of course on whether we could taste wines irrespective of a tour – the gentleman at the counter politely requested us to visit the Gift shop & get passes to enjoy the process.
We smirked and walked towards the Gift shop only to realize that the next tour was slotted an hour away and costed approximately INR 350 per person. this is where you can score some Merchandise on your way home!
We decided to skip either and decided to go get some lunch. Again no directions and no staff support due to the weekend influx (I guess), we being true to our nature began exploring the restaurant – which we later found out goes by ‘The Tasting Room’.
Ahhh! the joy in my heart & on my palette was un-containable.
Again, of course, there was paucity of space (thank you Sunday!), we had to wait in line till a certain table for two turned. About 15 minutes later ( after having ramped across the restaurant & stared at a few couples) we found ourselves a table which wasn’t the best view of the sprawling vineyards, but we made it work – working class diva style. The Balcony tables are the most sought after, so if you have the patience – you should continue staring at the couples occupying those coveted seats.
Without any further ado, we jumped right into the ‘TASTING’ accompanied with ‘HOGGING’
It was time to bid adieu to the buzzing room – overflowing with gourmet wines, mouth watering dishes, laughter, chatter & happy vibes. The staff however did not seem in their best of spirits, no pun intended, or maybe we got a troubled batch :p
I enjoy Citrus based, light wines so my MUST HAVE picks for the Tasting Room are:
A muti-award winning fruity aromatic WHITE wine with hints of green apples, grapefruit, peach & honey. Best enjoyed chilled at 6-8 degree celcius, Riesling is a versatile wine for pairing with food, because of its balance of sugar and acidity. Pairs well with Indian dishes – curries, Thai and Chinese cuisine.
This is the wine that made the world sit up and take notice of Indian wine. Herbaceous, crisp, WHITE and dry, with aromas of bell peppers, intermingled with tropical fruits like passion fruit and gooseberry (amla) with a racy, zingy finish. The classic accompaniment to seafood and dishes containing greens like asparagus and spinach, pairs well with fried food & cream/goat cheese. Serve well chilled just like the Riesling.
An exotic elixir of peach and lychee flavours. Floral, spicy, stunning. Great as an aperitif and terrific with spicy food, blue/goat cheese as well as seafood. Serve well chilled. This one is white too.
Went a little BOLD with this one, not my style but my Malay sweetheart enjoyed this one so I am sure, this will be a treat for Red wine lovers.
It is a complex wine, with power and finesse. Crafted from handpicked grapes from Sula’s own estate vineyards, Rasa Shiraz is aged for 12 months in premium French oak barrels and then further matured in the bottle before release. The wine is drinking beautifully now, opulent and lush, with supple tannins and a peppery finish. A limited edition wine. Served slightly chilled. Best paired with Barbeque based dishes, Gouda cheese & chocolate!
To fully enjoy this special wine, it is recommend that the bottle be opened and decanted 30 minutes prior to serving.
Honestly, this list can go on – I had to drive back, so we restricted ourselves to 2 glasses each, but if you have been chauffeured down or decide to stay back – Try India’s only Late harvest Chenin Blanc – again an award winning bottle & the Brut wines too – any of your choice.
Going by the glass at the restaurant might just work for the adventurous you!
I did not carry any vino bottles back, but you could! The MRP is not discounted though…so I decided to give it a skip, but you may find a wine that you so loved that you did not want to take a chance on its availability back home – so please do GO NUTS!
Our Tasting Room F&B bill consisting of 4 glasses of wine & 2 dishes – a cheese platter & grilled fish amounted to INR 2300 ++
Accommodation at Sula – NOT A MUST DO!
Tucked behind rolling hills of Gangapur and surrounded by the serenity of its calm waters, Beyond by Sula has a new avatar. Our luxury vineyard property now consists of a superb, minimalistic 3-bedroom SkyVilla with unparalleled lake views and a feeling of peace and privacy as well as 7 Lakeview rooms that are a little haven of peace and quiet. All rooms overlook the serene Gangapur lake and come fully stocked with the finest wines from Sula. (As described on the site)
Room rate per night starts at INR 7500 ++
as described on the site: With unbeatable vistas of the scenic Sula estate vineyards and gentle hills rolling away to placid Gangapur lake in the distance – there’s nothing quite like it! Soak in the view, relax by the pool, play a little tennis, bicycle through idyllic fields and enjoy the full vineyard and winery experience at the world-renowned Sula Vineyards. Rejuvenate yourself at the Vinospa – or simply enjoy delicious organic food while sipping on some Sula at the Source!
Room rate per night starts at INR 7000 ++
Dining at Sula – YES, THIS IS A MUST DO!
While tasting room is the India’s first tasting arrangement at a winery, Sula’s estate offers two more options for those with an appetite or in seek of a more wholesome menu.
This beautiful ristorante has fresh organic ingredients from Sula’s own gardens, making it a true “farm to fork” experience. . The restaurant also has a wood – fired pizza oven for that perfect texture to your pizzas. (as described on the site)
Soma at Sula
Run by the Kalras who have satiated Nasikites’ taste buds for decades, Soma’s specially curated recipes are paired to perfection with Sula’s wines with each recommendation offering a taste of the colourful spices, flavours and traditions of India. The kitchen offers a coal roasted Indian clay oven (tandoor), slow cooked Indian delights and also a delectable Indian sweet selection. (as described on the site)
All our restaurants are open seven days of the week, for lunch and dinner.
Lunch hours: 12.30 to 3.30 pm
Dinner hours: 7.00 to 10.30 pm
Guided Tours at Sula – MUST DO IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN WINE MAKING.
Sign up at The store (The Gift shop) for an exclusive, all-access tour of our winery with a knowledgeable guide who will take you back to Sula’s early years as well as every step along the way in the making of your favourite wines. Tours take place every hour, and end with a personalized wine tasting at The Tasting Cellar where our team will take you through the five steps of tasting wines. Tours and Tastings are conducted Every Day, throughout the year. Except Dry Days. Tours & Tastings are held every hour from 11:30am to 6:30pm of the week. (as described on the site)
- Accessibility from Mumbai – Trains, Roads, Cabs, the works!
- Exotic Location & premium experience
- SULA as a brand supports wine farmers & a lot of other CSR initiative – they are a brand with a cause & great leadership.
- If you have not read a blog like mine or thoroughly researched the website, you may get lost without a guide & end up not making the most of it the first time!
- Without the knowledge of wines or food pairings, again you may not have the best experience as the tasting room service was very average
- Staff across the winery is not the most pleasant
- SULA has a lot more to offer than wines – their Import selection, their initiatives in Karnataka, their artisan spirits vertical, their sustainability efforts – there needs to be a FREE guided service for tourists/ or at least boards with write-ups once you arrive there without having read up on them or Directions to get around!
WCD rates the SULA experience a 4/5
Tip: The 11th edition of Sula fest is just around the corner 3rd – 4th February 2018, visit Bookmyshow for ticket details!