Opening Night – The Great Hornbill Bistro, Bangkok

February 29, 2012

The other day, Heribert Gaksch, responsible for marketing and business develpment at PB Partners which include restaurants and the PB Valley Winery, invited me to the official opening of its newest venture: the Great Hornbill Bistro in Bangkok.

The opening was a great opportunity to also present the whole range of the wines produced by PB Valley Winery. I had visited the winery some years ago and reported briefly about it on this blog.

With the opening of the Great Hornbill Bistro, the winery has come to town, so to say.

At the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine in Chaing Mai in November last year, I had also met Prayut Piangbunta. PB Valley oenologist and wine-maker (he is also the director and manger of PB Valley). Khun Prayut was Thailands first oenologist. From 1996 to 1998 he had studied in Weinsberg, asmall town in my native Germany.

Needless to say, Prayut was also in town for the opening, despite the fact that in the middle of vintage time, the chief wine-maker has to organise pickers and winery staff in Khao Yai for harvesting and processing of the new grapes.

I did not take any photo of the event myself. This is why I just put photos of the brochures into this blog entry. I was just to busy enjoying the food, the wines and the great company at the opening.

Everything was impressive. It was a splendid evening. The wines of PB Valley are just wonderful. I will have more of them, especially the Chenin Blanc and the red blend with the Dornfelder.

So my suggestion to Bangkok wine and food lovers is to check out the Great Hornbill Bistro and sample the wines of PB Valley.
Cheers

Address:
The Great Hornbill Bistro             
Bistro and Wine Shop (B.B. Holding Co. Ltd.)   
59/3 Sukhumvit 39 Road                         
Klongton Nua, Wattana,                                                     
Bangkok 10110, Thailand  
Tel:+66 2 262 0030 Ext. 118     
Fax:+66 2 262 0029
Mobile: +66 81 834 7910     
Email: hospitality@pb-partners.com
GPS Location: 13°44’15.58”N 100°34’17.62”E      

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Intermission

February 28, 2012

I have been slack. Did not write a single blog entry for a while. What is happening to me? Yes, I am busy in my day job. And yes, I am kind of burned out when I get home from work in the evening.

My blog suffers from an “attention deficiency syndrome”, it seems. I have lots of material on wine and food unused, brochures, pamphlets, hand outs stashed up in piles at home. I have photos. I have stories to tell, and do not get it together these days.

OK, I should also admit that I went on a diet a few weeks ago, the Dukan diet, by a Frenchman, Pierre Dukan. I had to interrupt the diet regime a couple of times, sometimes for travels, sometimes for event invitations, sometimes because I was sick of all the protein I had to consume.

The diet is OK but it resembles more a kind of “caloric intake” than an “epicurean adventure”. Right, alcohol is not part of the diet. In fact I drink excessively less than in pre-diet times. Moreover, I have been exercising a lot. That makes me feel very good, I admit, despite all the sweat. I got “the springs back into my ageing legs”, so to speak.

I lost only about 5 kg so far, which is just under 6% of my weight. My target weight is 82 kg. I will reach it in about 10 days I assume and I am happy with my progress. I feel rejuvenated, can easily close the zip of my old jeans again which is a very nice feeling.

The thing I miss is the occasional glass of fine wine, and gourmet food of course.

Today when I looked at my statistics, the figures were up quite a bit. Surprise surprise. I even had a new daily record. How can that be, I asked myself? Could it be that over the many years a a wine blogger I have accumulated so much material that people can find some useful information?

I hope to be back with some more stories soonest. In the meantime bare with me.
Cheers


Shanks of lamb and GranMonte 2010 Heritage Syrah Viognier

February 22, 2012

Sunday meals are important in our family.The highlight of the last weekend was the lamb below cooked according to a recipe from Jamie Oliver which was a bit altered to accommodate the availability of ingredients.

The lamb was cooked for three hours and served on mashed potatoes. The full recipe can be found here.

Instead of Guinness we used Coopers Ale, an Australian beer. Instead of raisins we used figs. Moreover, we braised very thinly cut celery and mixed it into the potato mash. Finally, we dropped the mint leaves from the recipe as well.

As veggies, green asparagus with mushrooms were offered. Needless to say, that the meal was super super delicious. The meat melted in the mouth. The bed of mashed potatoes gave a remarkable tilt to the dish.

The side dish

Here is the complete meal on the plate

As wine, I selected the ‘2010 Hertiage Syrah Viognier’ by GranMonte Vineyard in Khao Yai, the Asoke Valley, Thailand. GranMonte is producing excellent wines. We had visited the winery recently and participated in the annual harvest festival. I will write more about this event in another blog entry.

