Sipping wine with some delectable cuisine on the sides while swaying to amazing music: isn’t this what good life goals are made of? I thought so too when I packed my bags for the SulaFest of 2017 and was definitely not disappointed. Just like every February since the past decade, SulaFest was back with a bang for its 11th edition this year. As promised by the organizers, the scale of the festival was bigger than ever this time, and the Sula Vineyards of Nashik was the place to be between the 3rd and 4th of February.
To give you a brief idea about what the buzz about SulaFest is, it is the biggest annual music and wine festival held at the sprawling Sula Vineyards of Nashik during the harvesting season of grapes. The festival has been gaining popularity since the first year and for the past five it has been going completely sold out.
As for my part, though the plan was made rather impromptu but I'm so glad that it was made. I took a flight from Delhi to Mumbai, and my friend and cinematographer- Jassi joined me in Mumbai. The usual route to Sula Vineyards from Mumbai is via road, and we booked a cab from the airport to reach the spot. The location of the Vineyards is in Govardhan village, which is about 16-18 km from the main city. You can also take a train up to Nasik Road and then take a bus from CBS to Govardhan village.
The road journey proved to be as rewarding as the destination. The roads are not bumpy at all with a number of tea stalls dotting the sides. We stopped at one of the stalls for some tea and Parle G biscuits and given that we were pretty hungry, these tasted heavenly! One of the best parts of this road trip is that you get to soak in the vibes of the rural India. We stopped at a place to interact with the village ladies collecting water from a hand pump in their earthen pots before moving onwards. Jassi suggested that we should stop at the Vaitarna dam that lies on the way and that was one more of a lovely addition to the trip.
On reaching the place, we realized that not planning in advance was quite an issue as far as accommodations are concerned. The entire area within 20 km was booked weeks in advance. So, make sure that you do not make our mistakes and get your rooms booked while there is still time. There are plenty of hotels and resorts that surround the area around the Vineyards. Trimbakeshwar and Ambad-Pathardi, located at distances of 23 and 15 km respectively, are the next options in searching hotels near Sula Vineyard. We finally got accommodations in Oyo rooms in Trimbakeshwar.
With our rooms sorted, we then moved on to arrangements for conveyance. Now, getting a conveyance from the vineyard is an uphill battle as we knew beforehand. So, I would suggest you do what we did: book a taxi in advance for the whole day. Let the driver wait so that you do not feel totally lost after you come out of the fest.
The gates to the Fest open at 12:30 pm and close for entry at 8:30 pm. Don’t worry as that is not the time limit for the fun as the music goes on till 10 pm, and the food stalls stay open till 11 pm. But make sure you reach the venue with some time in hand as the parking is a few km away from the actual spot. You will get wristbands on entry, and you need to guard those bands with caution as any tampered band is taken as invalid.
I have to say that the organizers were really cooperative with us. Though we had not sent in any mail requesting their permission for coverage, they welcomed us in, sponsored our tickets, and gave us the media tags. They checked my channel and were all praises for it resulting in all the free goodies. Yay!
Once inside the Fest, the sights are enthralling with all the wines from Sula and other brands, music by over 120 artists, and colorful streets shows. There were five stages set up with live performances going on and the thumping you hear is enough to get you in the groove. We quickly got into interviews with the visitors and the stall owners. The visitors are a nice mix of veterans, and first-timers and their energy are truly infectious.
Some of the top attractions for this year were English-Spanish electro-folk band called the Crystal Fighters, Austrian beatboxers Bauchklang, Mediterranean-Balkan team of musicians called Gypsy Hill, and electric-swing forerunners Parov-Stelar. To add some Bollywood into the mix was everyone’s favorite Amit Trivedi. Grain, the solo project of Gaurav Raina of Midival Punditz and other electronica pioneers, was one of the much-awaited acts for this year.
Apart a bit of shopping through the colorful array of shops selling bags, junk jewelry, tee-shirts, and what not, I went for the wine tasting that I had booked early on. Many were first-timers at the wine tasting session as I got to know from the interview. They were really happy with all the new information on smelling, swirling, palate cleansers, and wine making. Once the wine tasting was done, I got into some more interviews. This group from the USA and Mumbai that I interviewed raved about the diversity of the environment along with the booze and music that had brought them there.
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