Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj – A ‘Wine-derful’ Getaway

Fratelli Vineyards has been on my list of ‘must visits’ for a really long time now. But finally for my birthday (7 months ago now) I decided, it’s time! Dates booked, bags packed, totally excited for my birthday, and then my body suddenly decided it was time to fall sick! Got quite a cold but that wasn’t going to damped my spirits. I was going to have fun, damn it, through hazy vision, fluttering nose and mild delirium from the cold medication!

THE DRIVE

The drive was quite surprisingly pleasant, with very minimal bad roads or traffic (may be because it was a weekday). We didn’t take the typical Bhigwan-Indapur route, so it might not have been as pretty but definitely a more relaxed route. Me and my wife alternating driving duties as I kept myself functional through frequent breaks, nasal decongestant and copious amount of hot black coffee.

THE ACCOMODATIONS

Reaching Fratelli, you immediately notice the vividly contrasting, modern, angular glass and metal buildings against the expanse of farms and vineyards around. The place is beautiful and definitely very inviting. We were ushered in and shown to our rooms. As we were the only ones there (yay, privacy!) we got the best and biggest corner room! I think it’s called ‘Yellow’.

They had a problem with the lock so we were told to keep the doors unlocked at all times, which was quite unacceptable. We had to convince them quite a bit, but they finally gave us the only key to the room (apparently), and allowed us to lock it, which was a bit weird.

The space is huge. Large common ‘drawing room’ space with a large TV, comfy sofas with kitchen and dining areas. With a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding vineyards! Our room was really well appointed, simple and large. It was a tad dusty though, not too bad; but the bed, covers and room in general did have a slightly dusty feel.

LUNCH

We were given our complimentary small bottle of Sparkling Wine – Noi, at check in. Lunch was almost ready too (they had called us beforehand to ask what we would prefer). Fresh chicken curry was boiling away and fresh chapatis were being prepared! We sat down for lunch, they opened the bubbly and celebrations were under way! The food was quite nice but the paneer in the Palak Paneer was hard and felt like it was in the fridge for a couple of days and the chicken curry was tasty but slightly high on salt. Rest of the stuff was really fresh, homely and tasty!

The service from the staff was excellent, and our feedback was graciously accepted and we were assured we will be served only fresh ingredients for the rest of the meals.

WINERY TOUR

After a little rest, it was time for the winery tour and I couldn’t be more excited! We started off with the surrounding vineyards and plantations. The different grapes, how they are grown, the conditions that are required; it was fascinating and awe inspiring. The amount of work poured into it is just amazing. The factory is huge and our guide was very patient with us and explained the origins of Fratelli and the winery as well as how each different wine is prepared and processed. We saw the grapes being crushed, massive fermentation tanks, the various processes and the bottling! It is such a huge and crazy operation.

Then it was time for the cellars! Kept under careful temperature and humidity control, it is a huge underground room full of beautiful wood barrels. Walking through it almost felt like you’re in some old cellar somewhere in Italy under a magnificent castle. My delirious mind obviously playing games.

The inner sanctum, of sorts, had a small exclusive tasting room for special guests to taste their expensive and exclusive SETTE (VII). It is beautiful and magical. The aroma of the fruity astringent wine and the oaky barrels is something to experience.

WINE TASTING

Finally, wine tasting! Now, I am as far from an ‘Expert’ in these matters as one can be. So expect no sophisticated ramblings about the colour, consistency, aroma and taste of the wine. But having had some experience with craft beer, it did make it easier for me to understand what the guide was saying and at least distinguish the flavour profiles within the Whites and Reds.

White Wine – I tasted the Sauvignon Banc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. All I can tell you is that they are wonderfully fragrant, with the former 2 being more sharp and the Chardonnay being milder and fresher tasting. I hadn’t ever had white wine before and definitely had not liked it as a young adult, but after my tryst with craft beer and probably, age, I absolutely loved it. I, for sure, will be trying it more often!

Red Wine – I have tasted and loved red wine before. The bold amazing fruity taste and aroma is just so amazing. I tasted Merlot, Pinot Noir and the Shiraz and I can’t remember the differences in aroma or taste, for the life of me. At the time, though, I remember genuinely discerning the differences, but now, 7 months later, poof! All I know I really enjoyed the rich flavour and acidic grapey tartness! That comes from grapes being crushed with the skin, for red wine.

We were served some peanuts and a ridiculously awesome smoked gouda along with the wine as palate cleansers. We were also given a spittoon to spit out wine. Funnily, I don’t know how, mine was absolutely empty! A mystery, that.

The guide told us we could finish the bottles we had opened for the tastings if we wanted. I took just a glass each of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and we made our way to a beautiful open garden / sitting area outside the wine bar. It was beautiful, cold, quiet and peaceful with no one around. Really private and cozy. They normally have bonfires if there are groups, but alas, as we were alone, none of that for us.

DINNER

We gorged on dinner of amazing spicy mutton curry, chicken sukkha, chapatis, dal and jeera rice. Really satisfying meal after all the wine!

BREAKFAST

Next morning waking up on my birthday, even with a mild headache and blocked nose, didn’t put much of a dampener on our mood! Finding out they have excellent Italian Coffee brewing, ready for us as soon we woke up, made up for the aches and disturbed sleep night due to my sickness.

Breakfast was laid and we ate at a small round table looking out at the vineyards around. Corn flakes, poha and amazing plain cheese omelettes sat wonderfully in our tummies with endless servings of the freshly brewed black coffee.

VINEYARDS & PLANTATIONS TOUR

We requested for a tour of the whole vineyards to which they obliged. The driver was on holiday and unfortunately had to be called back for us. We didn’t know that. But not once did he complain, he was more than happy. Such amazing people and service! He took us around the massive acres and acres of the vineyards encompassing 2 or 3 mountains and valleys. Driving along in an open jeep, wind blowing through our hair, the vines whooshing along and beautiful plantations as far as the eyes can see was just incredible!

We stopped at a small furnished shed on top of a hill with vineyards stretching on all sides as far as the eyes could see. This apparently is the lunch spot for people who stay 2 nights! So beautiful, windy and peaceful. Such a beautiful spot to spend a whole afternoon! We have to go back for a 2 nighter to experience that!

We drove back after a while and then checked out. Said our good byes to this amazing place and left for home, absolute refreshed and happy!

VERDICT

Fratelli is a must visit for everyone. It is an experience which is unmatched by any holiday you can have. It has the facilities and comfort of a luxury hotel while having the personalised service and feel of a cozy homestay. Fresh food, great coffee and just a beautiful cozy experience.

The winery tour is extremely informative and quite an experience. Being taught to understand wine and tasting them along the way, genuinely makes a huge difference in appreciating and enjoying wine. Tour of the vineyards and plantations too is just amazing.

This is a luxury holiday and a farm stay all rolled into one, with the best bits of both worlds clubbed together for the best experience possible. As it’s so far from civilization, things like bread and paneer etc will not be fresh, but the best thing to do is to just request food with only locally available ingredients. As they cook it right before you eat, you can tell them your specifications and changes as well.

COST

It cost me about Rs. 6000 (Weekday Package), inclusive of taxes, stay, food, vineyard-factory tour as well as wine-tasting. I have a PEO-Card (Pune Eat Outs), which is why I got this amazing offer. The original price is about Rs. 3000 extra. The experience is truely worth it!

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