Sula Vineyard’s most visible effort in wine tourism beyond the ever-expanding Tasting Room and SulaFest has been Beyond by Sula Resort which was on lease. When the lease was not renewed last year in June, there seemed to be a sudden gap in the vineyard resort facility. But Rajeev Samant, Founder, CEO of Sula had plans. The old winery where the crushing had first started at the end of the millennium, was redundant and was practically demolished last year and the new Resort christened as The Source at Sula was work in progress as one saw during the SulaFest last year.
I had the pleasure of staying at this heritage winery resort for a night during SulaFest 2017 in February. Although it was not open for occupancy, it was nearing completion. The 23-room resort is well appointed with very comfortable and large rooms, with excellent views of the vineyard and the winery and the Tasting Room close by. This gives you a real agri-turismo experience. The courtyard in the middle should prove very popular, when the weather is nice. Imagine sitting in the courtyard sipping a Sula Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Brut Tropicale and chatting with friends!
'The Source at Sula is India’s first heritage winery resort on the site of Sula’s historic first ever winery which heralded the birth of Nashik as India’s greatest wine region,’ says Rajeev with pride, adding ‘we retained as much of the winery’s original structure as possible but added some Tuscan twists. Guests can soak in the view, or relax by the pool; perhaps play a round of tennis as well - and have a full vineyard and winery experience.’
The resort reminded me of the Four Seasons Winery and Resort near Baramati in Pune District. Unfortunately, it is not geared to welcome tourists despite most of the infrastructure being ready for many years although I have had a great experience on the two special occasions when I visited.
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Beyond by Sula
When Beyond was to vacate the building complex last June there was speculation that Beyond was not the trade mark of Sula and was owned by Pradip Pachpatil who owned the building and over the years has been building a resort on the vineyards owned by him, adjoining to it. It appears Beyond by Sula is owned by Sula which was quick enough to tie up with another developer and recently launched Beyond by Sula.
Tucked behind the rolling hills of Gangapur and surrounded by the serenity of its calm waters, the new property is about a couple of kilometres beyond the original Beyond and one has to traverse a rough looking area with kuccha road, rural character, that might even be charming to the expats.
This luxury vineyard property consists of a superb, minimalistic 3-bedroom Sky Villa with unparalleled lake views and a feeling of peace and privacy. One has to rent the whole villa but you can also rent 7 Lakeadd spacing]view rooms that are ideal for honeymooners who like to get away from the hubbub of city life, looking for a change even if they are not wine connoisseurs. Of course, one can visit the winery and the vineyards around. There is a small restaurant attached which serves basic snacks and light foods. Rooms are well stocked with Sula Wines. Contact email@example.com for details.
Soma Vine Village
Pradip Pachpatil took the Wine Tourism Route from the very beginning when he founded Somanda Winery whose name was changed later to Soma Vine Village. Soma Vineyard Resort offers the 29 room resort-earlier being run by Sula as Beyond by Sula. The visitor may not notice much change except Sula has been substituted by Soma.
Working as General Manager and Vice President for Sula for over a decade, Pachpatil was well aware of the wine tourism vision of Rajeev Samant and was even involved directly by constructing the Resort and leasing it out to Sula. He made the Tasting Room cum wine shop almost next to the wine tanks to give visitors an exciting feel of the place. A conference room, a Restaurant with a dream-like view of the vineyards and beyond, makes it a not-to-miss place for wine tourists. Of course, being next to Sula and York, it makes for a natural winery destination.
The USP of his project is also the 7-bdroom villas and two 3-bedrooms villas he has constructed on site, each overlooking a lovely garden. With a common sitting and dining room, a private swimming pool for each villa, with big and comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi, it is an ideal spot for a group of friends or a large family. Besides, being on the vineyard, it offers a lot of privacy and a serene atmosphere. For details, visit http://www.somavinevillage.com
Chateau Indage/Indage Vintners has been truly a pioneer of the wine industry in India. Unfortunately, it had to shut down for reasons best known to them but it gave an opportunity to many of its more experienced people to find jobs as senior employees to people like Abhay Kewadkar, Business Head of the Four Seasons Winery and Shailendra Pai of Vallonne Vineyards.
Pai set up a small winery in 4.5 acres of land in Sanjegaon in 2009, very close to Vallée de Vin which came to be known as Zampa because of its labels and merged with Grover Vineyards to become Grover Zampa Vineyards. The essence of this winery is obvious from the categorisation given to it by the Pune-based resident Pai who says it is a Boutique Vineyard Resort.
I had visited the vineyard a couple of times after missing the location 3 times. But when I visited last month, I found it fully ready and operational with proper road signs, making it a pleasure to drive through the rural area (expats’ delight). It is closer to Mumbai by about 30 minutes as compared to the nearest Nashik winery-Sula. With Grover Zampa being so near, one can easily make a day-visit to both the wineries. The restaurant, Malaka Spice serves South East Asian cuisine on the first floor and overlooks Mukhne Lake with an enchanting view from the terrace where you can enjoy lunch or dinner, weather permitting. The food is really delicious and the Menu is an abridged version of the original, highly popular restaurant in Pune.
The resort has 4 rooms that are perennially booked. One must make full payment in advance to ensure a room on arrival. Set in a beautiful location in rustic settings, it has no TV or Wi-Fi in the rooms as Shailendra wants to give a complete experience-away from the hubbub of cities like Mumbai, Pune or Delhi. He likes the visitors to have a typical home atmosphere. Outdoor games and board games help you pass your time after you have made the winery and vineyard visit with the passionate winemaker Sanket Gawand.
There are bicycles you can ride to the village. But bullock cart rides are a USP of the rural atmosphere. Pai feels connected with the city by offering jobs to the villagers to work in the kitchen at the resort. The resort encourages you to read in the library and leave a book behind. One can take a book in return, keeping the memories of the place alive. Another interesting feature is that the rooms are built within the winery complex and one can have the feel of the place by stepping into the winery or taking a walk on the soon to come jogging track in the complex.
I met Shailendra and his daughter Aditi who helps in the resort, in Mumbai again last week. He confirmed that the 8-room extension plans he had shared with me last month are ready to take off. With 12 rooms on offer, the Resort is about to become very popular with a niche audience, 30% of whom are expats and really praise the place, surroundings and the food. Shailendra has been slow in moving forward but has not borrowed any money to develop.
Nashik is abuzz with wine tourism activities. Though no one claims to copy or come even close to Sula now or in the future, at least they have started believing in what I had been shouting myself hoarse over for years-that wine tourism is the backbone of the wine industry and needs to be a part of the winery when starting the business. Slowly but surely it is happening and though Sula is sprinting ahead in this marathon as well, there are players who have joined the race and swear to reach the finishing line, whatever it takes.
I would wish good luck to these people and raising a glass of Indian Brut, say Jai Ho!!