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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Thai wine and spicy Asian cuisine

July 8, 2013

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‘2012 Colombard’ by Monsoon Valley

Many white wines go well with Asian cuisine, for instance my beloved Riesling, either in its dry or semi-dry incarnations.

Fortunately, Thailand has his own wines which do pair well with its cuisine. Chenin Blanc and Viognier wines from Gran Monte Winery, as well as Chenin Blanc from PB Valley come to mind.

One of my least favourite grapes, Colombard can also make a good wine to drink with spicy Asian food. Monsoon Valley Wine produces a Colombard wine (Classic Range) which I find ideal with spicy cuisine.

The grapes are produced near Hua Hin, a coastal town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. I personally have not visited the Hua Hin Hills Vineyard as yet but it is on my to-do list.

This Colombard wine is a blend made from Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Malaga Blanc grapes. It is light and fruity with some citrus aromas and fine acidity but has some residual sweetness which makes is well suited to accompany spicy dishes.

The 2012 vintage has won various bronze medals for instance at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2012, and the FBAT Wine Challenge in 2012.

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Spicy prawn noodles


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.


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.


Climate change and grape varieties

November 2, 2009

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Riesling grapes in Schoden, Saar, shortly before vintage 2009

Uff, I am reading in todays “Your Daily Wine News” newsletter that some of Australia’s top wine experts think that over the next 20 years climate change will be responsible for the decline of Shiraz and Chardonnay and the rise of varieties such as Vermentino, Arneis, Nebbiolo, Pinot Grigio and Viognier (some call them “alternative varieties”).

This is bad news for me and my own small vineyard. At Two Hills Vineyard we have concentrated on some of the traditional French varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay (first vintage in 2011 or 2012). Our fruit ripens usually well (if we do not suffer severe frosts) and shows a superior quality. But will that persist under the conditions of climate change?

I still remember vividly how I pulled out the 2 1/2 acres of Cabernet. it was hard work, wrapping a chain around every single vine and lifting the hydraulic of the tractor. I should have left them in, I guess. If temperatures rise in Glenburn, the drought persits, and/or we’ll have less percipitation in the future, Cabernet could have been the ideal variety for our spot. I ripped the vines out because the grapes would not fully ripen. At the moment we have sufficient water, our two dams are overflowing after years of drought but that might change quickly again.

Another issue is age, my age. At 55 I might still have a chance to enjoy some of the coming Chardonnay vintages but replanting would “cost” me many years of waiting. I could contemplate to plant on our second hill where we still have another 5-6 acres of space. Well, let us see what is going to come.

At least there is no politician who tells me what to do and chances are small that an elector such as Clemens Wenzeslaus of Saxonia, who changed the Mosel by instructing vintners to ripp out their red varieties and replant with Riesling, would appear on the Australian scene. However, danger is looming from the anti-alcohol lobby in Canberra which is working day and night to convince law-makers that the purchase of alcoholic beaverages needs to be made more costly for the consumer and profitable for the taxmen.


Vineyard profile: Rocky Passes Estate, Upper Goulburn, Victoria

August 25, 2009

During our last week together in Glenburn, we decided to go on an outing and visit a boutique winery near Yea: Rocky Passes Estate, a micro vineyard and also a member of our Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association. Rocky Passes estate is owned and operated by Vitto Oles and Candi Westney. Candi had left a message on my blog inviting us over to get to know them and their wines.

We went the long way passing through Yea and Trawool, then through some bushland searching for Highlands Road. It was a very beautiful drive through the Victorian countryside. On the hills one sees those rock boulders as in the photo below.

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Rocky terrain

The only vineyard in the area is on the right hand side: Rocky Passes Estate, about 15 minutes east from Seymour. A sheep shed stands in the middle of the vineyard.

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Rocky Passes Vineyard

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Vineyard near the house

The house and the cellar door are very pretty. Vitto is not only a talented vigneron and winemaker but also a carpenter by profession. He has applied his skills to the winery as well. I just loved the tasting room which is quite cosy.

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The house and the picnic area

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Charlotte and Lucy with the emblem of the estate: the eagle

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The tasting room

Rocky Passes Estate is a boutique winery in the artisan tradition, inspired by the simplicity of the Argentinian cantinas. It produces biodynamically grown fruit. Yields are kept low to achieve outstanding wine qualities.

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Margit tasting the Rocky Passes wines

Rocky Passes Estate produces exclusively Syrah grapes (1.6 ha) and wines. Vitto had recently planted some Viognier (0.4 ha) which will extend the product range. We tasted all of the released wines. Excellent drops, I can confirm it.

