Gran Monte harvest festival 2014 – Khao Yai, Thailand

February 28, 2014

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Traditional folk dances to welcome the guests

The Gran Monte Harvest Festival was the highlight of the year for me here in Thailand. For the third time in a row I had the opportunity to participate in this wonderful event at the Gran Monte Family Winery in the Khao Yai region, about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Bangkok. And it is not getting boring, just the opposite. Each year Khun Visooth and his team surprise their guests with new highlights.

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Khun Visooth overseeing the competition

On the wine front of course everybody is eager to taste the new vintage. This year we were, among others, looking forward to the second vintage of the Viognier. Nikki Lohitnavy, the wine-maker, is doing a great job. I just love her hand grafted wines. And every year it seems they are getting better and better.

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Margit with Sole, the Chenin Blanc

For tasting notes, please visit the wine blog of my friend Oliver, the Winegetter. I cannot do tasting notes like him; just reading Oliver’s descriptions is mouth watering.

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Ripening grapes

Another novelty this year was that the evening program of the event was held in new building for the VinCotto Restaurant. After the addition of the tower, a wine cellar and a much enlarged main hall, the new VinCotto restaurant has the flair of a traditional country inn. I particularly liked the various bits of veranda which reminded me of an Australian porch.

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Together with my wife Margit, I threw myself into the festivities. Since we stayed overnight in the cottage at the estate, we did not have to worry about anything. Many musicians joined us in the evening and entertained the crowd with the good old songs from the last century: rock and roll.

GM HF5

Since we are leaving Thailand for Europe in June, it felt a bit like a farewell. But the good thing is that to travel back home to Australia we have to come via Thailand. Therefore, there is hope that this was not our last harvest festival. We will come again.

Cheers

GM HF6

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Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Guest House and hospitality

April 7, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Secateurs and a little basket

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Beautiful and healthy grapes

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Syrah grapes ready for harvest

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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.

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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.


Two Men from Mosel River tasting New Latitude wines in Bangkok

March 18, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Gran Monte Harvest Festival 2013 – Thai wine at its best

February 4, 2013

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


2012 Gran Monte Viognier: Thai wine at its best

December 30, 2012

Before the end of the year I want to return to the wines of my host country Thailand. As you know I have written about the Thai wine industry, Thai wines and Thai wineries before. Thai wines have received international recognition, and the industry, though tiny by international standards, is progressing well.

The old vine grower’s quote may still apply, “that grape growing and wine making are easy, that only the first 200 years are difficult”. So in Thailand the search for the right variety and the right terroir are still ongoing and experimentation is the rule rather than the exception. Having said this I believe that the Thai wine industry has made tremendous progress and shortened the learning curve. This is in part due to very talented and open-minded wine-makers and vignerons.

This time of the year is the best season Thailand has to offer. The Thai winter in Bangkok with temperatures ranging from 32 Celsius in the day and 24 Celsius at night, with dry winds and blue sky, is just marvellous. The lower morning temperatures make everybody more relaxed and cheerful.

Summer Salad 1

Greek salad

In such conditions light summer lunches are the fashion. We had a kind of Greek salad and some salmon on beetroot. Very lovely.

Summer Salad 2

Greek salad and salmon on beetroot

Thai white wines are a very good accompaniment with this type of food. Fortunately, I was given some bottles of the Gran Monte 2012 vintage (thank you Khun Visooth Lohitnavy). Gran Monte Estate is one of the top Thai vineyards and winery.

Gran Monte Viognier 2012

The 2012 Viognier is a wonderful wine. I think that Khun Nikki Lohitnavy, the wine-maker, has done a marvellous job. This is maybe the best white wine I have had from anywhere in 2012.

The grapes for this wine are grown at 350 m above sea level in the Asoke Valley, in the Khao Yai region. The skin contact was short, only 3 hours. Wild ferments in new oak puncheons did a great job. The 5 month on lees seem also to have benefited the wine. The alcohol content is only 12% vol. Total acidity is 7.1 g/L. Residual sugar is 1.4 g/L and the ph is 3.26.

I tasted stone fruit, a bit of apricot, and also some tropical fruit. The wine is well balanced, had a superb structure and fine acidity. I love the long finish.

This is the only Viognier wine grown in Thailand! I believe that the variety is well suited to the tropical conditions and shows great promise.

I think the wine is going to be released soon. So look out for this 2012 Viognier by Gran Monte and ask for it if you are patronizing wine bars in Bangkok.