The Fratelli vineyard sits 350 kms from Bombay, a distance that can be covered in 5 hours if departing early enough. My friend Harpreet Singh Chadha, popularly and rather appropriately nicknamed Happy, is a frequent visitor and set us up for this past weekend.
Spending time at a vineyard can be immensely fun, having done it a few times, in different countries, i am great proponent and fortunately India offers decent experiences.
Having left at 5am, we were at the doors at 10.50 am, the drive had not prepared us for the pair of modernist buildings that house the lodgings and the press & bottling plant. The buildings i was later told were inspired by the Ferrari factory, easily the most impressive structure in Akluj which is a small town.
They have four massive rooms, which are minmally furnished but comfortable. They even have ipod docks in case you feel like popping yours in to listen to some tunes.
met with chai and cookies fifteen minutes after we got to the room. Strong chai, enough said.
then on to a stroll, the vineyards surrounding the press & lodging are relatively small
but large enough to go riding your bicycle or for general traipsing around.
they also have a bunch of ATV's around as well as a bunch of bicycles which can be taken around the property.
Lunch was around 2pm, called in from a nearby restaurant, they menu is mostly North Indian and Indo-Chinese. Spicy as hell. Post siesta, around 5.30pm we began the tour of the production facility which is 10 feet from the lodging space.
Fratelli is a partnership of seven (3 pairs of brothers, ergo the name ) and star vintner from Tuscany, Piero Masi.
I admire their belief and their willingness to invest, $3-5million at a time when the world was amidst a slow down and other wineries too were struggling with demons of their own.
these barrells contain Sette (seven, get it..) which is their signature creation, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, this stays oaked for a year and i am told is not available for sale outside the winery. Prior to this folks had to pick up lots of 100 bottles for 100,000.
The tasting room is in keeping with the modern, minimalist style and a good place to spend the evening.
We tasted most of their product line, the Sangiovese, a grape Piero has been working with for decades is certainly the star product (especially as the Sette is unavailable for tasting) they also do a Sangiovese Blanco which is essentially a white wine from a red grape. They also do a bubbly which is actually not too bad.
The wine tour included a step into the room where the bubbly is kept and bottled. Interesting stuff. Dinner was originally planned outdoors with more wine, some music but rain played truant and we ended up back in the lounge area.
A little gazebo sits atop a hill central to the property, as far as the eyes can see its all Fratelli vineyards, you really get a sense of the scale of the enterprise. They sent another car with the food, the lunch set up and of course more wine.
Lunch was again, north indian and chinese washed down with all the wines we tasted the night before.
a great way to spend the afternoon, truly.
Overall, the weekend was far better than i anticipated. The space is modern, well equipped and comfortable. They have wifi access, a pool table, table tennis, foos ball, carrom, ATV's, cycles etc. Plenty to keep people busy over the weekend. The best thing to do would be to rent all four rooms, that would make for a terrific weekend.
The wine aspect of the weekend is taken very seriously and plays out across three stages. First they show you the wine press and the bottling and storage which they take great pride in (justifiably so) This is followed by a fun wine tasting with cheese, peanuts (do buy some of these) and chips.
The third is the tour and lunch at the actual vineyard. A comprehensive weekend, far superior to the visit at Sula which is less about wine more about just spending time at the property.
Its important to understand that its not a hotel, they can probably source things if required but its far from shops and its best to carry one's supply of toiletries. They have all kinds of juices, chips, soft drinks, snacks on hand and one can get it on demand.
The food is brought in from a restaurant, so one can order whatever is required from the menu. Avoid gravies and go for simple things, like dal-rice, dry veggies as it takes 15-20 mins for the food to arrive.
The staff can also cook a pretty decent pasta. I hope they start cooking on the premises soon, that will help the meal quality soar. I also felt a lack of maharashtrian cuisine, this far upstate, it feels a little wrong to not get some of it. I am sure once they seriously look at hospitality these aspects will be addressed.
Other than this little niggle, there was no real problem. Hope to be back there soon.
Rooms : 4
Tarriff : 7-9k per couple for 2 days and one night. Full board.
Located in Akluj, 2 Hours from Pune.
Taking the Pune - Solapur Highway is recommended but this means facing Pune traffic.
Be aware, anything less than a full weekend means 6 hours of driving each way.