July 31: The Source at Sula, arguably Asia’s best Vineyard Resort, helping a record number of wine virgins visit the vineyard, taste wines and enjoy the ambience for the first time, has gotten even better as a Wine Destination (with very strict anti-Covid precautions), adding vineyard suites, Grand Cru rooms, 5 more tree houses and an upcoming Hermitage Room and a Gazebo christened as Pavilion for alfresco dining under the stars, leaping further ahead of competition, writes Subhash Arora
Sula Vineyards pioneered Wine Tourism in India over 15 years ago with a modest California-styled Tasting Room and by tying up with a travel company to pitch tents at the vineyards for visitors to stay overnight. The idea became very popular. Rajeev Samant, the Founder CEO of Sula Vineyards, kept on improving the Wine Tourism experience with a leased resort constructed with his specifications and named it Beyond by Sula. This seemed like the ultimate in wine tourism at the time, making Sula the undisputed leader in wine tourism in India, kilometres ahead of competitors caught on the back foot.
When the landlord refused to extend the lease beyond June 2016, the buzz in the industry was that wine tourism at Sula would take a hit without the spectacular Beyond by Sula. The Source was so popular that during SulaFest, one could not rent a room even with the ‘pull’ of a top bureaucrat or a politician.
But Rajeev had other plans; the old winery had already been demolished, undergoing a change and was ready for the soft opening as Sula-The Source, the new wine resort at the vineyard, by February, 2017. Not only was it a bigger hit with connoisseurs and wine travellers, it also gave Sula a new wine label, The Source, with a price point between Sula and RASA. With the new wing opening last year, there were 57 rooms available for hospitality. ‘Beyond by Sula’ kept mesmerising at a new deluxe property, about 4 kms away, with 10 rooms (including the Skyvilla having 3 bedrooms) with breath-taking views and an individual restaurant.
Also Read: Sula: Wine Tourism Limping back in Nashik from July 10
Sula Vineyards took full advantage of the Lockdown which shut down the hospitality operations till October 2020. It gave them time to look at the bigger picture. Operations were streamlined and projects undertaken to increase visibility and improve designs and make more space for guests. Rajeev being obliged to stay at the winery in Nashik for almost 11 months, was a blessing in disguise in more ways than one. A stunning gazebo named Pavilion was also constructed in the vineyard for guests to dine al fresco in a romantic setting.
The Source has rooms of different sizes, styles and price ranges - courtyard rooms, vintage rooms, grand cru rooms and vineyard suites (in the new block). The plush rooms have muted furnishings. The blend of wood and stone exudes a happy and peaceful charm. The balconies offer majestic views of the vineyards. The rooms have all the modern facilities of a 5-star experience. Guests can take a dip in the swimming pool or enjoy a massage at the spa. Vineyard tours and wine tasting sessions are complimentary for the resident guests at the property. Usual accessories like bicycles etc are provided complimentary on request.
If you book directly through the company website for The Source, a bottle of premium Sula wine is offered with compliments of Sula to increase the pleasure of your stay.
“July 2021 was a bumper month for us with occupancy close to 90%. Another interesting trend we notice is that more and more people throng to Nashik in the monsoons now and the weekends are getting longer. We have a full house over the weekends - in fact we have to regret as many people as the actual guests who are already staying with us. But earlier that meant a Saturday – slowly, it got extended to include Fridays as well. But now it stretches to include Sundays and sometime even Mondays too. In fact, the high season seems to have extended to the monsoons, in addition to the usual November-February period,” says Rajeev of his Eureka moment.
He adds, “The monsoon is an excellent time to stay at The Source and thanks to Covid, people seem to have experienced that. There is mist in the vineyards in the morning and you feel like you’re walking in the clouds. The morning walks take on a different meaning with dozens of walking and bicycle trails to bring out the child in you.” Don’t be surprised if you find Rajeev taking his morning walks through the vineyard when he is in residence; or if you run into a fitness freak celebrity, many of whom frequent the resort.
“Full protection protocols against Covid are being followed, with the whole staff having had at least one jab. Soon, we shall require all guests to be screened for vaccination too; we don’t like to take any chances as their safety is of prime importance to us.”
The Tree Houses
After finishing my B.Tech. at IIT, Delhi, I went to Germany for practical training in the industry, a millennium ago. The workers in the factories were as knowledgeable about India as ours might be about Germany. When I was asked about our living standards (I convinced many that we still lived in caves!), I would tell them jocularly that we lived in trees; that my father had 27 tree houses and I occupied 3 of them (My house address then started with 27/3).
Also Read: SulaFest 2019: Record Crowd for a single Day on Sunday
Little did I realise then that one day I would find 4 beautiful tree houses at Sula Vineyards. With a stunning, panoramic view of the vineyards through the huge windows, they would be the ultimate in luxury. From lazing around in a bathrobe to a skimpy bikini, one could enjoy sipping a glass or bottle of Sula wine on the deck – overlooking the lush green vineyard in season, with total privacy in the wooden cottage.
If that was not enough 5 more have now been constructed recently and will soon open to the public, taking the total number to 9. The tariff for each tree house starts at an affordable Rs 8,000+, though it costs somewhat more during the weekends.
Hermitage Room-the Ultimate
If you still prefer ultimate in luxury, wait for September for a stunning suite room – Hermitage - to be launched. A penthouse in reality, it has breath-taking views of the vineyards, hills, and the lake. Beyond the vineyard! This ultimate experience in luxury would set you back only by Rs. 15,000+ a night, more over the weekend.
Sustainability at The Source
The Source at Sula is focused on sustainability. Over 80% of the energy requirements are met by solar panels installed across the property. Water-efficient showerheads and low flush toilets help conserve water. Effluent water treatment plants help further in reusing the wastewater generated. A dedicated on-site Biogas plant helps in converting food waste to biogas.
Sula is making it more and more difficult for competitors to come close and is already laps ahead. The epitome of WFH (Work from Home), Rajeev is always busy planning something new wherever he is, be it Mumbai, Nashik, Dubai, London or Russia.
With direct flights to and from Nasik expected to resume on September 1 from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune, Nashik ought to become even more popular and approachable as a wine destination for wine lovers across India as well as overseas.
Also Read: Wine Tourism: Sula leads the Way
Monit Dhavale, V.P. Hospitality, once told me that Rajeev gave him a free hand in handling Wine Tourism but wanted to see something new every six months. It appears he practices what he preaches! And How!!