After returning from Brunei and a quick day of rest we set out for the jungles of Khao Yai National Park and part of Thailand’s “wine trail”. GranMonte Vineyards located in the heart of the small Asoke Valley was the highlight of our day. This winery was founded by Thai couple Visooth and Sakuna Lohitnavy. Their daughter Visootha (or Nikki) is Thailand’s first female winemaker (only in her 20’s, she has many harvests ahead of her).
The entire family was behind the counter pouring their wines over the weekend – and their clientele was a nice mix from around the world including some International winemakers. As with many young wine makers these days Nikki has studied her craft all over the world including Australia, South Africa, France and Portugal.
GranMonte offers hourly tours on the weekends; we had the privilege to tour with their vineyard manager. While there was a bit of a language barrier one can tell he is very passionate about the vines. Their vineyards are carefully maintained. They grow a number of varietals including Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Harvest is in February although the grapes try to set a second crop but this is during the rainy season and the vineyard workers remove buds when they flower. Soils are shallow in the vineyard.
With Thailand’s wine industry approximately 20 years old, I wasn’t sure what sort of quality the wines will show (having never really sampled Thai wines). Thailand certainly doesn’t have the more extreme diurnal cooling (even in this higher elevation area of Khao Yai) that say other wine regions experience. However, the quality is there – good acidity makes their wines food friendly. Their Chenin Blanc and Chenin Blanc Viognier are excellent choices for the Thai heat & Thai spice (slightly chilled). Their Shiraz is very popular, not only in The Kingdom but also Internationally as well. They even make a rosé from this varietal.
The weather and heat of course dictate the type of varietals they can grow (you won’t see Pinot Noir here for example). All their wines are dry with the exception of their dessert wine made from Chenin Blanc (we have visited several times and this wine always seems to be sold out!) The winery is small but state of the art. They use larger pungeons for aging and keep the aging on the new oak to a minimum to try and showcase the vineyard’s fruit.
For those wanting to stay on site, GranMonte offers 8 private rooms in their guesthouse near the winery building. VinCotto is also a highlight of a visit. This indoor and outdoor restaurant serves up a variety of International dishes with a Thai twist. With Italian, Spanish and English music playing softly this is a romantic place for lunch.
GranMonte has earned International recognition recently including at competitions in Austria, London and Singapore. They are also distributed Internationally with select locations in the Maldives, Australia and Japan. Visit: www.granmonte.com