A place where travel and wine meet to create magic – A Trail to Happiness
So in an attempt to spice up our typical Mumbai weekend, the girls and I made plans to visit the Sula Vinyards! We drink Sula like it’s water when we go to bars such as WTF!, so it was time we saw the source! Because my work is not your typical “9 to 5” job, I work on Saturdays. Sigh. Therefore we had to plan our trip to Nashik for a Sunday. However since it takes about 4 hours to get there, we decided it would be more fun to spend one night there as well. So we did! Saturday early afternoon, Swiss Girl picked me up from my office in her car and we commenced our road-trip! FTF was supposed to join us but had unfortunately fallen ill in the week and wasn’t yet recovered by the weekend. We weren’t going to cancel the entire trip though, we had already made the plans and booked a hotel room. Also I was already too excited to leave my office early on the Saturday and ready for a getaway!
The car that took us to Nashik was probably the oldest, most unsafe care i’ve ever been in. Well, that probably doesn’t say a lot since i’m living in India. But honestly, it’s not even the way the car looked from the outside, rusty, chipped paint.. it was the way it drove that gave the impression of either breaking down in the middle of the highway or the engine exploding into flames from overuse. It also doesn’t help that the roads are uneven and full of potholes, i’m impressed we came and went without bursting a tyre or three. Thankfully I had taken a motion sickness tablet before the journey!! I may sound as if i’m complaining, but I don’t mean to be! It was all part of the experience! Swiss Girl and I definitely kept ourselves entertained throughout.
The trip started off painfully slow because of the traffic getting out of Mumbai. But that was expected. What wasn’t expected was our pit-stop at Cafe Coffee Day for an iced latte and a snack to-go! For some reason this coffee shop does not understand an iced latte. Hello. It’s a latte… on ice! Ta da! They didn’t get it. I told them I literally wanted them to make a latte like they would normally, then to pour it over ice cubes. They didn’t understand how that would work so they all, (about 5 men standing behind a counter of 1m x 1m), stared at me as if I had asked them the impossible. I noticed that wasn’t going to get me anywhere so I inspected the menu. The problem with “cold coffees” here is that it means coffee with ice cream, because they have never thought to make a coffee cold with ice, only ice cream. I didn’t want an ice cream one, I wanted an iced one! Finally we found something on the menu that sounded like what I wanted, like a frappucino, so an ice-blended coffee. (Which I tried to explain to them is like a latte on ice cubes without the blending. Nope, that didn’t make sense to them either.) I specifically told them I didn’t want anything sweet, sono ice cream, no sugar, no sweetener, no flavors. Phew. My drink is made about 15 minutes later and it’s sweeter then sweet. As if they put all 4 ingredients into my coffee. The guy was trying to convince me that there was absolutely NO ice cream, sugar, sweetener, flavor, etc. BUT IT’S SWEET, DAMN IT! He kept saying “no, not sweet!” with a little grin on his face that I could have bashed his face inside out. By now we’ve wasted about 30 minutes at the coffee shop and we haven’t even started our journey yet! Swiss Girl had ordered 2 samosas, they were ready, and we asked for a brownie, which was after all this time still lying in the display. I was getting so frustrated that I practically went behind the counter and grabbed the brownie myself. Mind you, we paid this bill about 40 minutes ago now, and it’s taken them this long to make me the wrong drink, why the hell was our brownie not packed yet? Finally we ran out of there with our over-the-top-sweet-iced-blended-coffees, 2 samosas and a brownie. Only now did we finally start the drive!
The brownie was pretty damn tasty though!
About 4 hours later we reached Nashik and checked-in to our hotel. I had brought a bottle of champagne with me for our apero, so we popped that when we arrived! I half expected it to have already exploded in my suitcase in the trunk after that insanely bumpy ride! Also, the trunk was about 100 degrees celsius upon arrival, that the bottle didn’t just combust still amazes me. The drinking of the champagne wasn’t all smoothe either though, because we called the concierge about 3 times before someone finally sent up an ice bucket and two champagne flutes! In the meantime I went down to reception to ask if there were any restaurant-bars in the area. The woman replies, “We have restaurant here in hotel!”, pointing to a door. I say, “No, not here, somewhere else.” She replies, “No. No restaurants in Nashik.” I’m staring at her thinking she must have misunderstood me! Somewhere to eat? Food? Drink? She says, “Nothing in Nashik that you are looking for.” Okay. THANKS FOR NOTHING! Fortunately a guy who was just checking-in came to the rescue and recommended we visit the Gateway Hotel down the road. So Swiss Girl and I drank our champagne while we got ready to go out, with Bollywood music videos on TV!
