Terroir Tribeca's terrific chef Marco Canora.
© Jen Murphy
The guesthouse at Sula overlooks the vineyards.
Only a true wine geek would make the four-hour drive from Mumbai to Nashik to go wine-tasting in the 100-plus-degree heat. But some prodding from F&W’s always-curious wine editor Ray Isle, coupled with a meeting in Mumbai with Rajeev Suresh Samant, the wine visionary behind India’s Sula Wines, convinced me it was my journalistic duty to leave Mumbai's chaos and investigate what was going on in India's wine country. In the last five years, a wine scene has slowly emerged in India’s major cities. Wine bars are popping up in design stores; retail wine displays are being added to specialty-food shops; India’s social set are joining wine clubs; and drinking red wine has become fashionable among the Bollywood set.
Nashik-based Sula Vineyards is now pioneering wine tourism in India to fuel the growing wine interest. It opened the country’s first tasting room in 2005 and has since added an Italian restaurant, as well as a six-month-old Indian restaurant. Two years ago, Rajeev opened Beyond, a modern, three-bedroom guesthouse set amid the vineyards, with an infinity pool and a private chef on call. I spent the day touring the barrel rooms, watching elegant women in saris prune the vines and tasting the dozen-plus styles of wine that Sula produces under the guidance of Sonoma winemaker Kerry Damskey. Throughout my trip, I noticed that Sula’s excellent sparkling wine and Chenin Blanc were featured on every restaurant’s wine list.
I also got a sneak peek at Sula’s 20-room eco-resort and spa, which will open later this year. With more than 500 people visiting the winery on a weekend day and new wineries like York and Chateau d’Ori opening nearby, I couldn’t help but feel Nashik will soon be, well, not quite Napa, but perhaps Mumbai’s equivalent to Long Island wine country.
© Alessandra Bulow
Cradle of Life flaming cocktail at Painkiller.
In addition to smooth daiquiris, flights of mini zombie drinks and all-you-can-eat hot dogs (“They’re not going to be fancy, Grade-A or kosher, but they’ll be free,” said Boccato), they’ll be serving fantastic rum-based flaming cocktails like the Cradle of Life (made with spiced rum, white rum, lime and orange juices and almond syrup; the green chartreuse on top is set on fire, pictured). The menu will also include communal drinks served in custom-made ceramic vessels called Scorpion Bowls. Each Scorpion Bowl will be named after a 1970s NYC street gang, like the Electric Coffin, a large coffin-shaped bowl that will billow steam from a hidden chamber for dry ice in its underbelly.
Boccato got the idea for the Scorpion Bowl names while narrating a friend’s documentary about the gangs and he's continuing the urbanized-oasis theme by asking some of NYC’s classic old-school graffiti artists to tag the walls of the bar.
“Half of tiki is about presentation,” said Boccato. “Tiki bars usually look like a dive, a Disney ride or Grandpa’s basement. We’re going for something different.”
I'm very lucky to be married to a builder for so many reasons: From major renovations to minor repairs, he's always ready to help. He even customizes kitchen tools for me. My most recent request was for him to cut me an eight-inch length of three-quarter-inch PVC pipe from his scrap pile, so I could roll out dough for Asian dumplings.
Standard rolling pins are too long and heavy. I've made dumplings using wooden dowels, but we don't seem to have many lying around. Broom handles are great, but then you have to cannibalize your broom. PVC (polyvinyl chloride pipe-a combination of plastic and vinyl) is perfect: smooth, lightweight and easy to customize.