Wine, one of the most consumed drinks in the world has become popular in India off-late, thanks to SULA. Wine is no more than fermented grape juice and it has been made in Europe and the Middle East since around 5000 BC (or may be earlier). Wine making process in essence, is the crushed grapes or pressed grapes fermented for couple of weeks. If the grapes doesn’t contain enough of their own yeast for fermentation, cultured yeast is added. During the process majority of natural sugar turns into alcohol (ethanol). Then the remaining sugars are left to change into alcohol slowly over 3 – 6 months. Some are then bottled and others are aged further in wooden/oak cask. How a wine tastes depends on a range of factors – type of grapes, the earth, the weather, fermentation process and the age.
SULA is a winery & vineyards located in Nashik region (now called the Wine Capital of India & home to some 50 winery). Nashik is 180 KM northeast of Mumbai and has become a big weekend gateway for people living in this busy business capital of India. SULA was founded by Mr. Rajeev Samant in 1998, an engineering grad from Stanford who initially worked at Oracle in San Francisco. Upon his return to India he initially experimented with various crops and settled for growing wine grapes. He setup the first winery in Nashik region with the help of a Californian winemaker – Kerry Damskey. SULA comes from the name of Rajeev’s mother “SULAbha”, and thus were planted the seeds for a brand new wine culture in India.
A trip to SULA was long due. So on a raining morning, along with our friends, we left Mumbai around 9:00 AM so that we reach SULA by 12 noon and enjoy the tour and have lunch at the in-house restaurant.
The ride to SULA from Mumbai is extremely picturesque during the rains. We stopped at Sidhu Da Dabha (ahead of Kalyan and infront of Shangrila Resort on the highway) for breakfast (a must visit for the famous Chicken Kalimiri). We took a detour at Igatpuri to see a waterfall called Ashoka Waterfall (named so after the film Ashoka shot there). This place looks like green (imagine full HD color) heaven during monsoons. After all the detours, stopovers & traffic we reached SULA around 3:00 PM to figure out that there is a huge traffic at the vineyard as well (avoid coming here on public holidays or long weekends).
The wine tours were all booked and we got a 6:00 PM slot. We decided to spend time at the charming rooftop restaurant overlooking the vast green vineyards, before the tour. We ordered for a ‘Brut Tropicale’ – the famous sparkling wine, ‘Late Harvest Chenin Blanc’ – the sweet dessert wine, ‘Dindori Reserve Shiraz’ – the spicy red wine with lush berry undertones and ‘Sula Riesling’ – the aromatic and mildly sweet white wine. We ordered some pasta, cheese, onion rings to match up with the different wines. We just didn’t realize how quickly time flew by, just loved the music and the energy in the environment. The music progresses from slow relaxing classics to high energy rock music as you move from afternoon to evening.
Our tour & tasting started at around 6:00 PM and we got know the history of SULA and how grapes are transformed to liquid gold. The tour lasts for 1 hour and is a MUST if you ever come to SULA. Within this grand estate spread across 5 acres, they operate a tasting room, 2 restaurants – Little Italy & Soma, a 35 room resort (hopefully we will get a booking next time we plan to come) and an amphitheater. Some of the wines in the tasting menu were:
Rasa Shiraz (Red Wine)
Dindori Reserve Shiraz (Red Wine)
Sula Chenin Blanc Reserve (White Wine)
Sula Cabernet Shiraz (Red Wine)
Sula Riesling (White Wine)
Brut Tropicale (Sparkling, to commemorate 15th Anniversary of SULA)
Late Harvest Chenin Blanc (Dessert wine)
Once done with the tour & tasting, head over to the wine shop and stock up your collection of wine for the days to come. We ended up buying 10-12 bottles for the 4 of us 🙂
our ‘loot’ from SULA
We had dinner at ‘Little Italy’ and left for our hotel (there are several hotels, few kilometers away from the Sula estate) around 10 PM. We had awesome fun and we leave this place making a promise to ourselves to return again to experience the SULA stay along with being part of the grapes crushing phase during the month of February. Till then Ciao.
Gat 36/2, Govardhan Village, Off Gangapur-Savargaon Road, Nashik, Maharashtra
Visit their website
Get the directions here
Tours & Tastings – 11:30 AM – 6:30 PM everyday (except dry days)
Restaurants – 12:30 AM – 3:30 PM everyday (lunch); 7:00 PM – 10:30 PM (dinner)
Tour and Tasting of 6 wines – 350