Off again on the katcha roads, our next stop was the new upcoming winery by Mr. Shailendra Pai named Vallonne. The road to the winery is still a muddy one and would not allow you to get through on a vehicle. We took the car half way through and decided to walk for the rest of it. The mud, rain, and dirt were all worth it for the wines we were to taste. What started to come to us was an under construction winery with a well planted vineyards around it. To enlighten us about the set-up was Mr. Saket who showed us the areas of the winery and the newly planted machinery. They make Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. As we went along, we learnt that they use drip irrigation in the vineyards and powdery mildew is something that keeps them on their toes. They have planted the vines east to west rather than north to south to avoid sunburn and provide optimum exposure to the grapes.
Mr. Pai has an extensive experience in the Indian wine industry. He has worked with Chateau Indage as a marketing manager during which he also helped them launch MDP, Chantili and Riviera. He then helped set-up Renaissance winery and operated it for long before he finally decided to own his own facility. Vallonne was setup keeping in mind the future demands of wine tourism. A blend of beautiful site and great viticultural potential was what Mr. Pai was looking for and we agree to it.
The winery has a capacity to keep 2 lac litres which Mr. Pai does not wish to expand in the near future. He claims and wishes to keep it as India’s first and only boutique winery that has everything French, from bottling plant, machinery, wine style, winemaker and likes. The yet to evolve area will see a small wine museum, giant wine cellar, bottling plant, offices, tasting room and a wide spread terrace with a breathtaking view of the dam in front.
As we proceeded to the tasting tables, the wines were poured out of small old whiskey bottles. We were a bit sceptical about what was to come our ways that made us a bit more critical even before analysing the wines. The wines are made by a French winemaker that certainly shows in its style. While the Merlot is 100% oaked, Cabernet Sauvignon comes in two styles-oaked and unoaked. The whites we were offered were by far the cleanest wines we tasted during our trip. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc both are fruit forward wines with a careful blend of old and new world palate balance. The wines are made to suit the European palates and are something to watch out for. We are hoping to see these wines on the shelves by October. If you are in Nasik, no matter how you do it, the wines cannot be missed.