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© 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.