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Posted: Monday, 05 November 2018 17:16

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Soma Vine Village boosting Wine Sales through Tourism

Nov 05: Soma Vine Village, a division of Somanda Winery, situated about 3 kms from Sula Vineyards and owned by Pradeep Pachpatil, the former Vice President of Sula, started the winery in 2014 with the objective of keeping it a boutique winery and in a short time of 4 years managed the sales of 7,000 cases with around 35% being at the Cellar door, by promoting wine tourism from the very beginning, writes Subhash Arora who believes in his business model based on wine tourism where most other producers postponed it due to shortage of funds and suffered consequences

Unlike his previous boss Rajeev Samant, Pachpatil concedes he is not an alumnus of a prestigious university like Stanford. He is the son of a local farmer and studied only in Pune University. He wasobliged to enter wine business in the early 1990s when Pimpane was introduced as a co-operative making sparkling wine for export. He moved to Indage when Pimpane went bankrupt and eventually to Sula where he rose to the rank of General Manager and then Vice President. But he is a shrewd man who is a fast learner and learnt the tricks of the trade whereas many of the farmers just focussed on grape growing and failed in marketing.

Wine Tourism basis of marketing

He saw Sula enter wine tourism- California style and becoming very successful at it. He offered Rajeev to build a complex of cottages at his property about 3 kms away when he saw the demand for visitors from Mumbai growing and Sula started pitching tents to welcome the wine tourists. He leased the complex to Sula which ran very successfully as ‘Beyond by Sula’ resort-as it was beyond Sula winery. But the small parcel of land in front made it truly a vineyard resort and it became a big hit instantly-all this when he was working at Sula. In the meanwhile he also made a 3 BR-Villa which was also leased to Sula for Rajeev’s personal residence during his stay in Nashik. He built later 2 nos. of 7-BR villas with a private swimming pool, offering guests privacy.

When he decided to call it a day at Sula, he had a lot of infrastructure already available for wine tourism, with his vineyard adjoining the complex also supplying grapes to Sula.. All he needed to do was construct s a small winery within the 25 acres of land he owned. With a proper Tasting Room, a restaurant on top, a banquet room and a small amphitheatre on toe, made the winery a prime spot for wine tourism. It helped that it was very close to Sula and many wine tourists love to visit a few wineries for wine tasting if possible and he started getting spill-over crowd and serious wine drinkers alike.

 It also helped that he had wide experience in winemaking and with his own vineyards supplying a sizable quantity of grapes, he could control the quality. Tasting Room was a visible part of the winery and it started attracting people, thanks to the excellent Resort which had been made popular through the Sula operation already. He even kept the Tastings free initially.

His objective was simple- to sell wine through the wine tourists. ‘I am a small producer and could not afford to sell wines through Mumbai retailers who demanded too much incentive in return and I was not geared to handle them financially. His Restaurant on first floor of the winery complex had been even ready during the lease period with Sula and could attract those staying at the Beyond Resort.

Zonkers Adventure Park

Amazon : Millions of products at great pricesHe also sensed that to attract families he needed to offer something more than the winery visit, Tastings and facilities like swimming pool, walking tacks in the vineyard, spa, games room and a restaurant offering multi-cuisine meals. He also had land across the road from the Resort. He collaborated with a group and started an adventure park. It has several sports activities for children of all ages and adults alike. Go-Karting, shooting, archery, ATV, trampoline, rock climbing, rope exercises, Rodeo bull are some of the sports that are available to the resort residents at a discount. It has had varied success-some of the sports are extremely popular. He also built a two story hall in the park-the top floor even ran a restaurant successfully, thanks to an excellent view of the Gangasagar Lake and dam from the top. He closed it down as he claims to have received a license for micro-brewery. He will soon tie up with an entrepreneur to start making beer.

 Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village

While running the Resort for a few months, Pachpatil realised that his forte was not running resorts but making wine and he better concentrate on it. He tied up with Royal Orchid Hotels and Resorts of Bangalore and converted the existing Resort to Regenta Resort Soma Vine Village. It continues to be as popular as before because of the locational advantage and up-gradation of facilities including emphasis on the quality and variety of food.

V Resorts

For inexplicable reasons, Pradeep has rented the two 7- Br Villa with a Delhi-based company who is running the 14 rooms with independent swimming pool as a separate resort. The rooms are more reasonably priced at these villas and at around Rs. 5000 a night are generally available though it would be more fun for the families or groups to stay together in the villa. Excellent buffet Breakfast is served to guests at Surahi in Regenta though visitors have the choice of two restaurants-one at the Cottage Resort and the other at the winery. Wines are priced reasonably with only the service tax added to the Retail Price.

Winery tours

The winery visits and tours are the usual highlights except they are complimentary for the guests. Trained educators conduct the tastings. The tastings are more informal and the visitors do not generally feel overawed. A group from Mumbai tasting wines told me that they had been to other wineries around also but found the atmosphere more congenial here and they enjoyed the tastings and the visit better. Most of the groups end up buying some wines.

Incidentally, Indian Wine Academy is a great proponent of buying as much wine from the winery as possible since it is the original source of storage, normally at right temperatures. From there on, it is a downward trend for quality, however small. Taste the wines and buy as much as you can afford to carry of the ones you like the most. I loved the Zinfandel Rose a lot and drink it the next day as well with meal.

Incidentally, Pachpatil plans to make 10,000 cases this year and hopes to sell 50% at the Cellar Door. One of his wines was awarded at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) in 2015 for its maiden vintage and has been bagging Awards every year since then.

Soma as a wedding venue

Wedding in the vineyards continues to gain momentum for the wine lovers. Pachpatil is totally equipped for that and despite 11 weddings he has already organised, there is scope for more and he is targeting 25 this year.

The Sula-Soma road stretch is becoming active with several other people planning to add wine tourism facilities. But Soma seems to be well prepared with the future in this area. Facilities are already there to have 3 different venues.

Soma is already on its way to increase the wine tourism and have it help increase its brand awareness that ought to help increase the sales as well.

Subhash Arora

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