It was bright, it was sunny, and it was mind meltingly hot. The Sula Vineyards was perhaps not the place to be in the peak of summers. But the blooming bougainvillea and the goldmohurs were standing by in a salute of vivid colors as we drove down a narrow road towards our destination. We found the primary resort, descriptively named: Sula Source with much ease. However, in our want of an exclusive and quiet holiday, we had chosen to stay at “Beyond by Sula”. Indeed, it is a little beyond anything that may remotely resemble a road.
A little uncertain whether google-aunty was pointing us in the right direction, the staff at Beyond was kind enough to send us an aide to ensuring that we did not end up in the middle of a farm.
Modern, angular architecture with well maintained gardens pied with roses, lilies, bougainvillea and what seemed like prairie grass looked like a science fiction set. A little disappointed to not find busy faced people dressed in lab-coats fiddling with hoverboards, we dropped our luggage in our very-geometrically-inclined-cottages and headed for the restaurant.
We met very kind and helpful staff but also some disappointment. The menu was a short two pager which seemed to be specializing in Italian cuisine splashed with mention of few kebabs and a very lonesome-ly incongruous gajar ka halwa. Where the artistic fonts of the menu were quite tasteful, the food itself was crafted to be anything but. Overcooked Spaghetti Aglio Olio slithered off the fork, clearly not tossed in olive oil but slathered with it. The pizza was perhaps an innovative mix of poppadum with a frugal layer of cheese. One may argue that a wine-oriented place ought to be forgiven for the quality of food. However, no thought seemed to have been put towards the complementing nature of certain wines and foods and how the resort could have adequate suggestions for a more inclusive experience for its guests.
After we cooled off in our rooms and let the disappointing food settle, next up was the Vineyard tour. The tour is conducted at Sula Source, about 5 kilometers from Beyond. It may be advertised such but should not be mistaken as an exclusive affair crafted as a part of a personalized experience for the guests. One is simply expected to show up at The Source where a large crowd can be found being herded through the Vinery. A pick up and drop from Beyond to The Source seemed like a magnanimous beneficence that the resort had to reluctantly grant.
The tour, however, was short but informative. One is guided through the wine making process from crushing, processing, fermentation, to storage followed by the much awaited wine tasting (again not “personalized”, whatever Sula means by it on their website). Much was learnt. Assessing the quality and age of a wine by raising a glass to the light, smelling the wine, learning which wines to swirl and which not to, which to slurp, which to chew, understanding flavors, dryness and so on. The take away, however, was that it requires barrels of will to not chug a glass of alcohol that has willingly ended up in one’s hands. The second take away, I am in severe shortage of such patience.
Just as the wine disappeared from our glasses, so did our drop off. It seems we were expected to figure out our drop back to Beyond on our own. After being stranded for some time, we grew quite an appetite. But the restaurants at the Source was splitting at it seams with people, so we decided to find our way back to Beyond and have our grub enjoying the pleasant wind cooled by the Gangapur Lake. We were surprised by delicious kebabs and an even more delicious bottle of Sula Chenin Blanc – Late Harvest. All is well when the drink is swell!!
Overall, the place in terms of services, exclusivity and uniqueness of experience was much below average particularly owing to the tariffs charged. When a place decides to be fancy, it ought not to forget that merely being heavy on the pocket does not cut the deal.. The resort reminded me of an experiment featured on Brain Games a NatGeo series. Participants were offered two pieces of cake, one priced exorbitantly while the other market at rate for the frugal but hungry gentlefolk. When asked of their preference, many claimed the pricey delicacy to be exquisite. Some even elaborated their choice with descriptions of moistness and creaminess of the costly cake over the latter, only to be informed that the two cakes were identical to the last crumb. As the popular culture is tending towards extensive travel, one must keep in mind that price does not equal quality.
However, in terms of location and architecture we would label it as beautiful.
- How to get to Nasik?
- Good road conditions from Mumbai. Also well connected by rail and airlines. The resort does provide pick up and drop off services but the management seems to not have figured out the efficiency.
- When to go?
- February is the best time in terms of the weather. Being harvest season one can see the wine making live. Expect a huge SulaFest crowd around February every year.
- If you love photography
- Beyond faces westward where the lake is bracketed by adjoining hills and farm lands. So one can expect beautiful light much late into the evening. The hills behind the property eclipse the sunrise giving us plenty of time for early morning shots by diffusing the light till about 8-8:30 am (summer time) when the sun breaks above the peaks.
- Plenty of birds in the property and near the lake, so do not forget to carry a long lens!
- The rooms have beautifully textured greyish walls making beautiful backgrounds. By getting the angles right, one can bounce the light flooding though the windows to create nice portraits.