Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Anniversary @Beyond Resort, Sula Wines, Nasik

A quick 2 day getaway to Sula wines and Beyond resort, just, well - beyond Sula Wines.

Celebrating our 3rd anniversary in the midst of sickness and work overload, called for a two day getaway. We drove from Aurangabad to Nasik - good roads, clear of traffic, well maintained - mostly, but annoying diversions due to road work being carried out in some parts. Once done it is going to be a breeze travelling from Aurangabad to Nasik. Along the road, way before you hit Nasik, you can spot vineyards - some small, some large, some with really scary scarecrows!

We left at 10 am, stopped in Nasik for lunch - Bon Vivant, College Road pretty much on our way to Sula. We ate at "Eastern Spice" - their non vegetarian restaurant. They also have a vegetarian restaurant and a "bake studio" in the same campus.
After reading the reviews we ordered - beer (!), chicken biryani (Mughlai) and mutton kheema - all outstanding. The biryani was fabulous with subtle spice flavors - cardamom, cloves and masala. The mutton kheema was delicious - not very spicy.
We picked up a strawberry tart and blueberry cheesecake slice at the Bake Studio (Rs. 140 only for these!) and had them later - they were amazing.

We reached Beyond Resort - a mere 20 minutes from Nasik and 4 kms from Sula, and very easy to follow directions on Google Maps!

Honest opinion - if you have explored everything else around Pune and are falling short of 2 day visit places - come here. If not, there are many options out there - much better than Beyond resort - you could try Malhar Machi, or The Machan.
We reached at 3 pm, after confirming on phone the previous day that we would be reaching around 2.30 pm. Our room was not ready, the keys were no where to be found. This resulted in a wait of 15 minutes during which we were offered the complimentary welcome drink - white wine - which was good.
Finally the missing key turned up and we were allotted the room facing the pool and the vineyards, a beautiful room but unfortunately the main key slot was malfunctioning - we called up the reception, got our room changed - same floor and same side and hence the same view - but all of this took another half an hour. Finally we settled into our new room.

I went for my pre-booked spa appointment at 6 pm at Touche, the Spa. Unfortunately, i would recommend that you give it a miss as the masseuse was not experienced, a therapy which was to be for 75 minutes was finished in 50 minutes. Bonus 15 minutes foot massage was given to me, all because i asked them about the timing of the treatment. Imagine the poor souls who do not realize / question the shortcut. The massage was uncomfortable and anything but enjoyable :(

At 8.00 pm we went down for dinner - to Cafe Rose the only restaurant in the hotel. Not being very hungry after the heavy lunch, we settled for a glass of Shiraz for Sagar and Cabernet Sauvignon for me. We ordered chicken pahadi kebabs which we were cooked beautifully and Chicken Caesar salad - which was ok, i have had better!

The next day, we went down for buffet breakfast at the same restaurant, which was sumptuous and varied. There were eggs, juices, bread, cereals, sauteed mushrooms and Indian fare too.

We left for the complimentary wine tour at 12.00 pm. This was definitely the highlight of our trip. Indrajeet, our guide, was informative and funny. He took us through the entire process ( we did not get a chance to crush the grapes) and for the wine tasting. You are given 6 different wines to taste and nuances of each were explained in great detail. He definitely was passionate about his job and the wines!

 From what i remember this is what he told us -

1. In the crushing phase, for the white wines, the skin and stem is removed from the grapes and the grapes are crushed, on the other hand red wines get their color because of the skin of the grapes - so only the stems are removed for red wines and skins kept intact. Rose wines are a mix of white and a little bit of red to given them a pinkish tinge.

2. The poor crushed grapes are transported to a fermentation tank - Sula has over 120 tanks for red and white wines! Cultured yeasts are added in this process. Red wines takes longer than white wines to ferment. (I do not remember the time periods, though Indrajeet did mention them)

3. After fermentation, the wines are transferred to bottles or to oak barrels to mature. The oak barrels are imported from USA and are pretty expensive - 75,00 INR and above and cannot be used more than a few times - wine making is expensive! Actually, good wine making is expensive - you can use any wooden barrel in theory!

4. For Champagnes / Brut carbon di oxide is introduced to give it the fizz

5. For wine tasting - look at the wine carefully. Tilt your glass and check the color. Older the red wine, lighter the shade of red it will have. White wines are exactly the opposites. Next, swirl the wine - this will release its aromas ( do not ever swirl champagnes because that will release the CO2 and you will just look dumb!)
After swirling, if you check the layers on the glass - the rate at which the remaining wine on the glass comes down can help determine the alcohol level in the wine - slower the speed - more the alcohol.
After swirling, comes the smelling - smell the aromas released and then Cheers - have a sip of the wine, let it be in your throat and take a gulp of air - like the annoying habit some people have of loudly sipping their tea, well that is what you do here. And that gives you the real taste of the wine.

