Sula Vineyards in Nashik is India's most famous and most accessible winery. From humble beginnings in 1997, Sula Vineyards has admirably developed into a world class winery with boutique guest accommodations. The winery is open to visitors, who can enjoy a tour, tastings, courses, and fun events. It's a pleasant surprise to find a winery of this standard in India, and it's obvious that a great deal of inspiration has gone into creating it.
Location and Setting
The winery is located on the outskirts of Nashik, around four hours northeast of Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra. For wine lovers, Sula Vineyards makes an enjoyable side trip from Mumbai. It's easily reached by frequent Indian Railways train services, buses, or even by taxi.
The property is a 35 acre vineyard and for the amount of wine that Sula produces, it wasn't as large as I expected it to be. However, that's because Sula has an additional few hundred acres of vineyards spread elsewhere in the region.
Attractions and Facilities
Sula Vineyards has much to offer visitors. Its very ambient tasting room has been architecturally designed, with a balcony affording expansive views over the vineyard. The wine bottle lights suspended from the ceiling are a unique touch and emit a warm glow.
The tasting room is open from 11.00 a.m to 11.00 p.m., daily except dry days. This makes it a wonderful place to watch the sunset and spend the evening.
For added entertainment, there's a pool table and lounge bar as well.
250 rupees will get you a 30 minute escorted tour of the winery, including the processing rooms, and tasting of five wines. The tours take place hourly between 11.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. (7.30 p.m. on weekends), and provide a good insight into the wine making process.
Sula also has an enticing range of wine related merchandise available for sale. I couldn't resist Sula's uplifting sun symbol (complete with Indian mustache!) and went a bit overboard, buying a t-shirt, silver wine cooler bucket, and small wooden wine rack.
The harvesting months of January to March are the best times to visit Sula Vineyards. You'll be able to participate in wine stomping. The hugely popular SulaFest music concert is held during February as well, in the outdoor amphitheater, and offers camping in the vineyards.
Sula Vineyards offers two options for visitors who want to stay nearby.
- Beyond by Sula -- consisting of seven rooms plus a separate 3-bedroom villa, overlooking the lake. Rates start from 7,000 rupees plus tax.
- The Source at Sula -- a 23 room resort (including four tree houses) in the middle of the vineyards, built to resemble a Tuscan mansion. It has a swimming pool, tennis court, and spa. Rates start from 7,000 rupees plus tax.
Alternatively, staying in Nashik is a convenient option for visiting Sula. Decent Nashik hotels that won't break the bank are Ginger and the Ibis. For those who aren't concerned about budget, The Gateway Hotel at Ambad (formerly the Taj Residency) is highly recommended.
Food and Wine
After my tour of the winery, it was time for me to settle in and enjoy the views, one of Sula's premium wines, and some light snacks.
I was looking forward to relaxing with a chardonnay. However I was disappointed to discover that Sula Vineyards is yet to grow chardonnay grapes. The knowledgeable staff assured me that there are plans afoot for it to start happening in the next few years though.
Never mind, there were plenty of other tempting wine varieties to choose from. These included Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Zinfandel. For those in the mood to celebrate, Sula produces sparkling wine as well. The wines are priced from around 500 rupees upwards.
Most of the wines are young wines.
However, Sula does make a Dindori Reserve Shiraz, which is aged for a year in oak. I quite enjoyed it during the tasting, but since it was a hot day I selected the Sauvignon Blanc.
To accompany the wine, I ordered a platter of assorted cheeses, crackers, olives, nuts and dried fruit.
Gazing out across the horizon, feelings of contentment came easily.
For those with an appetite, who are in the mood for something a bit more substantial to eat, Sula has two restaurants to choose from. Little Italy serves "farm to fork" Italian cuisine using organic ingredients from Sula's gardens, while Soma specializes in north Indian cuisine.