Indian culture

Virginia’s Narmada Winery Pays Homage to Indian Culture

Courtesy of Julekha Dash

Honor Indian heritage and family ties

Patil credits the winery’s success to the Virginia wine community as well as a distinctive Indian influence. On weekends, diners can pair their wines with samosas, chana masala (chickpea curry), spinach and butter chicken.

“A lot of people don’t know that you can pair Indian food with wine,” says Patil. “People are surprised to try Indian food with wine. Nobody offers that.”

Viognier, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonel (Seyval Blanc and Chardonnay hybrid) are among their flagship grape varieties. The wines and the name of the winery honor the Indian heritage of the family. “Narmada” is the name of a river in India and the mother-in-law of Sudha Patil, who sacrificed herself for the upbringing of the family. “My mother-in-law actually sold some of her gold jewelry to pay for the plane ticket” so her son could study in the United States, Patil says. “They didn’t have a lot of money, but she made sure everyone was educated.”

Indian influences seep into wine in other ways as well. Made from Vidal Blanc and Chardonel grapes, Narmada’s Legacy 2018 vintage pays homage to family and heritage with its lush notes of mango, a popular fruit in India.

“My husband used to ask me all the time, ‘Can you do something with mango?’ “Patil said. “I never had the opportunity to make wine with mango, but after he passed away I said, ‘I have to make him something with mango.’ And that’s why we call it Legacy.

The winery also invites customers to celebrate Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, and the spring festival Holi. This year, Narmada hosted a socially distanced Holi celebration by offering flower petals to each table for customers to throw at their companions.

Before the pandemic, for the Diwali celebration, the winery staged a fireworks display and played Bollywood tunes as guests danced. One year, Patil’s professionally trained daughter-in-law offered dance lessons.

Patil says she is now ready to sell the winery, although she could remain a winemaker. She hopes the next owner will continue to honor the winery’s South Asian heritage in an industry that has always lacked diversity.

Many first-generation immigrants, Black Americans and other minorities often lack the heritage or generational knowledge that would make it easier to enter the wine business, says Phil Long, owner of California’s Longevity Wines and president of the Association of African American Vintners. The association sponsors scholarships and sponsors winemakers of color.

“Thanks to people like the Patils who follow their hearts and overcome the obstacles in their path, we are beginning to make progress in creating a more diverse wine industry,” Long says. “People of all cultures need to understand that wine can be a career. It only happens if they see people who look like them succeed in the world of wine.