Saturday, 29 January 2011

Nashik - visit to Sula vineyard

Next day I woke up to a confused state of mind as I had forgotten to set my alarm after the Indus Creed concert. Anil was shaking my shoulder and asked me if I was coming. Yes, I said, give me five minutes to get dressed. I quickly dashed out of bed, washed my teeth, grabbed some clothes and my trusty bellybag set (that I wear over my shoulder) and sprinted for the aft deck. There was a tender waiting and crew was milling around and finally we got away to the waiting transport. Our Company had arranged a mini bus to take the crew but Anil had his own car as he had some bad experiences from a previous study trip to Sula. We settled down with Nik in the back seat and took a relaxing pose and dosed off while Anil’s driver was negotiating his way out of Mumbai to Nashik.

Some hours later we woke up near Nashik and stopped at a highway dhaba for breakfast. We discovered the minibus was some 37km astern of us so we ordered and dug in. I had a delicious masala dosa while Nik and Anil was enjoying a Marathan brekkie with chickpeas and stuff. After this my head felt like clearing off the Old Monk fumes and I started to look at the Maharashtrian landscape.

Grapes at Sula vineyard

I noticed that the traditional dress seemed to be for many elderly men the white dhoty with white shirt and white Nehru cap that is also displayed by the Thackeray founded party of Shiv Sena. I can’t say if the dress is a message of loyalty to Shiv Sena or just a dress that is normally worn by Maharashtrian men. In contrast the women at dressed in colorful saree’s and churidars or salwar khameez with dupattas and whatnot accessories while carrying handis and matkas on their heads from the village well or while washing laundry at the tank.

At the dam w/ Anil & Nik

Soon enough we arrived Sula vineyard in Nashik and at the gate we were told by the guard that they were not open yet, we were about 45 minutes too early. The guard recommended us to go see the local dam that was close by.

Local laundromat

Well, said and done we got into the car and headed to the dam and after some 5 minutes driving came to the artificial lake shores created by the dam and got out to savor the surroundings. We could see local women doing laundry at the well that was some way off from us, and then there was cows being herded to the water and the quiet and tranquility of the pace of life in the country side. At the shore was local fishing dinghies pulled up waiting for their Owners and cranes paced the shoreline. It didn’t take us long to get bored so hopped in the car and drove back to the vineyard by the time the minibus had also arrived with other crew.

Cows at the dam

Maharashtran entourage

We still had to wait some 15 minutes more and a guide appeared to take us on the tour of the vineyard. The guide explained how the vineyard had started some 10 years ago after the Owner had had a vision after finishing his US studies and settled on growing wine in India. Four different Grapevines were imported from California and France. The current farming area was at this stage a staggering 1400 acres including the rented grape farms. We were explained an acre gives 2 tons amount of grape and one need 2kgs of grape to produce 1 bottle of wine. There are 2 harvest per year but in terms of quality the other harvest is not utilized. We can deduce that production per year is about 260.000 litres of wine.

Wine tanks, a total of 7million litres of storage capacity

Maturing barrels

At first we were shown where the grapes are taken in and mashed and also explained the difference on white and red grapes as well as sweet from sour. We could not see any vats filled with grapes where women with bare feet adorned in saree’s and sweet smiles adding their own flavor to the wine.

Vines at Sula

Next step we were showed the storage facility and were explained that they could store up to 7million liters of wine in the tanks. The whole facility was cooled down to a convenient 17 degrees. From here the wine was matured and then passed onto the next step of the process and the wine was put into oak barrels. After this we were showed the maturing sheds with the barrels and the bottles of sparkling wine that was maturing and then the tour was over. We headed back to the main building where we could watch the bottling plant in action and then we were invited to join the wine tasting session (150 Rs/ person). We got to taste 5 different wines of the vineyard, one sparkling, one white, one rose’, one red and one dessert wine. I quite liked the light sparkling wine and whites but the red was not in my taste at all. The dessert wine was ok or probably great in someone else’s mouth but I’m not a great fan of sweet in my wine. Then the session was over and there was a rush to the sales counter to buy Sula wines by the case load, the prices are dirt cheap.

IE beauties -  Kavi, Jan and Atu

Myself, I invested in some 6 btls of light wines for later enjoyment and other crew also got their own fancy. Soon enough we were to have dinner at the local restaurant but we discovered they served Italian and north Indian cuisine but no Maharashtrian food so we decided with Anil to skip the lunch and have something on the way at a dhaba.


We loaded ourselves into the car and soon enough we found us at the Ka-ka family restaurant. We climbed the stairs up and seated ourselves in the A/C room of the restaurant where the windows were open to provide good air exchange. First order was beer as we felt parched after the long day. As starters we had some goat brain and masala pappads which then were followed by some delicious goat curry and local roti’s. The curry was so god we had to order in another plate. After some time we stuffed ourselves and felt content enough to order for the bill and we rolled downstairs into the car and headed back towards Mumbai.

After a few minutes on the road all three of us nicked off and slept for a good few hours while digesting the heavy lunch. The suburbs arrived and we kept on plodding into the rush hour traffic of Mumbai and eventually arrived at Gateway about 7pm.  From there we hopped in the tender ad got back onboard, it had been a long day albeit sitting in the car can also be tiring.

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