Have the crackers in between  tastings or everything will start tasting the same to you!
We had 6 wine tastings - 2 white, 3 reds and 1 Brut.
My favorite - surprisingly (i love red wines) - a white wine -Riesling ( it is called the beginners wine due to its low alcohol content and sweet taste)
Fun Fact - the vineyards are surrounded by roses and sunflowers and some other flowers, so that if there is a breakout of any infection it attacks the flowers first since they are delicate and farmers can quickly isolate that area and protect the vineyard!

There is only one restaurant on the premise which serves snacks / cheeses to go with the wines that you order. Do not expect a lunch menu here. The French restaurant Soliel by La Plage does not open in the afternoons and Little Italy as advertised on Google does not exist at the premise.

We ordered chicken lollipop at the snack bar and i stuck to Riesling and Sagar tried the Dindori reserve Brut, which of course, was excellent. We did not buy wines from here as the prices are the same, in fact slightly higher than the stores in Pune. So that was a dud!
After a delightful afternoon spent there, we returned to the resort.

After lounging around the pool and playing table tennis and darts and foosball in the common area we opted for the buffet dinner, with some wine (obviously) and returned to our room for our last night at this place!

My verdict - It cost us about Rs. 25,000 inclusive of everything - food, fuel, stay and wine. Given the price do not expect value for money from the resort. It is beautiful but basic. Service could definitely be improved.
A better plan would have been to stay in Nasik for one night and travel to Sula for a day if you were really hard pressed for time, but since our aim of the trip was to absolutely do nothing and behave like bums - this was an excellent two day getaway for us!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Blogs I love

Writing a blog is one part of logging on to my blogger account, the other part is reading other blogs. I started reading blogs only when i set out writing one, which is really weird. Why didn't i read any blogs before? I guess once i realized the amount of effort that goes into writing for a blog, i realized i might actually be missing out on some really good content out there!

One hour of my day is devoted to this activity and here are a few gems that i follow -

1. Living in a Boxx:
By Lauren
It is a fashion, lifestyle and music blog. She is quirky, funny and has the most adorable dog ever. She religiously responds to all comments and queries and is open about her style and preferences. No pretense here - a warm, simple and straightforward girl talking to you about fashion, her life and Seb, her dog!

2. Wendy's Lookbook
By Wendy Nguyen
She is classy, sophisticated, chic and her photos speak of her extremely sorted, clean fashion choices. She uses colors, textures and materials that you would never dream of pairing together to create timeless wardrobe miracles.

3. Luxy Hair Blog
By Mimi
Yes! This is a blog only about Hair. And you wonder what she manages to post weekly? You would be surprised! She is cute, and her accent is adorable and her instructions are easy to understand and follow. I started following her on Youtube and then she launched her blog - full of useful tips, complicated-looking-easier-to-do-hairstyles and many giveaways!

4. Sally's Baking Addiction
By Sally
She is a self - confessed baking addict. Her recipes are developed by her, after a number of trials and errors. You know you are on a good food blog when the passion for food is evident in every word written and every picture posted. She is writing a book with all her recipes and i can't wait for it. Her recipes are fun, easy and most importantly well explained. If an ingredient is added to the recipe, the why and how of it is explained. She is the reason i even tried my hand at baking and i think Sagar (my husband and guinea pig) should thank her!

5. The Everywhereist
By Geraldine
If I had to choose to travel the world through someone's experiences, it would her Geraldine's! This is her travel blog. She has neatly categorized all her travels and experiences and she is extremely funny. Her posts are informative as well as entertaining. She is smart and she is honest. She writes whats on her mind without the pretense of trying to seem nice or polite.

6. Ask Anna
By Anna
This is a blog that every open and closet OCD person must follow!
She is sweet , she is creative and she has excellent solutions for day-to-day (dis)organization problems. All and any household questions are answered, with bonus decorating tips and easy on the pocket organizing equipment. Her beautifully decorated and efficiently organized house delights me every time she posts.

7. Penelope Trunk
By Penelope
Apart from great management and career related articles, i love her blog for her ability to invoke you to think from a different perspective about issues that we deal with everyday. She challenges some very basic mantras that we believe in life and at work and puts across her thoughts beautifully. Even if you do not agree with her, she has persuaded you to give it a thought, to actually contemplate and question the basics. For example she says the worst career advice she has received is "do what you love" or "living up to your potential is BS". When you read this you might be tempted to ridicule or dismiss her, but i urge you to read these articles and you will not be so hasty with your ridicule!