Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Guest House and hospitality

April 7, 2013


My room key

This is the third and last of my Gran Monte Harvest Festival blog entries. I know that the festival was in February and now it is already April. However, visiting Gran Monte Vineyard is always a good choice regardless of the time of year.


The view from the guest house

During the harvest festival I was very lucky to stay at the Gran Monte Guest House which is just in the middle of the Gran Monte vineyards with great views.

It is wonderful to wake up in the morning, hear the birds sing and step out of the room, a room with a view so to speak and be right in the middle of things.


The wine education at Gran Monte also includes some harvesting of grapes, just a little for the feeling of it. Of course I also participated, took the secateurs and cut a couple of bunches, just for fun.


Secateurs and a little basket


Beautiful and healthy grapes


Syrah grapes ready for harvest


Anty Fung, project manager from Asian Palate in Hongkong

In my first blog entry I mentioned that I shared the bus with a couple from Hongkong. It turned out that Anty Fung was a very knowledgeable wine writer and wine promoter working at Asian Palates.

To educate Asian wine drinkers to grape wine is not an easy undertaking. Often the description of what you are going to experience when you drink a specific wine is completely intangible to non Europeans. The references are out of sync with Asian life experience so to say.

This means tasting notes have to be re-written so that Asian consumers can connect to the product. Anty is working in this exciting sector and it was a great pleasure to listen to her and her assessments.

Moreover, she was great fun.


The awesome breakfast at Gran Monte

Finally let me tell you that the breakfast at Gran Monte Family Estate is just another marvel. Look at the picture above. Would you not love to have this kind of egg dish in the morning?

You can have it. Just go and check it out at Gran Monte guest house. Stay there for a weekend and experience the uniqueness of a Thai vineyard and winery with great food and fine wines. You are also going to meet a Thai family which is very passionate about wine, viticulture and the environment of the Asoke Valley.


Culture and wine – Gran Monte Family Estate, Thailand

March 29, 2013

Remember I promised you two more pieces about the Gran Monte Harvest Festival last February? Here is number two.

What was very positive at the the Gran Monte Harvest Festival is that the event is also a means to educate future Thai wine lovers to grape growing, wine making and wine appreciation. Moreover, such events can be used to promote tourism and local specialties, products as well as culture.

GMonte 20 web

The program of this years Gran Monte Harvest Festival was full of both. At the various food stalls one could sample local cuisine including the Gran Monte wines. Moreover, the Gran Monte shop carries all kinds of food and non-food items made from local raw materials. Furthermore, all visitors were presented with a beautiful traditional piece of cloth to be wrapped around the waist or used as shawl.

But also an entertainment program was carefully prepared consisting of dances and dance performances. This gave local dance troupes an opportunity to show off their skills and promote local culture, the backdrop to which were the stunning mountains of the Asoke Valley.

GMonte 200

From the vineyard emerged the first group of dancers


Colourful Thai costumes and head gear were displayed

This was not all. Gran Monte Family Estate is also deeply involved in supporting charitable organizations and other good causes. One could attribute this to their pro-active corporate responsibility policy. Three cheques were presented and they went to the following initiatives:

1. The Thai Elephant-Assisted Therapy Project (TETP)
2. The Forest Fire Prevention Unit, Khao Yai-Nakornrachasima
3. The Vajiralongkorn School, Pak Chong-Nakornrachasima

Apart from traditional culture, Gran Monte also promotes contemporary arts. The highlight for me is the rock band playing in the evening. Many songs remind me of my youth, the good old days of rock and roll of the 1970 and 1980. It does not take long to get people off their seats and on to the dance floor.


The rock band

Because of the neighbours, the band cannot play all night (this is most likely what the Gran Monte guests would want) and that is one strong reason why one has to come back to the next harvest festival.

Enjoy more excellent wines and the music at the next Gran Monte Harvest Festival in 2014. The 2013 vintage promises to be the best ever.

Two Men from Mosel River tasting New Latitude wines in Bangkok

March 18, 2013


Gran Monte Syrah grapes in Khao Yai

Recently a good old friend from high school times, Thomas Weber from Trier and his wife Birgit, visited Thailand for a holiday. Since Thomas is a kind of a wine geek, someone who has written two books about wine, and who knows every vintner along the Mosel river, I intended to introduce him to a selection of New Latitude wines.


The two wineries I had in mind where GranMonte Family Winery and PB Valley Wines, both located in the Asoke Valley in Khao Yai, Thailand. Unfortunately, Thomas did not have sufficient time to go and visit the vineyards in person. Therefore I decided to bring the vineyards to him.

We did two tastings, one shortly after his arrival in Bangkok, the second one the evening before his departure. The first wine tasting took place in our home. I had selected three wines (one white and two reds), all from GranMonte Family Winery.