In a temperate climate I would have chosen a wine with a higher alcohol level, but in the tropics 12% is just fine. The Viognier gives it the acidity necessary to make this blend an ideal accompaniment for red meats such a lamb.

Isn’t this a wonderful colour

The bottle

GranMonte wines can be sourced from various places in Bangkok. The cellar door price of the Heritage Syrah Viognier is about 880 THB. If you are in Bangkok, please visit the Asoke valley and its wineries.

My tip of the day: drink more wines from Thailand.


Vinho Verde in Bangkok – a Portuguese delight

February 18, 2012

Vinho Verde from Caves Alianca Casal Mendes, Portugal

In the tropics (with its warm and humid days) a wine with low alcohol content is one of the most enjoyable day drinks. So when I found Vinho Verde by Casal Mendes in our supermarket, I was thrilled.

I bought all the bottles on offer despite the fact that I did not know what I was buying. It reminded me of the many happy days we had when visiting northern Portugal some years ago. With 9% alcohol and the typical Vinho Verde character, this wine is a treat.

Vinho Verde

I also liked the shape of the bottle, this voluminous, round and low bottles just fitted into my hand. I had to pay about TB 600 (12 EURO) for it. Internet wine dealers offer the product for 5 EURO in Europe.

I could not find an English website explaining what “Caves Alianca Casal Mendes” is all about. I mean there is a small English section, but not a very evocative one (“problem loading page”, said my browser).

From the Portuguese one, I figured that the winery is more than 80 years old with about 5 “quintas” or vineyards/wineries. My uninformed guess is that it is a mass producer sourcing grapes from different locations and vineyards.

Some bread, ham and olives helped to make this a special occasion today, leisurely relaxing on my terrace. Join me one day.
Cheers to Portugal and its Vinho Verde.


The vineyards of Myanmar II: Lunch at Red Mountain Estate

February 11, 2012

View from the tasting shed: Majectic mountain chain in the back

Red Mountain Estate is located near Inle lake in Shan State. It was the second vineyard in Myanamar I had the chance to visit in January.

I had met its French vintner and wine-maker, Francois Raynal, at the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine in Chiangmai, Thailand in November lasy year. Francois has presented the experience of Red Mountain Estate and the challenges of cultivating and producing “new latitude wines”.

The international wine experts were very positively surprised by the good quality of his wines. Ever since his impressive presentation, I wanted to visit the place. And here I was.

Some of the vineyards at Red Mountain estate

Unfortunately, Francois was not there when we visited the estate. But the staff was very friendly. They took us around the premises and explained the various items. I will show you the modern facilities in another blog entry later. Red Mountain Estate has lots of steel tanks, new oak barrels, a bottling facility and an underground cave for the storage of its wines.

The bottle shop

From the “tasting shed”, a roofed veranda open at four side, one has a good view of the vineyards and the surroundings. Red Mountain was set up in 2002, so it is a bit younger than Aythaya. Every year some more vineyards were planted. In 2006 the first wine was produced (about 1000 bottles). Today the annual production is about 120,000 bottles.

The Inle Valley series, a low price vin-de-table

Before lunch, we did a kind of tasting of some of the wines. The Chardonnay, the most expensive one on the list, we had reserved to be sampled with lunch.

We started with the Sauvignon Blanc, then went on to the rose and ended with the reds.

Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc

The wine we liked best was the SB, fresh and fruity. The only thing I hated was the cheap plastic cork.

The rose

A very drinkable wine, well suited for hot summer days.

The Red Mountain Shiraz-Tempranillo blend

The Shiraz-Tempranillo blend is somehow special. It is a light bodied red with low alcohol and with pleasant fruit flavours and tannins. I guess that it must be difficult to get to the desired style. I consider the wine to be work in progress.

The food was OK. But I did not take pictures of it, so I guess it was not exceptional. There might be some room for improvements here.

Friends who had visited the estate just a couple of months earlier, were pleasantly surprised by the general improvements of the facilities. While we were there quite a few small tourist groups dopped in for a meal and/or a tasting.

Francois had reported about the difficult process of experimentation in a completely new environment and a economy riddled by the international sanctions. Some of the cuttings had to come from Israel, the oak barrels from Hungary, the bottles and corks from China, and so on.

But Red Mountain is a place to watch. The investment undertaken is huge, the staff motivated, the wine-maker committed, and Myanmar is a coming power in South-east Asia. It will take no time to get the tourist flow to come to vineyards and wineries. Myanmar has a lot to offer.

