Nashik: Vineyards in the Monsoon (with a toddler) Sula, Vallonne, and More…
Yes – you read that right! We did a wine tasting tour in Nashik with our toddler and we loved it! We planned this trip to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday in style. Having experienced the vineyards of Napa Valley, Argentina, South Africa, and Europe, I was sort of mentally prepared to be underwhelmed by Nashik – but heavens was I wrong! So here are my tips and must-dos!
You can fly into Mumbai (from where its a 4-6 hour drive to vineyards depending on weather and traffic) or the newly opened Shirdi airport (from where its a 2-3 hour drive). We did the latter which saved us hours on the road with a toddler! We rented a taxi (a car with a driver) for 4 days from Shirdi. The drive is beautiful and feels like Europe in parts with bright green plains with cows, sheep and goats grazing. Arya made friends with a goat and they had a “Baaa-ing” competition while we ate lunch at a Dhaba along the way.
I researched a lot before booking our stays, and settled on Sula and Vallonne for stays, but we visited nearly all the vineyards while we were there! And I still believe we made the right choice.
Sula is the largest of the vineyards in India, and is perhaps the most commercially run – they have a beautiful bar and two restaurants on premises that guarantee a great culinary experience to go with your wine tastings. The food was incredibly good at both restaurants and the whole place had a general festival vibe in the evenings that made the experience amazing. You could sit in the beautiful balcony bar overlooking the vineyards as you sip your wine all day (or beer or cocktails if you please) and enjoy the beautiful monsoon weather.
Sula has two properties for stays – The Source (located at the vineyards) and Beyond (located 3 Km away, overlooking the backwaters of Godavari river close to Gangapur dam). We chose to stay at Beyond because it was little more serene and exclusive. It has less than 10 guest rooms and features phenomenal views of the backwaters, with farmers tending to their fields near the river – mornings at Beyond were absolutely magical. The management is very good too – the manager Aniket got in touch with me a couple of days before our stay to ask we had any special requests to accommodate. I had requested them to arrange for a surprise for my Mom since it was her birthday. The timing of this got a bit messed up because of the rains and some communication gap – but they more than made up by giving us a complimentary private premium tour of the vineyards the next day.
Arya was a bit disappointed that it rained continuously for the 3 days that we were there and that she couldn’t swim in their beautiful pool! We even tried to go into the pool while it was raining – got changed and jumped right in – only to run out shivering 5 minutes later because it was just too cold! Arya did love going into the fields right in front of our rooms and hanging out with cows and goats in the mornings though!
Overall – I highly recommend staying at Sula for families with kids, because there are enough activities to keep them engaged (especially if your kids are the outdoorsy types) for a couple of days
Vallonne was a whole different experience! Situated in Igatpuri, about an hour south of Nashik, it is a relatively remote village with no internet, and barely any cell phones working (only Vodafone works!). Its a small vineyard that makes only 70,000 bottles per year – but I have to say – their wines tasted absolutely delicious! There is no TV in any of the five rooms they have, so take the opportunity to disconnect and enjoy the natural beauty of the place. The highlight was the food – at their restaurant managed by the Malaka Spice chain of Pune, which made the culinary experience whole. We stayed at Vallone for only one night, but absolutely loved their personalized hospitality and natural beauty. There is not a whole lot for kids to do at Vallonne – but worth at least a one day stay if your kids are into experiencing the disconnected rural life! Arya rode the tractor, had a photo-op at flowery cycle rickshaw, and played frisbee in their lawns for the 15 minutes when the rains took a break!
What else is there to do?
- Temples and caves: There are several beautiful temples and ancient caves in the area – some of them need about an hour of hiking to get to. We skipped the highly recommended Pandavleni Caves because the rains made the thought of hiking dangerous and unpleasant. We braved the rains and went to the Trimbakeshwar temple (a shiv temple) because my parents wanted to go there. Like most popular temples in India, there is a VIP option that costs more and and will get you there and back faster. Arya was mostly scared and uncomfortable with all the flooded streets and the dingy temple so we carried her throughout.
Gangapur Dam: we hiked about 10 mins to the road that lines the dam, and visit to the dam was absolutely worth the experience. The view from the top into the valley was reminiscent of European villages with cattle grazing lazily on green expanses. The monsoon made the greens greener, and the air smell absolutely divine! Arya was loving it there – pointing out little fisherman boats in the reservoir, chasing birds, and looking at the cattle grazing in the valley.
Overall, Nashik is a great weekend getaway with something for adults and kids alike. The wines are delicious, the food is amazing, and there is ample natural beauty to experience – what more do we need??