We reached the Gateway Hotel and went to “the bar”. I put it in quotation marks because I don’t know if it should be allowed to be named that! We had a cocktail there and watched India wrestle Portugal and Turkey and some other countries in Olympic wrestling! The staff there was so friendly they suggested we cross the street to the “Express Inn” because there’s a bar there with “good ambiance”. So we did what we were told! And indeed, the bar there was pretty happening and the lights were blue so it looked like we were in an Ice Bar! (It was actually freezing in there so it may as well have been an Ice Bar!.. Or maybe it was?!) The cocktails there were unbelievably strong and disgustingly cheap! And to top it off we didn’t even have to pay for it because we met two random guys who joined us for a drink and took care of the bill. I’m getting quite used to this! The place closed between 1-1:30 so we went back to our hotel and fell asleep watching more bad Bollywood music videos!
We were up by 9am on the Sunday morning. Ouch. Can’t remember the last time I was up that early on a Sunday!! But our breakfast included in the hotel was only until 10am, so we wanted to make sure we made it! By 11am we checked-out and headed direction vineyard! Our driver got embarrassingly lost and we drove in circles for half an hour only to return to our hotel! Finally I pulled out the GPS on my trusty iPhone and led the way! We reached by noon, which was maybe not so bad because we were planning a wine tasting and any earlier may have been inappropriate! The tour+wine tasting package started at 12:30 and cost a measly Rs. 250! Wow. We saw the basics of how wine is made, from the crushing machine to the barrels. Then Swiss Girl and I had a 6-wine wine tasting which was pretty much a chugging competition of a champagne, 3 whites and 2 reds! I think we can say we learned a little about the wines, we made decisions about which we liked most and didn’t like at all! So when we went for lunch at the Italian restaurant of the vineyard, we had planned different whites with our starter and reds with our main. We didn’t even get around to the reds because they brought our main while we were mid-starter! Way to rush it!! Huge portions though for hardly any money! Amazing the difference between the city and the countryside!
After lunch we sat on the terrace overlooking the vineyard. Here we finally got around to our glasses of red! It should have been a peaceful event, relaxing on the balcony, looking out onto the 30 acres of Sula grapes, lake in the background, the occasional rain showers, the occasional glimpse of the sun… hasn’t the vision calmed you down? Well, now add gigantic speakers booming 50 Cent. I kid you not. There we are, sitting with our full bellies, trying to relax, and the speakers blast out “GO GO GO SHAWTY, IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!! WE GONNA PARTY LIKE IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!” Holy. Shit. Then the song comes to an end and next up, “I’LL TAKE YOU TO THE CANDY SHOP, LET YOU LICK THE LOLLIPOP..!”, and for the record, there are a bunch of families with babies and annoying kids sitting there as well! Which also has me thinking, WHY WOULD YOU BRING YOUR TODDLERS TO A VINEYARD TOUR & WINE TASTING?!?! The kids are running around out of control, the parents couldn’t care less because they see it as a good thing, them not needing to entertain the children while they down their bottles of wine, bobbing their heads to the music like we’re in a discotheque. The song lyrics in caps may seem a bit exaggerated, but i’m telling you, it’s not. The music stuck out like caps in the middle of the scenery!
By 5pm we decided we’d had enough and were very ready to start our long journey back to the city. But not before buying some bottles of wine! I ended up getting 6 bottles for the price of 2 in Mumbai. Crazy! And knowing how much we drink the Sula, I think I made a good bargain! The drive back felt very long, maybe also because it got dark half-way the drive, so it felt very late by the time we got home, although it was just 10pm. Needless to say we didn’t stop at that Cafe Coffee Day on the return! Getting home I took a shower and slumped onto my bed as if I hadn’t slept in days!
Who knew a day of wine-drinking could be so exhausting!?