PS: We bought as many bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc as we could carry.

Address:
Red Mountain Estate
Taung Chay Village Group, Nyaungshwe Township,
Southern Shan State, Myanmar.
Tel: +95-081-209366, +95-081-209554
Fax: +95-081-209475
Mobile: +95-09-5174312
www.redmountain-estate.com

Red Mountain Production Co., Ltd
No. 39(A), 7 1/2 miles, Pyay Road,

Mayangone Township, Yangon, Myanmar.
Tel: +95-01-664970, +95-01-652662
Fax: +95-01-652793
Mobile: +95-09-2035632, +95-09-5021843
Email: redmountain.tc@gmail.com
info@redmountain-estate.com
contact@redmountain-estate.com


The vineyards of Myanmar I: Lunch at Aythaya Wines, Taunggy, Myanmar

February 8, 2012

View over the valley from Aythaya Winery

I habe written about the wines from Aythaya Winery near Taunggy, in the Shan State in Myanmar in an earlier blog entry.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Shan State and the twon of Taunggy. This gave me also the chance to drop in atAythaya which is located in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, about 5 km on the road leading to Taunggy.

Together with my two colleagues, we went for lunch at the winery cum restaurant. It was a glorious day with sunshine and warm temperatures.

In 1997/1998, Bert Morsbach, a German native, started with this venture and planted the first wine grapes in Myanmar. Though the first attempt was not successful, Morsbach continued his efforts until finally succeeding.

The elevation of the vineyard near Aythaya village is at about 1000 to 1300 m. But there is another vineyard in another location nearby.

The first wines were presented to the public in 2004, and since 2006 another German joined the team at Aythaya Wines: Hans-Eduard Leiendecker, vintner and wine-maker from Bernkastel, Mosel. When we visited, both were not at Aythaya, but the friendly Burmese staff showed us the premises.

Tractor spraying the vines through Bougaivillias and palm trees

We sat on a shaded terrace with a beautiful view over the valley. Some work was done in the vineyards. We also explored some of the surroundings.

A pond with vineyards in the background

The peakock is the symbol of Aythaya

The Aythaya product range is impressive

I had tasted Aythaya wines before, some of them in Yangon, others had been given to me by colleagues returning from Myanmar. Aythaya’s product range is quite impressive. I like their Sauvignon Blanc (late harvest) best.

Another terrace at the restaurant with vineyard views

The menu is quite simple and straight forward. To my great suprise also “Spaetzle”, a type of South-German dumplings, were on the list. My heart jumped. I had to try them. I was not going to be disappointed. The “Spaetzle” were delicious.

So was the wine, buoyant with tropical fruit flavours, fresh acidity and a pleasant finish.

Suebian “Spaetzele”

The flagship Aythaya wine, I would say

The back label of the Sauvignon Blanc

Beautiful SB in the glass

The Aythaya wine-maker comes from the Mosel river

Of course there is a lot to see in Myanmar. However, in my view nothing beats a visit to a real vineyard where “new latitude wines” are grown and made. The region around Taunggy is very interesting and the nearby Inle lake deserves your visit as well.

The best time to visit is November to February when the nights are cool and the days sunny and warm. Meet you there, one day.

Address:
Aythaya Wines
38G Myitzu Street, Parami Avenue Mayangone T/S,
Yangon, Myanmar.
Tel.: +95-664386, 664756
E-mail::Sales@myanmar-vineyard.com.mm
Website: www.myanmar-vineyard.com

and
Aythaya Vineyard
Aythaya-Taunggyi, Southern Shan States
Myanmar
Tel.: +95-81-24536.


In memoriam: the victims of the 2009 bushfires in Victoria

February 7, 2012

The bush fire season has started again.

This is a good opportunity for reminiscing about the devastating bush fires exactly threes ago which claimed so many lives and caused severe damage to property in Victoria.

Today, services and commemorations will be held in quite a few places.

When you drive through the area where the fires wrecked havoc very little can be seen. After a fire gum trees are reinvigorated and new underground growth is visible everywhere.

I cut quite a few 3 to 5 m tall young trees during the Christmas vacation to make room for other vegetation. We were lucky and did not suffer any serious damage. We put in new boundary fences. Our neighbours have replaced the burned down sheds with new ones.

But not everybody has rebuilt, not everybody has returned. Many rural communities are still in shambles and suffering (Kinglake for instance).

The scars in peoples minds and souls are not visible either. But many are still suffering the terrible personal losses of loved ones.

I salute all of them, the ones who rebuilt and the ones who went elsewhere.