I had experienced a wine tour during a trip to France and was fascinated to hear that its now available in India too, courtesy Sula wines. Recently, I chanced to participate in a wine tasting session in Gurgaon which was incidentally hosted by Sula wines. My curiousity was hooked as the presentation and tasting was done by a very professional young lady – I was totally impressed by her.
So, on my recent Mumbai trip, I planned a trip to the famous wine country. To get to Nasik, I hired a car from the Bombay naka for around 2200/- which included all toll fees, etc (this was the fare for one way only). We started from Vikhroli at 9A.M. (much confusion with the taxi guys who were supposed to send the cab at 8 A.M.) and steadily cruised through Thane to reach a small midway point where the driver took a breakfast stop. The view of these mountain formation fascinated me – not sure what they are!!
Being from North, my notion of highway are 6 lane wide roads. By comparison, the NH3 or the Bombay-Nasik highway is much smaller. But its a pretty neat winding road with pleasant viewing on either sides. Especially the Ghat section is quite pleasing on the eye. My taxi driver drove pretty fast and had covered the 170 odd kms in about 2 1/2 hours.
One doesnt have to hit main Nasik town, but take a detour just before towards the wine country. (The website has excellent directions and map). The vista on either sides of the roads were grape wines, as far as the eye could travel. Loads of signboards for various vineyards and we finally reached the one that read Sula vineyard. On calling the resort, I realised that we have to travel further 3 kms to reach it as I was currently at the vineyard.
Driving ahead, it was as if we had stepped onto the yellow brick road. The purple of the road glistened in the summery haze of the sleepy afternoon sun, wherein the loud chattering of the birds was the only sound. On either sides, tall copper-gold tinted wild scrub waved in wild abandon to welcome travellers like me, luring me to explore further. Low peaks stretching at the horizon, promised a splendour of sunrise or sunset.
At the resort, I was greeted with the loud yowling of a kitten. Totally perplexed by it, till I noticed a tiny ginger tabby scurrying around. The manager explained that their pet cat had given a litter of five, out of which two had been adopted. The rest entertained the guests with their antics, begging for food and attention. I was so charmed by them and couldnt stop taking pics.
The resort itself is quite charming with very friendly staff. I was shown a variety of rooms to my satisfaction before finally settling in a double room on the first floor which faced the lake. The view was gorgeous from the very spacious sitout outside my room. Directly below was the pool with rows of grapewines ahead of it. And then the lake ringed by the mountains which seemed to be shrouded in a bluish haze. I enjoyed a crunchy salad lunch with a glass of bubbly (Sula champagne ofcourse) while absorbing the view and pleasant breeze.
Refreshed, I decided to explore the wine tour. Normally the guests drive up in their own vehicle; but since I had none, the resort arranged for a drop and pick up till the vineyard for the tour. The timings for the tour are fixed and can be checked up on their website.
My excitement fizzled once I saw that I was the only one participant in the tour. Further the tour was taken up by a in-training youngster. And it was a disappointment all the way. Largely cause I have experienced the real thing in France. Sula was a small scale operation with very industrial looking containers and the tour was over in flat ten minutes.
The wine tasting session was also an eye wash and I would not recommend wasting any time or money on it. Undeterred,I decided to make the most of my time there and settled on a glass of the bubbly (again) on the terrace bar sit-out and gazed out at the rows of grapewines in front. The place was full of loads of youngsters and I figured that they were locals out for a date! All too soon it was time to go back as the last ride back was at 4.30 P.M.
I decided to explore the spa where the wine treatments seemed quite exotic and must try. I was very disappointed by the responsiveness of the spa – had to call/go thrice to meet the spa manager. Finally on my fourth try, I found her but the spa was booked solid for the day. I managed to make a reservation for the next day.
Dinner was a quiet affair in my room where I read and did some telly watching. It grew quiet chilly at night, and I was glad for the blanket in the room.
Next morning, I rose early and walked out till the lake which was a barren and slightly smelly affair. So I headed in the direction of the vineyard to explore the yellow brick road. I was chased by several small kids who begged me to take their pics and hand them over ASAP!! I met several small feathered friends, some never seen before and was charmed enough to try and capture their grace through the lens. The wild scrub and flowers also found a special place in my camera.
Tired out, I headed back and enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast in the dining room.
Soon it was time for my red wine scrub and massage treatment. It was divine to say the least. The scrub comprised of red grape skins, infused with some spices. The feel and smell of it was exotic and the overall massage was very relaxing. Two wholesome hours of unholy indulgence, flew by much too fast for my liking. Fly in the ointment was the steam room – loud noises emanated from it while I was getting the massage done. Later the steam switched off on its own and there was no hot water either. Some technical glitches it seemed. Wish I had the time to indulge in the red wine jaccuzzi which takes 3-4 hours just to fill in the tub. Sigh!!!!!
Food at the resort was excellent. From the buffet breakfast (had one of the best masala omlettes) to the lunch and dinner – I would recommend it all. Tried some malabari dishes and was not disappointed at all. The Sula champage was the perfect accompaniment to all the meals. The best part is the pricing of the wine at the resort and the vineyard is very low.
It was time to head back and I bid adieu to the kittens. The taxi was there to pick me and the drive back was uneventful and smooth.
The resort is ideal for 1-2 days of peaceful break. Its a perfect laid back oasis in the middle of nowhere. A pool and gymnasium for the fitness obsessed and a spa for the lazy guilt free denizens like myself. Great food and ambience; not to mention the free flowing wine. And I hear the Sula festival organised around the grape harvesting is a must visit. I hope to check in here next for that.
So whenever you are next anywhere near Nasik, do take a day out to experience the Sula life and soak in the tranquility and wine to your heart’s content!!!
- While booking a cab from Bombay Naka, specify that the travel is upto the Sula resort. Normally the rates quoted are from Bombay taxi stand to Nasik taxi stand.
- One can also take a Volvo bus from Bombay to Nasik for about 400-500 INR but the downside of that is that the buses start very early in the morning and go all the way upto Nasik. One will have to then hire a cab from Nasik depot to the resort for an additional 400-500 INR
- Beyond – the resort is 3 kms ahead from the Sula Vineyard.
- Sula website has excellent directions and map – do take a print out.
- Recommend the extra spend on lake facing rooms – the view is spectacular.
- Out of all the wines, champagne was the best.
- Wine tasting is of barely three wines and that also 10 ml – 2-3 sips worth.
- Wine tour was a waste of time
- Enjoy a meal or two at the cafe/bar at the vineyard for variety.
- Spa is quite popular, book well in advance and a must try.
- Do check out the Sula fest which is generally planned for February every year.