I love August. It has the monsoons, my wedding and first date anniversary (on the same day) and more holidays than in other months. Lets see, Independence Day, Rakhi, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi and if you’re lucky then Eid, if you’re super lucky then you get some pretty kickass long weekends, like this year, when due to Independence Day and Janmashtami we got 3 and in some lucky cases even 4 days off. Now I don’t know about you but I dread long weekends as much as I enjoy them. I like the extra day to just laze around, but dread the resultant crowds everywhere. So last week while I was mulling the upcoming weekend, I got a call from my parents, who gave me the best news ever! They were driving down from Ahmedabad with the bestest doggy in the whole world!! Yaaay! Needless to say, I was over the moon, more so because this was the first time His Royal Highness the Dog, (Not his real name) would be visiting Mumbai. Anyway, the long awaited weekend arrived and my parents along with HRH turned up, tired but pretty gung-ho. Intense discussions were held as to plans for the upcoming days with all of us unanimously rejecting a weekend spent mall-ratting around, at this point Maa decided that she would like to go to the Sula Vineyards and so the plans were made.
Nashik has long been known for its oranges and grapes and is fast catching up to be India’s primary wine producing region. The Sula Vineyards were set up in 1997 and started producing wines in 2000. It is by far the most well-known wine producer in India as of now.
Finally, Saturday morning dawned and off we went to down some wine and generally enjoy the ride there. Now, I’ve been living by the Nashik Highway for a good three years, but the funny part is that this was the first time I was actually taking it to go somewhere. At the beginning the road is nothing to write home about with traffic jams, potholes and what nots, but the road soon opens out and passes through some of the most gorgeous ghats I’ve seen. We stopped at Dara’s Dhaba for a hot piping breakfast of vada pao, dosa and upma. The tea was a little blah but the coffee had just the right combination of sweet and bitter. HRH the Dog also had a nice little walk and was most eager to figure out where the humans were taking him.
The travails of the city left behind, we soon approached the ghats section at Kasara and boy what a beautiful road! There were tiny monsoon waterfalls everywhere you looked and the views were to die for. All I wanted to do was to stop the car, get off and never leave. The monsoons does make everything look so magical. Even if you’re not a big wine buff, I would suggest you make the trip just for the ride on the ghats.
Three hours later we finally arrived at Sula, only to find hordes of vehicles headed the same way. Unwilling to get into a crowd we decided to head to the York Winery which is around 1.8 km from Sula. My cousin had been there earlier this year and had been raving about it ever since. We pulled into York and headed towards the tasting room, only to stop and gape at the beautiful vista in front of us. Acres of grapevines surround the property with the Gangapur Dam providing the backdrop. We spent a good 10-15 minutes just staring slack jawed at the view. Pulling ourselves out of the trance, we made our way upstairs where the tasting room was. We found the room pretty much empty and decided to do the 6 wines tasting but the gentlemen managing the bar said that they would not be able to conduct tasting as there were over-capacity. Disappointed, we ordered the rosé and some canapes only to be told that canapes were not available either, nevertheless, we got our wine and a bowl of complimentary chips and sat down to admire the view again. A good hour later, we decided to go grab some lunch at the restaurant, only to find that the nearly deserted restaurant of an hour back was now full to the brim with people and that the next table would be available after another hour. Unable to wait that long we decided to leave and grab some lunch at Nashik instead.
On our way to Nashik, we crossed Sula once again and decided to drop in just to have a look. Thirty seconds later, we realised what a huge blunder we had committed, Sula was crowded and how! The narrow driveway, looked like Mumbai during rush hour, what with all the people headed to York for their lunch, loud music, which we could hear from the gate a good 300 meters away was being played and the place was frankly crawling with people. It looked like everything we wanted to escape from had landed up in the place we wanted to escape to. Undeterred, we made our way to the main building, where we were informed that the wine tasting would be in groups every hour but that they were booked for the next three hours, we were welcome to go upstairs to the bar and enjoy our wine and canapes or head out to their new French restaurant. We decided to do the former and climbed up a set of narrow stairs, made narrowed by the vast sea of humanity making its way down. The stairs opened out to a balcony overlooking the vineyard and the lake, it would have been the picture of bliss if not the crowd and the loud music which by then was starting to give me a headache. We quickly ordered some Chenin Blanc and a cheese platter. It was only later, after we’d drunk half the glass did we realise that we were handed the Sauvignon Blanc instead. The cheese platter was nice, but it was getting late in the day and we were getting to the point where we were getting hangry, so we decided to leave.
We stopped at a dhaba on the way back for some lunch and headed home. The drive back was as enchanting as the the drive there, especially when we saw this really amazing rock outcrop which looked like something out of a fairytale. All in all, a lovely drive but next time I think i will head out during the weekday for a better experience at the vineyards.