This blog post is going to be unique for you because you're going to be seeing via a new tech I'm testing out - blog updates via mail, brought to you courtesy Posterous. (www.walkthetalk.posterous.com)
That's why the format I've used so far is changing - making for shorter and more digestible posts. (General public heaves a sigh of relief and there is much cheering below the balcony)
Anyway, coming back; or rather, going - to Sula is dead easy for us lucky Bombayites. Get onto the national highway, and it's a straight 3-hour drive to Nasik (and 15 mins from there to Sula). You can actually plan a day trip and be back by evening if you like.
Sula's a short distance out of the idyllic small town of Nasik, which is home to beautiful, quiet vineyards, nicely crisp-n-cold weather thanks to the Western Ghats, and horrendous traffic jams involving trucks and other... creatures that look like they stepped out Terminator Salvation because this is also one of the heavy-machinery and automobile OEM hubs.
But the early mornings are worth an overnight stay, and there's enough decent hotels in Nasik (or you can try Sula's Beyond which is horrendously expensive, at least by my standards.)
The vineyards themselves are at after a winding drive through narrow, field-surrounded roads, until you drive into an elegant two-story bungalow-type place in the middle of a sea of green. The ambiance is lovely; there's a long verandah-style balcony stretching along the front looking out over the rows of vines, and behind the bungalow is an ampitheatre-like place, nice landscaping with pillars sticking up supporting the sky.
But avoid the weekends. A lot of ambiance disappears when you're surrounded by screaming children, irate mothers, which means the dads are getting pleasantly (then unpleasantly) sloshed and getting into the loud, expansive mode where the effectiveness and eloquency of an opinion is directly proportional to the volume in which it is expressed, and even (I kid you not!) disapproving grandparents and assorted aunts and uncles.
Harshad from Sula takes us around the place, showing how the wine is made from the grapes to the bottle; it's a walk through the vineyards, the crushing machinery, (dozens of clinically shining aluminum tubes is contorted shapes coming out of a machine that looked like a well-mannered cement mixer) the fermenting tanks (a giant, dark, cavernous hangar filled with rows of twenty-foot steel tanks and redolent with aroma and ketones, and since the fermenting had to happen at 11 to 13 degrees, nicely chilly as well) followed up by a brief lecture on how the various wines are made... and finally up to the tasting session, where we move across a 6-wine spectrum at the bar.
There's a more elaborate and advanced version every thursday where we match wine to food, but... that's for next time. There's also a whole bunch of souvenirs - Sula tshirts, Sula juta bags, Sula wine racks, and, of course Sula... wines! In bottles, minibottles, gift packs, the works.
Afterwards, we head over to one of the on-premise restaurants; they have a Kareems' and a Little Italy (we tried the latter and it rocked - the desserts were to die for) and I tell you, there's nothing like settling down in a beautiful, peaceful, dim restaurant in the gradual chill of the descending dust, with some good wine and beyond-good woodfired pizza.
As the Dalai Lama says - "The purpose of our lives is to be happy."
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