We started with the ‘2012 Viognier’, according to some critics the best white wine Gran Monte has ever made. Thomas was amazed that such an outstanding wine could be produced here in Thailand (I provided him with a farewell gift, guess what it was?).

We followed up with two Gran Monte Syrah wines, the ‘2010 Hermitage Syrah’ and the ‘2009 Orient Syrah’. This was the first time that Thomas had ever tasted wines grown in the tropics, or, as they are also, called ‘new latitude wines’.

He was amazed by the high standard and the outstanding quality of the wines. All of them fully satisfied his expert palate pampered by vintage after vintage of excellent wines from the Mosel. The Thai wines from Gran Monte can positively compare with any wines from Europe, that was the verdict after the first round of tastings.

The second wine tasting was conducted over a dinner (forgive me that I skip the food here) at the Great Hornbill Bistro in Soi 39 Sukhumvit in Bangkok. This place is the Bangkok cellar door of PB Valley Khaoyai Winery.

Again we tasted three wines, one white and two reds. We started with the ‘2012 Pirom Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc’, an excellent vintage and very enjoyable wine. We liked it so much that we consumed quite a few bottles with our entrees. Only for the main course we switched to red.


The Cabernet-Dornfelder blend is being decanted

First we had a bottle of ‘2011 Pirom Khao Yai Tempranillo’. The wine had a beautiful aroma but the somehow ‘green (gemuesig) taste’ disappointed a little. The more we were looking forward to the ‘2010 Cabernet Dornfelder cuvée’. It had time to breathe after the decanting. This wine, an unusual blend, did not disappoint. It displayed its character, was full of flavor, had structure and an excellent finish.

The surprise of the evening was, that Mr. Gaksch had reserved for us a bottle of the lovely PB Valley Lychee Schnaps so that we could harmoniously end our Thai wine tasting.

The overall verdict is that Thailand produces outstanding wines and that more needs to be done to bring this good message to the world of wine.


The happy tasting party

I strongly advised Thomas to come back again, and instead of spending time at Thai beaches, go and visit Thai wineries and enjoy the pleasure their excellent wines provide the casual and the “un-casual” drinker.
Spread the gospel.

Wine from Thailand: GranMonte 2011 Heritage Syrah

February 27, 2013


2011 Heritage Syrah by GranMonte Family Estate

My private situation is not conducive to blogging at all. And in fact I should take a complete break, I think at times. But then I just withdraw from my current world to escape into the illusions I have cultivated over the last weeks.

I needed to treat myself to something nice, and my choice was an obvious one, a ‘2011 GranMonte Heritage Syrah’ by GranMonte Estate in Khao Yai, Thailand.

I just love the dark red colour and the intense red berry aromas. The wine is elegant, and I very muchnenjoy the balance of tannins and spicy acidity. I did not give the wine a chance to improve with cellaring but might do this with one or two bottles at a later stage.


Spear ribs and morning glory

My girls had cooked dinner, spear ribbs with morning glory. The ribbs were marinated in an Asian plum sauce, and caramelized glazing was just delicious. The contrast with the morning glories was stricking, and the white rice “glued” it all together.

What a lovely family dinner this was. Thai wine and food with an Asian heritage.

Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Thai wine at its best

February 4, 2013


Gran Monte Family Estate Harvest Festival 2013

I just returned from this years Gran Monte Harvest Festival in Asoke Valley, Khao Yai, about two hours northwest from Bangkok. The Gran Monte Family Estate is a true family wine business with the whole family engaged in some part of the venture.

Overall my experience with the Thai wine industry is that all of the protagonists are very hard working, charming, committed and passionate people. This is why they have created the Thai Wine Association to jointly promote their passion for the fermented grape juice here in the tropics, creating exquisite new latitude wines.

It was the second time that I attended this lovely event. You can read about last year in this blog entry. Needless to say that it was utterly enjoyable. In fact it was the highlight of the wine season for me.


Vineyard view from the guest house

This is the first of about three blog entries on the Harvest Festival at Gran Monte which I plan to write. The first one provides you with a general overview.

The second will deal with the local economy, culture and corporate responsibility.

And finally, in the third one I will take you on a walk through the Gran Monte Vineyards.

Please stay with me and share my Gran Monte 2013 experience.


The map of the locality

The Harvest Festival is a well planned and organised affair at Gran Monte. We were picked up at the Emporium in Bangkok by a van and made our journey to the vineyard. I shared the vehicle with an Indian family of three and a couple from Hongkong, Ms Anty Fung, project manager from Asian Palate and her partner.

Khun Visooth had put me up at the Gran Monte Guest House. I settled in and enjoyed the vineyard views from the balcony. At about 5 in the afternoon it started with traditional Thai folk dances. The place was buzzing with local and some foreign guests. The car park was quickly filled up.

This years program was a bit different from the previous one. Much has happened sind 2012. A new vintage was just released, quality wise even better than any before.

