Somehow, I never quite sat down to write about my trip to the red wine capital region of the world – Bordeaux in France. Now, when I wish to compare my experience there with the one with the Indian wine capital, I quite regret my earlier laziness. After all, it is tough to rely on memory from almost one and a half year ago, of a foreign land with so many other distractions.
A week back, some of my friends planned to take a trip to the Nashik vineyards to enjoy the grape-picking and crushing season. For some reason their plan did not materialize, but it got me interested in the idea. I had travelled to Bordeaux during non-season and had got to see nothing of the grapes – except for some random berries adorning a few shrubs.
So this time, I thought I would do some grape picking myself and see people crush grapes with foot by jumping up and down on a pool of grapes (it turned out, of course, to be a very pristine romantic image found only in the movies). I hunted for some famous Indian winehouses on the web, struk up Sula at the first instance (http://www.sulawines.com/) and the imagery immediately caught my imagination. With a tastefully crafted wine bar, overlooking a spread of vineyards, it seemed like the perfect place for a quiet vacation. We immediately made the appointments and were soon ready to go.
We finally set out for Nashik on a hot Saturday afternoon. This was our first journey in our new car, and the driver was awfully proud 🙂
The scorching sun endeavored hard to dampen our spirits, but we strode on (well, the sun glare did manage to etch an ugly frown on my face through most of the journey). The first hour of it was terrible – as we tried to connect to the highway through a typical bombay traffic, trying to decipher directions from a road map. (Now don’t your ever try that in India, it is just not possible to get where you want to!) Soon, we shut the map and relied on the alternate – local oral directions, which are only a step less confusing than the maps.
Nashik lies on the Agra highway – NH3 and if your experience with the highways is limited to the kinds of NH8/NH1 in the north, you will get a rude shock when you hit this one. Discount the lack of a wider road with more than 2-lanes, discount even the lack of fancy mid-ways and eating joints on the road – but you do expect a road which doesn’t jump every once in a while and allows a smooth buzzless drive. It turns out, that is a high expectation.
Well anyways, despite all misgivings, the road does turn very scenic after reaching the ghats (which start around 1 hour’s drive from Mumbai). As you get on the ghats, the road gets surrounded by an arid land of reddish brown hues. The landscape is lined with oddly shaped hills, and is often criss-crossed by a rail track. Without getting into the mesh of words, I will stop at saying – it was beautiful!
As we got close to Nashik, we went through another round of meandering to reach Sula. The directions proved useless again as the darkness obstructed the identification of any landmarks. EVen the glorious lustre of the full moon night didn’t help us through that darkness. At one point, we began to get weary.
But once we reached the vineyards, the sight was enough to take away all weariness. Nashik weather is quite pretty in the evenings, with temperatures close to 15-20 deg and a very pleasant breeze. The vineyards spread over a 40 acre land and were surrounded by other local vineyards – the open land lent further coolness to the air.
A knowledgeable guy gave us a small tour of the establishment – of course it was too late and dark to go through the vineyards themselves. For once, we learned well about the wine making process, the differences between red, white, rouge wines and Champagnes. And learned that not all wine is aged!
The tour ended in an even more enlightening wine tasting session. Not only did the guy tell us the right way to taste wine, he even enabled us to understand the meaning of terms such as dryness of wine, mellowness of wine, etc. We could actually distinguish between the different wines that we were having.
Apart from all the wine, Sula’s wine tasing room was delightful. It has been done in Californian style, and looks over the vineyard. Aside from the bar stools, the seating area is an open balcony. It is hard to describe the heady mixture of a cool breeze, a full moon and a lovely wine. We all ordered a pint each of our favorites from the tasting, and spent a lovely 2 hours on the terrace.
In the morning (if 11 am is still morning!), we got up and set out to the vineyards again, this time to see the shrubs and berries in day light. However, we ended up again at the tasting room, and our eyes saw what we had missed last night – a pretty lake beyond the vineyard, and a hilly terrain lining the view. With another lively session at the terrace, we set back for the return journey – of course with a couple of wine bottles tucked away for future consumption 🙂