Just about three hours from the chaos that is Mumbai, Nashik—west India’s wine country—is a place that seems to be caught in between eras. There is still something old-school about this city where new cafés are springing up every week.
Vista Room’s Sommelier’s Villa embodies this duality. The six-bedroom villa is a testament to the affluent but traditional Maharashtrian home. Once you cross the swimming pool and step through floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors of the patio, this home amps up the nostalgia quotient.
“It was named Parnakothi for the legend of Sita that Nashik is associated with. The ‘parnakothi’ that that Sita was abducted from was here in Nashik. I intended it to be a weekend family home. We began slowly renting it out and then thanks to the location in wine region, I suggested the name Sommelier’s Villa,” homeowner Vinod Deokar tells my mother and me, as we walk to the underground wine cellar of the house. There are no bottles in the cellar currently, but the vineyards are not far away. And, once I see the plush armchairs at the 12-seater movie theatre right beside the cellar, a plan formulates that involves a glass of white and a good movie.
Walking around the two main floors, I see the time warp that is the house. Exposed rock pillars, doors of distressed wood, and low wooden beams on the ceiling are the perfect setting for the various knickknacks that line the walls and shelves. There’s a shining gramophone and a radio my grandfather would love (“It actually still works!” Deokar exclaims). Traditional pots and handicrafts find a place in every nook. My favourite, I find, is the wooden swing on the second floor.
This open common area lets me feast my eyes on the countryside. There’s a small vineyard right by the house on one side, on the other the undulating hills and farms of Trimbakeshwar stretch on for miles. I settle here for the time being with my book. The calm of the afternoon is occasionally punctuated my old Hindi film music, probably coming from the outdoor kitchen. The swinging motion has almost lulled me to sleep by the time lunch is served.
The meal, a mix of local Maharashtrian cuisine and the Indian Chinese everyone loves, is served in traditional brassware. Eating Chinese-style paneer in a large brass thali puts me back in oscillation between different eras. For the first time in a long time, I haven’t looked at my phone during a meal. I can’t. There’s hardly any network. And without any distractions, my focus is on my food and the people I share it with.
Shivaji, the young cook, chats with us with enthusiasm. He’s brushed up his Chinese and barbecue making skills “because guests often have a barbecue by the poolside and I like learning new things,” but with us he’s just as happy to talk about the traditional food he can make. Ma and I had both seen the garden that’s where we head. We have been told that in season there are about 20 kinds of fruits, vegetables and herbs grown here. It’s a young garden so the papaya, mango and avocados are still not produced in quantities large enough to use in the meals, but the mint and bay leaves are. A “moo” attracts my attention to the other, more permanent, residents of the villa. There’s a cow, a couple of hounds, four rabbits, a few guinea pigs, a few ducks, some chickens and a horse. It would actually be rather fun being a child on a getaway here. The kids’ bedroom—there are six bunk beds and a crib here—on the ground floor has a floor to ceiling glass window which looks out to the animal pen. I make a mental note to spend some time in the little machan at the centre of the garden.
A couple of hours later, I awake from a nap with a view of dark hills and a lit-up pool. My mother, if I know her well, is already on the lounge chairs by the poolside with her cup of tea. Part of the evening is spent making smores with Shivaji and the other members of staff. I urge them to each try one, it doesn’t go down very well with all of them though but it makes us laugh. There is something very endearing about the simplicity of the people who look after you during your stay here at Sommelier’s. They are not polished, professionally trained staff but they bring you a sense of home.
The first day away at Sommelier’s Villa has reminded me of simpler times. Tomorrow, I want to drive to the vineyards—a glass of white will go well with this new pace and peace I’ve found for the weekend.
(www.vistarooms.com; villas are designed to house large groups; from Rs 25,000 for weekdays and Rs 30,000 for weekends)
Discover Wine Country: Sula, Soma and York vineyards are all at a driving distance of 30 minutes from the villa. Each of the vineyards offers tasting tours.
Walk around the Old Town: The centrepiece of Nashik’s old town is Ramkund. Located on the banks of the Godavari river, it is believed that Lord Ram bathed in the Ramkund, and it is considered the holiest spot in the city. Centuries old temples including the popular Kalaram temple surround the water body. Steep, narrow lanes branch off from the site, and lining them are traditional homes and pols (housing clusters that were home to families grouped together by caste, profession or religion).
Visit Trimbakeshwar: At only about 30 minutes from the villa is Trimbakeshwar, one of the country’s most revered Shiva temples. It is known as one of the 12 jyotirlingas and a sacred pool near the temple is also believed to be the source of the river Godavari.
Rumela Basu is former Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Her favourite kind of travel involves food, literature, dance and forests. She travels not just to discover new destinations but also aspects of herself.