And let me tell you a secret, if the weather plays along the 2013 vintage will be even better. Trust me, I have seen and tasted the grapes.


Food stalls provided Thai local cuisine, and you could also start tasting various vintages of Gran Monte wines. Gran Monte had won many new awards during the last 12 months at various international wine shows in Asia and Europe.


I have written about some of the new wines, the Sakuna rose, the Voignier and the Asoke, but there is the Chenin Blanc, the Vedelho and the Syrah about which I will let you in another time.


The whites

The whites include the Sole and the Spring, then there is the Sakuna rose which is also available as a sparkling wine, and the new flagship wine, the Voignier which has its price.


The reds

The reds are as spectacular as the whites. Since oak is expensive the well grafted reds of Gran Monte have their price too. And remember there is a 400% luxury tax on wine in Thailand.

I had ample time to taste the above wines during the celebratory dinner. I danced my heart out to the music of my youth.

And I met many new and old friends and engaged in stimulating discussions about wine and the Thai wine industry.

Soon more about wines from Thailand. Cheers

2011 Asoke by Gran Monte Winery, Thailand

January 27, 2013

Asoke 1

2011 Asoke Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah by Gran Monte

As you can see from the two pictures above and below, the newest vintage of the flagship wine of Gran Monte Family Estate, had no label as yet when I tasted this wine a few days ago.

The 2011 Asoke, a blend of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah, is a ripper of a wine, maybe the best red, Thailand’s vineyards have to offer.

The previous vintage, the ‘2009 Asoke’ has won many medals, two gold, three silver and three bronze medals, at international wine shows in Europe and in Asia.

Asoke 2

What a beautiful colour

The 2011 vintage of the Asoke has so far won a bronze medal, but I am confident that this young wine has a great potential and will win more awards when it has settled and aged a little.

It has lots of dark fruit flavour, blackberry to me. The tannins are still a bit astringent but will mellow with time. As the previous vintage, I guess it has spent some time in new oak. It is a very pleasant wine, strong and powerful, the best red I had in a long time.

The wine-maker is Nikki Lohitnavy, the young and talented and already well known vintner of Gran Monte Estate. Nikki is getting better every vintage. In a few years time her wines will be collectors items, I guess.

Asoke pasta

We had the wine with a meal, of course. It was not red meat with which this wine would harmonize Extremely well. Instead it was a pasta cooked by my daugther Charlotte (our resident cook, my wife Margit, is absent for a while). She is a very good apprentice, and the pasta was superb.

Asoke cooks

Charlotte (left) and her twin sister Lucy

Needless to say that this simple meal with the excellent wine from Gran Monte, made a wonderful father and daughter event.

My suggestion to wine lovers in Thailand: secure a couple of bottles of this wine, put them down in a good wine fridge, and enjoy one after the other with or without food, at special and ordinary occasions, and when you want to show off. This is the thing.

The upcoming harvest festival at Gran Monte Estate, on February 2 and 3, will give you a unique opportunity to learn more about Gran Monte wines, the vineyards and the wine-maker. You should book now and/or visit Khao Yai at your own pleasure. It is worth it.

PS: While writing this on my terrace, I am drinking another one of the great Gran Monte wines, the 2012 Viognier, a beauty of a single vineyard, single variety wine.

Food and wine pairing: Gran Monte 2012 Sakuna Rosé with a spiecy seafood pasta

January 4, 2013

Spicy seafood pasta

Delicious spicy seafood pasta

I love pasta, especially spicy pasta. And what is very refreshing in a tropical climate? A seafood pasta. That would be my answer to the question, what to eat?. All kinds of fresh garden salads can be consumed with such pasta. All of this is easy to make, a quick kitchen, so to speak, and, needless to say: it’s all delicious

The question, what wine to drink with this meal, I answer with a counter question: have you tried a rosé from Thailand? Have you heard about Gran Monte Sakuna rosé?

If not, then it is high time that you familiarize yourself with new latitude wines in general and Thai grape wines in particular.

Sakuna 2012 one

2012 Sakuna rosé by Gran Monte Estate

This wine, made by wine-maker Nikki Lohitnavy of Gran Monte Estate, has the most amazing colour, you can imagine. Lollypop, lollies and bonbons come to mind. The colour entices you to learn more about this wine.

It is made of 100% Syrah grapes, strictly following traditional rosé-making methods and rules. The strawberry aromas are fresh and crisp. This off-dry wine and it’s discreet and subtle sweetness are the perfect accompaniment to a hot and spicy dish, either of a Thai or a non-Thai descent.

We had the above spicy seafood pasta for lunch, and it turned out that the selected wine was a perfect match. This young wine, which was already awarded a silver and a bronze medal at international wine shows, is the just perfect for hot days and with spicy food.

Sakuna 2012 two

What a beautiful colour

PS: The new Gran Monte wine collection of the 2012 vintage will be released soon.