Orion Wine Festival, Bangalore
When I told my childhood best friend that I was at a wine festival (at a mall) she exclaimed, Wow, Bangalore is so cool! I guess we can be! After all, this was not just a wine fest, but one organized and held at a popular local mall (first ever such endeavor in the country, I was told). The Orion Mall (part of the Brigade Gateway complex that also houses Columbia Asia Hospital and Sheraton Hotel) along with the Karnataka Wine Board hosted a 3-day long, 11am-9pm wine festival two weekends ago. Tents were set up outdoors, near the amphitheater and fountains, and a mini carnival ensued. Different bands performed and there were a couple of vintage cars and bikes on display too.
My friend and I checked it out on its last evening, Sunday, and it was quite packed! Wine makers big and small, known and unknown, had set up shop, some offering free samples and others (especially the well known names like Grover, Sula and Nine Hills) charging for the privilege. The price for a taste was around Rs. 30-50, and a glass cost anything from Rs. 75 up. Some of the free stuff we tasted was quite horrid, whereas others were pretty darn good! To be expected, I suppose, at such a mela. The wines were not just from Karnataka, with brands from Maharashtra and Haryana as well.
The worst we drank was at the Heritage Wine stall and that is actually very sad, ’cause they have been touting a winery tour and restaurant on the Bangalore-Mysore Highway that I had intended to try. My two favorite stalls were Big Banyan and Fratelli Wines, and I ended up getting a bottle at each (the prices were discounted, of course). In particular, the Sangiovese from Fratelli was a great buy at Rs. 600, with the marked priced being 800+. I went back for a second taste and just had to have a bottle; it had a rich, smoky flavor and great body. Many of the fancier stores in town (including Gourmet Food World on M.G Road and Food Hall at 1MG Mall) offer the brands we tried that day, and I am sure I will be visiting them in the future. I have struggled with finding not ridiculously expensive, decent wines in India, and now I am thrilled to have at least a couple of go-to options. I don’t care much for Sula, but do like some of the Grover and Nine Hills selections, but the stuff I found on Sunday was really good.
A few of the eateries from the mall, like Cafe Noir and Sbarro had set up shop. Cafe Noir, in particular, had a smart concept – amuse bouche, by the piece at Rs. 30, or three savory plus one sweet for Rs. 110. I tried and LOVED their offerings, including chicken satay, pear and blue cheese sambusak, sausage roll, salmon and more. While there was no substantive fare to be had (suggestion for next year – amp up the food stalls), we enjoyed our walk-through and were treated to a quite good Jazz band playing, as dusk turned to night fall. At Rs. 250 for single entry and Rs 450 for a couple, for the 3 days combined, it was a great deal. So, kudos to Orion for organizing this fest, and I look forward to more such coolness in the coming months…