the wonderful world of veena.

04 February 2013

30 before 30: a vineyard tour, with a twist.

  1. Go bungee jumping.
  2. Go sky-diving.
  3. Spend one week on my own in solitude [preferably in Honey Valley], cut off from the world and from all of my electronic gadgets.
  4. Tour a vineyard.
  5. Complete my Master of Public Service degree.
  6. Run a half marathon.
  7. Explore a new part of India.
  8. Be vegetarian for one month.
  9. Go skinny-dipping.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.
  11. Learn one Indian language properly [it's about time, wouldn't you think?].
  12. See the Grand Canyon [I smell a US road trip in my future].
  13. Get a professional massage.
  14. Try 2 foods I've never tried before.
  15. Take a photography class.
  16. See the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  17. Attend NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  18. Take an online class because it interests me.
  19. Be an extra on a set in Bombay.
  20. Go parasailing.
  21. See a show on Broadway.
I have been wanting for years to visit a vineyard and do a wine tasting, and this past weekend offered me that chance. While ideally I would love to do a wine tour through California, I also know that logistically that will be difficult before my birthday in July. Luckily for me, Sulafest 2013 happened last weekend, and Steph, Pete, and I put in an appearance.

Sulafest is a music festival that takes place each year at the Sula vineyard outside Nashik. In addition to being able to tour the winery and taste Sula's various wines, it also offers the opportunity to sip on wine and listen to live music in the beautiful amphitheater.

We hopped on a train early Saturday morning and headed to Nashik, reaching around noon. By the time we booked our return tickets, checked into our hotel, and sorted out transportation, it was around 2.30 by the time we finally reached the vineyard. Unfortunately, there was a political protest happening, so the entry gates were blocked by the protesters. Using my limited Hindi skills, I deduced that they were against the festival for some reason [could be the alcohol, could be the live music, could just be a hatred for fun. who knows], and they didn't want people to enter the grounds. About half an hour after we arrived the organizers and cops chased them out, and we were allowed to enter.

[we finally made it inside!]
We decided to to a tour of the winery and check out the Tasting Room before heading to the Amphitheater, which was interesting. We had a few slightly annoying people on our tour who kept asking hundreds of questions, so it held up the tour a bit, but it was still rather interesting to see.

[our trusty tour guide]

[inside the winery]

[barrels and barrels of wine]

[these kids are pretty excited about their wine]

[more barrels. so much wine!]
Following the tour we got to taste a few of the different Sula wines. The sparkling rose was pretty good, but the white, rose, and red were a bit disappointing, especially because I've had Sula wines before, and I generally like them.

[Pete's not impressed with his rose]

[cheers to Sulafest]

[the vineyards]

[vineyards up close]
After the tour and tasting we decided to check out the Tasting Room. Bottles of Merlot Malbec were on sale for rs 520 [just under $10], so we grabbed one, found a spot on the floor [it was crowded. no tables], and popped it open. They were broadcasting the main stage up there, so we enjoyed our bottle up there and watched the show on the screen.

Once we finished the bottle, we headed down to the amphitheater and the food court, because we needed food. One thing I really have to commend Indian festivals on is the food: I had murgh ghee roast with bene dosa [amazing], Steph had a chicken shawarma, and Pete had a bacon cheeseburger. Yummy in my tummy.

After we stuffed ourselves, we grabbed a few glasses of wine and a few bottles of water [hydration is sexy, after all] and found a nice spot in the amphitheater to settle in and watch the show.

[the pre-sunset crowd]
We sat for a few of the acts and then headed down to dance for, a reggae band from Serbia.

[any band with a trombone gets a thumbs up in my book]

When they finished we decided to head back up to the Tasting Room and settle in with another bottle of the Malbec to watch the final act from up there. It was pretty empty by that point, so we got a nice table overlooking the vineyards [it was dark at this point, but it was still nice] and had a nice chat.

Our auto driver [a contact from the hotel. dropped us all the way to the entry gates and picked us up from the same spot. pretty sure we're the only ones who traveled all the way out there - 14 km outside Nashik - by auto, and pretty sure we're the only ones who got absolutely perfect door-to-door service. we were pretty boss] picked us up around 9.45, and we headed back to the hotel, munched on some masala papad, and were fast asleep by 10.45 [Pete], 11 [Steph], and 11.20 [me].

At at 7.10am on Sunday, we were on a train back to Bombay.

All in all it was a fun trip. I was glad to get out of Bombay, even for just a day, and to get to see a different part of the state. And I am obviously a fan of any music festival that includes wine, yummy food, and a beautiful setting.

Pete is already making plans to return next year. Fingers crossed I'll be back in India by then...

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