Sula vineyard: France in your backyard

Photo of Sula vineyard: France in your backyard 1/5 by Balaka Basu

Two girls busy working in their respective workstations in a typical corporate office. One of them slowly pushes her chair backwards and leans towards the other girl. Then, asks in a hushed tone in a mock American accent: “hey babes! Where did you go this weekend?”
The other girl looks up, and with an impish grin on her face and a sly twinkle in her eyes, replies in a similar accent “oh! I went to France.”
The first girl asks again: “Oh cool! And with whom did you go?”
Second girl winks and replies: “I went with Tony. Where did you go? ”
First girl: “oh cool! I went to Hongkong with Bobby.”
Having said this, they break into riotous laughter. No, these girls are not jet setting socialites with multiple partners. They are me and my friend Sbana. This was our typical conversation on a Monday morning.

Photo of Sula vineyard: France in your backyard 2/5 by Balaka Basu

This was that phase in our lives when weekends meant waking up way past noon, Staying in the night pajamas throughout the day without bothering to take a bath. Having instant noodles for brunch and watching the travel and living channel throughout the day. Tony and Bobby are popular travel show host and Chef Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Chin respectively. And, we were referring to the places these hosts went in their shows during the weekend. Monday morning when our outlooks inbox overflowed with boring official mails, Me and Sbana discussed travel shows to beat the boredom.

Photo of Sula vineyard: France in your backyard 3/5 by Balaka Basu

Ten years later, standing inside the Sula Vineyard, these old memories came rushing back. I always thought that Vineyards and breweries are only found in exotic locations of Europe, Australia-visited by travel show hosts and a few other privileged few- where ordinary Bongs like me never get the opportunity to visit. These are places where Meg Ryan makes love to Kevin Kline, in the movie French Kiss. Therefore, when I heard of a vineyard in our very own Nashik, I was overjoyed. Ironically, it was Sbana who gave me this trivia.

Sula Vineyard is 12kms away from Nashik. 8 kms from Nashik is Gangapur gaon. Taking a left turn, one has to go 4kms to reach Sula. Sula is one of the pioneers in wine making in India. The road from Gangapur gaon to Sula is muddy, with green hills on one side and lush green farms on the other. The fresh air, and open spaces makes for a very pleasant drive.

From the main gate of Sula, the main brasserie is almost a stretch of 1 km surrounded by manicured flower beds and vineyards on both sides This was the first time in my life that I saw grapes in a vine in reality. The stretches of vines have boards mentioning their particular scientific names and the date they were planted. Some of the vines are almost 10 years old.

Photo of Sula vineyard: France in your backyard 4/5 by Balaka Basu

The production unit is open from 11am-10pm for tourist. Inside the main production unit, various techniques of wine making or vinification are shown. Grapes are collected crushed, fermented and stored. Wine cellars, wine press were all new experiences for me. After taking a round of the production unit, we were guided to the wine tasting section.
The brasserie is situated at the backdrop of a hill overlooking a river dam. The first floor has a wide open balcony with comfortable sofas which doubles up as a brasserie. From this balcony the entire area looks like landscape painting with a riot of colours. The light green hill descends to meet the dark green vineyard, the red, yellow, violet flowers adds colour to the palette and the silver water gives a tranquil effect.

Photo of Sula vineyard: France in your backyard 5/5 by Balaka Basu

Apart from Sula, there are few other vineyards as well. York vineyard is one such. It remains open from 12pm-10pm for tourist. Here also one can taste and buy wines. There are quite a few grape farms which specialize in the import and export of grapes. Dry grapes also known as raisins or kishmish are also made here.

I remember a particular episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”, where Anthony was envious of a vineyard owner who got to eat the best wine overlooking his beautiful vineyard. Sitting on the balcony of Sula and tasting wine, I experienced similar bliss.

I returned with the taste of wine in my mouth and wonderful feeling in my heart. A long cherished dream had come true. Next when I meet Sbana I would be able to discuss vineyards and wine making without borrowing from Tony Bourdain and the likes.