Nashik’s gradual transformation into wine country has finally moved up a notch with Sula Vineyards’ luxury villa Beyond. Oenophiles no longer need suffer rushed day-trips from nearby Mumbai and Pune — so antithetical to the relaxed enjoyment of wine — nor commute from faraway hotels within Nashik city to their favourite winery.
Beyond is nestled amid Sula’s vineyards, far removed from the honk and bustle of Nashik city. It’s just three kilometres down the road from the Sula winery, but if you haven’t been to either before, be sure to take directions. Signage is infrequent along the way, and Sula’s location seems to be a well-kept secret from many Nashik locals.
With modern, airy architecture, three spacious guest bedrooms, impeccable service, lip-smacking food, a clean paddling pool and close proximity to Sula’s winery and famed Tasting Room, Beyondis a treat for sore eyes, stressed minds and parched throats.
The villa welcomes up to nine people at once — no raucous parties, please — and books only one group at a time, so you don’t have to share your private haven with strangers. Make your booking well in advance, though, as the villa tends to get filled up quickly all year round, especially on weekends.
The villa has three large, airy bedrooms — two downstairs, with covered sit-outs and a comfy hammock each; a third upstairs with a large balcony and an air-conditioner (ACs are coming soon to the downstairs rooms too, although the night breeze in Nashik is pleasant enough to forego the extra CFCs). The rooms all look out onto vine-covered trellises, still verdant amid the dusty hills in the pre-monsoon heat, positively glowing during and after the rains. There is a common dining area, sitting room (complete with cable TV, a stereo system and mini carom board), porch and large terrace. In the not-so-far distance is Gangapur Lake.
When water levels are high, grab a couple of kayaks from the villa and paddle out on the lake. Otherwise, cool off in the villa’s sparkling infinity pool which, like everything else, is kept scrupulously clean. Soft lawns trimmed with glorious bunches of white, peach and fuchsia bougainvilleas make running around barefoot all the more pleasurable. There are a couple of bicycles to be had if you’re in the mood to cruise the quiet village road; the lake and surrounding hills are an easy walk away, and perfect at sunset.
Evenings are magical at Beyond. I rocked peacefully in a hammock as the villa’s yellow lights melted into the surrounding shadows, watching the full moon light up the sky as I traced the path of a satellite as it zipped along its way. Plentiful amounts of wine certainly helped.
The one-night package includes three delicious home-style meals prepared under the eagle-eye supervision of the perfectly-moustachioed head honcho simply known as ‘Panditji’ (stay an extra night and he might regale you in flawless Hindi with scandalous stories from his 20-odd years in the hospitality business). Breakfast comprises the usual suspects (aloo paratha, poha, upma, poori bhaaji, eggs and accoutrements); lunch is vegetarian and meat eaters get to pick one non-veg dish for dinner (choose between chicken or mutton dishes; the outstanding, gargantuan Champagne Prawns are Rs 1,000 extra, but well worth it).
Menu items are mostly Maharashtrian and Punjabi, and are made as far as possible from veggies sourced from Sula’s own organic garden. And what a difference it makes! Never have I tasted a palak paneer so fresh and flavourful — a generous helping of lightly fried, melt-in-your-mouth chunks of paneer covered in a perfectly spiced purée of organic spinach. The dal had a magic about it that I’ve been unable to replicate at home ever since. Rotis were rapid-fired hot and fresh from the kitchen even before you were done eating the one on your plate, and local-style, local-sourced tendli and guvaar preparations were tasty enough to enchant the fussiest child. Even the simple salad of cucumber, carrot, cabbage and beetroot was a joy. Starve for a week beforehand if you must, but don’t, on any account, miss out on the food at Beyond.
Guests of Beyondare treated to a personalised winery tour the morning after by charming marketing manager Jayne Pearce. Check out the pneumatic grape press, the gigantic fermentation tanks, the barrel room and (my favourite) the riddling racks in the sparkling wine cellar. A post-tour tasting session in Sula’s picturesque Tasting Room shows you how to see, swirl and sip wine.
Back at the villa having a last cuppa before leaving, the Nilkamal plastic coffee table (and bathroom bins) seemed incongruous with the attention to detail devoted to the rest of the villa, but perhaps that’s Sula’s way of making Beyond feel like home.
Where: Sula Vineyards, Survey 36/2, Govardhan, off Gangapur-Savargaon Road, Nashik, Maharashtra (180km from Mumbai)
Accommodation: 3 double bedrooms
Tariff: Rs 16,000 (weekdays)/ Rs 20,000 (weekends) for the entire villa. Includes meals, excludes tax.
Contact: 0253-2230575, 9970090010, email@example.com