Photos By:: Adil Arora
Locating a winery in Nashik for the first visit reminds me of Chile. The wineries are spread out in small villages and the outskirts with no proper signage, thus offering a good business opportunity for locals to become tour guides with offices in Igatpuri on the way to Nashik. When I took directions from Ravi Gurnani, partner of York Winery in Nashik he told me to follow Sula Winery and a road in front would bring my taxi to his winery. I assumed there must be some catch and it would take the usual missed turns and roundabouts before I would reach the venue of our meeting and the tasting.
I was on my way to attend the annual Sulafest and had hired a cab for the 3-day trip, so I chose to visit Sula first. It was a pleasant surprise when I started spotting the boards of York almost under the noses of those of Sula that I realised the brotherly connection-albeit step-brotherly, it occurred to me.
Directions to York Winery could not be simpler-go to Sula, carry on towards the ‘Beyond’-the wine resort run by Sula about 3 kms away, pioneered by Sula several years ago and you cannot miss the winery which looks like a well constructed modern factory from a distance.
I had met Gurnani a couple of years ago when he had brought wine from his first vintage for me to taste after his crush in 2008. A likeable and humble personality, Ravi earned my quick approval as a new wine-comer as he was very passionate, young and professional in approach- perhaps the way Rajeev Samant of Sula might have been when he had just converted his orchards at the present site to vineyards a decade ago with the help of Kerry Damskey from Sonoma.
Ravi is a true son-of-the-soil who was born and brought up in Nashik- I suspect he brings his lunch from home every day. He and his brother-in-law bought 9 acres of land in 2004. Table grapes were growing here and the family decided to convert to wine grapes and construct a winery here. He must be an astute businessman as he would have gauged the growing popularity of Sula and the spin-off benefits he could enjoy if he played the cards right and kept up the quality standards.
Perhaps sensing the presence of Sula he took a jet plane to UK in ’09 even as a rookie, where he showcased his wines at a local hotel- delWine had a correspondent attend the event and cover the story). Although Ravi was quick to invest in London he admits it is a slow; he even had to change his importer who was basically a beer marketing company. The problem in UK where they have numerous Indian restaurants is that they want cheaper wine. He has appointed on in Hong Kong as well. Ravi is happy with the US importer too as he has already received a repeat order. He has also made a satisfactory progress in Japan. Not bad export performance for a company who has been in the business barely three harvests. Unlike many producers who lay tall claims on their quality and sales performance Ravi rues that for the international market Indian wine is neither the cheapest nor the best quality, making selling a tough job. .
If Sula can bring low end wines like Samara, can York be left behind? He has brought out the Lower generic red and white wines labelled as Manthan,. With an MRP of Rs.195 (the half bottle is Rs.99), he is making good sales, including at the Tasting Room, he claims. Of course, the local Nashik market prefers the Manthan with almost 80% sales being in the city-also an indicator of trends in smaller towns of tier-3 in India.
In July 2009 he set up a wine bar in the Tasting Room. It was slow in the beginning, but now has picked up, he says. He has also started a restaurant which is a good revenue source and useful for brand building. The concept smacks of Sula but ‘ours is more of a. New World set up and is slightly different’, he claims.
|View of working winery- York
Supplier to the Industry
York has been quite aggressive in marketing wines and produces a reasonably good quality wine. Without willing to part with the undergoing marketing schemes, Ravi admits bluntly that survival and sustenance is the by-word and with the production capacity of 400,000 liters he has, he has to be aggressive in his sales, he admits.
To that extent he has been making wine for the Good Earth Winery and Mandala Valley wines from Bangalore. Recently he started bottling for Turning Point label owned and marketed by Ashwin Deo since earlier this month. He has also started using his facilities for the Chandon sparkling wine for Moet and Chandon-the wine is expected to be in the market next year.
Rajeev may not admit it but one won’t blame him if he treats York as the younger step-brother he could do without. Anyone travelling to Sula or ‘Beyond’ would not miss the New York winery, with the manicured lawns, an open faced restaurant facing the lake front. What’s more the annual Sulafest is being replicated in the winery lawns in the form of York Live on February 26th, as Ravi informs me.
Rajeev could also take solace in the fact that copying is the best form of flattery and may have kind words for his younger ‘step-brother’. In either case, York adds a dimension to the Nashik wine-scape and will encourage eno-tourism and the wine consumer will be the gainer. With Rajesh Rasal, the consultant winemaker for Good Earth Winery and Riona Wines on board and with Moet bringing in the expertise from Australia (actually New Zealand on paper- the enologists and viticulturist are Australians currently with Cloudy Bay in Marlborough), the quality should be on the increase.
|Site for York Live
Let us hope the message of such brother-hood spreads throughout Nashik-even in steps!!