Why Sula vineyards in India should be on your travel radar for a warm and opulent holiday vibe

Walk through the grey-stone entrance gate, and you’re in the most-visited 3,000 acres of India’s green grape farms

By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Wed 30 Nov 2022, 9:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Dec 2022, 8:04 PM

Driving past the refreshing sights of waterfalls, boundless flourishing fields and lush green meadows, you know you’re soon approaching the serene landscape of Sula Vineyards in Nashik. Walk through the grey-stone entrance gate, and you’re in the most-visited 3,000 acres of India’s green grape farms. Dotted with groups of people at every ‘Instagrammable’ spot — be it a giant-size Sula bottle or the classic yellow photo frame magnificently framing the vineyards, Sula exudes every bit of a sun-lit, warm, elegant and opulent holiday vibe!

Like all things great and glorious, Sula’s story began with an idea. In the mid-90s, Stanford-educated Rajeev Samant had neither grapes nor hospitality on his mind. A finance manager then based in California, Samant took a trip back to his family’s land in Nashik — a region well known for growing table grapes. But what many didn’t realise back then is that the local climate is not only perfect for grapes but is actually at par with the that of Spain, California and Australia.

Using this information as fodder, Samant could see a myriad possibilities. Sometimes the best ideas have been right under your nose. Excited and intrigued, he took time off for extensive research back in California. The idea further brewed between Samant and the winery’s owner, friend Kerry Damskey who later became Samant’s mentor.

Named after his mother Sulabha, and armed with a logo symbolising abundant Indian heritage, Sula Vineyards opened its gates in 1996. Starting with French and Californian grapes, Sula soon became home to India’s first ever home-grown grape beverage. Nashik’s heavy clay and temperature are ideal for this business; the cool nights ensure high levels of acid in the grapes, while warm days ensure optimum ripeness of the grapes, resulting in perfect growing conditions and terroirs for premium grapes. It all came together at Sula, and the birth of grape tourism in India.

We strolled through the picturesque sunlit vineyards with a representative from the vineyards. “Did you know that Sula grows its vineyard in the North to South direction so that the entire plantation gets equal amount of light?” he asked. This is required for the uniform ripening of grapes. We learnt a thing or two about grapes, including the fact white beverage can be made from both red and green grapes, while only red grapes are used for the red beauty!

Navigating through the plush expanses of the Sula premise, either by foot or on bicycle with the rolling hills in the backdrop, one sees the lavish provision for accommodation; ‘The Source at Sula’ and ‘Beyond by Sula’ where you can stay and enjoy a relaxed holiday. The crowds however, could be seen flocking in other spots of the premise. Of course, these included ‘The Store’ and the ‘Gift Shop’, where you buy bottles and other gift items, and the ‘Restaurant’, which was abuzz with celebration. Just like a vibrant colourful carnival, first of its kind in the country, has Sula inadvertently become India’s Napa Valley? However, one can see clear influences of Samant’s deep-rooted love for his motherland, along with influences from his personal travel experiences.

Putting the city of Nashik on the map, Sula has created a new trend for domestic travellers, called ‘Grape Tourism’. The company has also transformed the surrounding villages, providing a livelihood to locals. In Sawargaon village, at least one person per family works for Sula in some way, and the highest proportion of tribals have been added to the Sula workforce. Not only has Sula created an increase in local consumption, but it also exports to over 25 countries, and is listed on menus of several Michelin-star restaurants. Yet, their core focus is on imminent challenges, such as climate change and global warming.

Sustainability is at the heart of the company’s focus; reducing waste, reusing and recycling, its topmost goals. Pointing to the large solar panels, the representative explained how every inch of the roofs are covered with solar panels, and about 60 per cent of their power consumption comes from solar energy. Water conservation is their next target. To avoid water wastage, Sula uses drip irrigation instead of traditional irrigation to cut down water consumption by almost half. An effluent treatment plant on-site ensures that all the water used is treated and then reused in the vineyards as well as in housekeeping. Visitors and hotel guests are constantly encouraged to save water, through signboard messages.

One can notice the use of reusable glass bottles throughout the premise, and minimal (if any) use of plastic. Any restaurant would have wastage. Sula uses its food waste to fuel its own biogas unit, and nothing is sent to landfills. Taking their no-wastage philosophy seriously, Sula makes use of every last bit, even from the grapes. The humble grapeseed is being used to create grapeseed oil.

Exploring the beautiful expanse, listening to the stories of creativity, hope, opportunity and hard work, it’s evident that sheer goodness is at the heart of everything at Sula — it keeps giving back to the community and receives love multi-fold from the around the world.


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