Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Visit to Sula Vineyard at Nashik

Think about wine in India couple of decades back and all that one could think of was our Goan port wine. Champagne Indage was one of the pioneering company of wine producers in Maharashtra in the early 80's but today  Indian wine has captured the imagination of young & old due to India's answer to some world class wine produced by "SULA VINEYARDS" at Nashik.

My visit:  In last 2 years each time I paid a visit to Shirdi, I longed to visit Sula Vineyard at Nashik but the plan would always get postponed. But that was till last weekend, on one of my trip to Nashik & Shirdi we had a whole of Sunday at our leisure, I and papaji decided to pay a visit to Sula. At approx 13 kms from Nashik on Gangapur - Savargoan road, lies this beautiful Vineyard which also allows tour of the facility and tasting of some exotic wines ever produced in India.

The Vineyard complex has around 15acres of land where wine grapes are grown, also they have grapes crushing, fermenting and storing cellars, bottling plant and of course open deck restaurant on first floor where one can sit and sip wine while getting a cool breeze and amazing view of lake and mountains at a distance. Apart from the upper deck restaurant, they have another restaurant LITTLE ITALY and at a distance of 3kms, a resort called "BEYOND" in case if one has plans to stay for a day or two. They also conduct SULA FESTIVAL every year in Jan - Feb when there is music, dance and wine combination.

On our visit to the place, we found that they conduct the tour of the vineyard and wine tasting sessions every one hour till late evening. For a price of Rs 150/- one can get the tour and 4 wines to taste and for Rs 250/- one can get 6 different wines to taste. Its a fun session as you take a walk around the complex with tour guide explaining how the grapes are crushed, fermented with yeast and how wine is produced and stored in huge aluminum and steel cellars before it gets bottled for sale.

The whole process from grapes being crushed till it gets bottled, takes over a month. The grapes crushing season usually starts from November till March. If one plans a visit during this time, one can be lucky to be part of grapes crushing where huge wooden tubs are filled with grapes and one can stomp on the grapes to crush it. We really missed that fun part...

The Vineyard has around 1500 acres of land on which grapes are grown for wine making and to supply the ever increasing demand of Indian wine lovers. The tasting session of different wines is also fun when one is made aware of the different wines like RED, WHITE & SPARKLING and how to taste wine and understand different flavours. The best part about the vineyard is the UPPER DECK restaurant which is open and one can get amazing view of the lake nearby while enjoying the drink.

After spending some time at the place we also visited the lake which is around 3-4kms from Vineyard. On the way, we also came across another winery called YORK Winery which also conducts tour and tasting sessions. We really didn't try but would certainly love to take a tour of this winery as well in future and taste some more world class Indian wines.

The lake located nearby is place worth a visit with water not so deep and dry banks allowing us to drive our car deep inside. The water was just ankle deep at some places and one can enjoy a quite walk in the water with soft sand sinking below your feet.

It was overall a nice experience at SULA and its definitely worth a visit.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nature trail to Tungareshwar

Tungareshwar - A wild life sanctuary which houses an abode of Lord Shiva is an hour drive from Mumbai, at a altitude of 2177 feet, on a mountain plateau of Vasai. Its a lovely place, thickly wooded and offers many opportunities to trekkers, nature lovers and also birding. Its a new comer to the list of wild life sanctuaries. At 3kms from the main gate of sanctuary lies famous Tungareshwar temple of Lord Shiva and 7kms ahead is the ashram of some yogi and the summit from where the entire wild life sanctuary is visible on a clear day.

My trek: I had read and heard a lot about Tungareshwar since my childhood but never had an opportunity to explore the place. And since this winter season, I had decided to explore as many places as I can on Saturday / Sundays before the onset of summer heat. So here I was on a lovely Sunday morning, I boarded the local train for Vasai at 6.30am from Borivali. The early morning chill in the air reminded me of the fact that winters had decided to extend their stay in Mumbai for little longer and that was all that I wanted on my Nature trail day. Reaching Vasai east, I checked with few autowalas for fare to Tungareshwar Phata and I was told that if I go "Private" would cost me Rs 100/- till the gates of the sanctuary. I checked the other options with one paperwala and found that there was another auto rickshaw stand which would take me to my destination for Rs 20/- on sharing basis. Its a 15minutes walk to the main gate of WLS from the phata and I was shocked to find that new industrial areas are being developed on the road and also their is a whole colony of houses and shops with litter scattered everywhere. There are couple of ashrams on the road which leads to the famous temple of Lord Shiva, Wondered how the authorities have kept blind eye to such developments. One of the ashram has a name called "Ashram of CHAKACHAK BABA".

There is a wide motorable road which leads to the temple of Tungareshwar and I started to follow the road. The early morning mist in the air was a amazing experience.Since I had reached around 7.30am, there was no one except me on the road. The chirping sound, the melodious call of some birdie and hooding sound by another was soothing to the ears. The birds singing call was like welcoming me to explore the place further.

On the way, came across three dried streams and also at one patch of the road, it ran parallel to the walkable road indicating that in monsoon this place would a paradise. I promise to be back on the same road in monsoon to get the feel of paradise when the inviting forest would be lush green.

My trail was full of sighting of some amazing colourful birds. I being a novice in identifying the birds, just watched in wonder at the birds and their singing. The worst part was even though I was carrying my camera, the moment I tired to focus on the bird, It would have vanished. I really need to learn more about how to capture these birdies in my camera. Though I was delighted with such surrounding but also had little fear for their was not a single soul on the road unlike the national park at Borivali where people come for walk as soon as the gates are open at 5am.

The forest of Tungareshwar was in the midst of transformation with the deciduous trees shedding the leaves or turning brown, yellow or dried, like toned to welcome the summer.

On my way I did come across a tribal lady who was already back from her daily chorus of collecting woods. Just made me wonder that just few kms from here is the city of Mumbai which leads altogether different lifestyle.

The main road leading to the temple and ahead to the summit was covered with layer of fine silky sand which billowed as and when occasional biker or autorickshaw passed by. It took around 45minutes for me to reach the famous temple. The trail is not difficult except that road inches higher as we move towards the summit which is at 2177 feet.

The temple of Lord Shiva and other small temples in middle of sanctuary is quite famous with devotees who throng on some auspicious days in a year. By the time I reached the temple, there were quite a few devotees already and the air was full of chanting of shlokas by the priest and the devotees. There was also a dried waterfall close to the temple in which devotees take a dip when its gushing with water during monsoon.

 The temple complex was littered with plastic and other waste which was not a sight one would like to get in such surrounding. There are couple of shops outside the temple selling tea and vada pav which is again welcome when one is a trekking journey. I decided to return back from here as trek to the summit was another 7kms ahead and also the trek is isolated with barely any human settlement except at the summit where there is ashram of Balyogi baba. I certainly would like to come again and reach the summit.

On my way, I stopped to capture birdies in my lens, although I was not very successful.

My trail till the temple and back was lovely experience. I did capture some amazing pics on the way for my memories. Hoping to see a different world when I plan to come back in monsoon.

Pics from my clicks : Some amazing shapes of trees which I captured on my way

 The "Tectona Grandis" tree which we commonly refer as "SAAG". The tree from where we get our expensive furniture.

Some amazing growth in the sanctuary.

Some trees had a different coloured leaves to show me ;-)