James Halliday awarded to the ‘2005 Rocky Passes Syrah’ 94 Parker points and ranked the estate as a top winery (five stars). This is a great achievement. Nothing to add. The verdict is clear: these are top of the rank wines. Also the other vintages show their character as fine cool climate wines of Central Victoria. We bought a mixed dozen bottles and took one of the 2005 vintage back to Bangkok.

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Vitto, the artisan, and Margit in the winery

Vitto also introduced us to the wines in the making, some blends of Cabernet and Shiraz, and straight Cabernets. The vineyard is an extreme cool site and prone to late frosts in some years. Everything is hand made, from pruning to harvesting as well as the work in the small winery.

Established in 2000 total production is only about 800 cases. The wines are very reasonably priced. The 2005 Syrah with the 94 points cost only A$ 25 at the cellar door. The winery is worth a visit. Vitto and Candy are excellent hosts and extremely kind, full or energy and enthusiasm. Vitto has lots of interesting stories to tell. Give them a ring before going there.

We drove back along Highlands Road directly to Yea. Also this drive is worth it. What a lovely outing this was on a fine winters day in rural Victoria. Don’t miss it.

Address:
Vitto Oles & Candi Westney
Rocky Passes Estate
1590 Highlands Rd
Whiteheads Creek
Vic 3660
Australia
+61 3 5796 9366


Jewels of the Upper Goulburn Wine Region Part I

October 25, 2008

Today, I want to start a new series and introduce to you some wine and grape producers from our wine growers association, the Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association. I plan to feature three to four wineries and vineyards at the time. The selection is random. I will start with the wineries with open cellar doors. Of the 30 odd members of our association, about 9 belong to this category. Another 12 are vineyards which also produce some wine under their labels but conduct wine tastings only by appointment. All the others are fruit producers only and do not sell wines commercially.

The first cohort of wineries to be presented consists of Kinloch Wines, Rees Miller Estate and, a small boutique winery, called Rocky Passes Estate. I want to be honest with you. I have tasted wines made by Malcolm Kinloch (Kinloch Wines) and David Miller (Rees Miller Estate) but not the ones made by Victor Oles (Rocky Passes Estate). I have visited the two former wineries (and I know Malcolm and David) but not the latter.

But this is no impediment to write about all three of them. Anyway, we are going to visit Australia for Christmas and we might take this opportunity to get to know the Rocky Passes people.

I am starting with Kinloch Wines. Malcolm and Susan Kinloch have established a wonderful wine business. The vineyard is located in the Booroolite Valley, about 15 minutes by car from Mansfield (almost next to another famous winery of our region: Delatite Winery).

This year at the Federation Sq Showcase Series the Kinlochs were rewarded two gold medals, one for their “2004 Mary Friend Cabernets-Merlot Blend” and another for their “2006 Don Kinloch Sparkling white”. Moreover, the “Mary Friend” red was judged the Overall Best Red Blend in its class at the Award presentation for the Victorian Wine Awards.

2008 was a most unusual year in the Upper Goulburn. Kinloch Wines harvested a record 34 tons of fruit of outstanding quality. From the 2008 vintage three wines have been released so far (cellar door prices in brackets):
-Unwooded Chardonnay (A$ 18)
-Sauvignon Blanc, and (A$ 22)
-a first rosè (A$ 18) made from Pinot Meunier grapes.

I have tasted earlier vintages of the two white wines and they are delicious. When we visited Kinloch Wines in winter, one could see Mount Buller in a not so distant distance, all in white with a beautiful snow cap.

How to find them:
Kinloch Wines
In the Booroolite Valley, the cellar door is warm and friendly and offers gourmet luncheon platters on weekends and public holidays.
Address: 221 Wairere Rd, Boorolite – 15 minutes from Mansfield
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5777 3447
Email: info@kinlochwines.com.au
Web: www.kinlochwines.com.au
Contact: Susan and Malcolm Kinloch

Rees Miller Estate is the next winery in my cohort. Located near Yea – about 15 minutes drive on the highway to Alexandra/Mansfield – Sylke Rees and David Miller own and operate a fully certified biodynamic vineyard and winery. Today about 7 ha are under vines, the farm has a total of about 64 ha. Sylke and David are both very much committed to the protection of the environment, and the organic production of food. They intend to produce pure products for consumption in a way that supports the land and its people.

We got to know Sylke and David when our wine stall was just adjacent to theirs at the 2007 Alexandra Food and Wine Expo. David conducted a very interesting wine tasting, actually my first wine tasting at such an event, and Sylke sold the wines. When we visited their cellar door some time later, they were both on Christmas holidays. To my great surprise Rees Miller wines were available at our duty free wine store in Jakarta, and we did not have to suffer any shortages of their beautiful reds.

How to find them:
Rees Miller Estate
Fully certified biodynamic vineyard situated on the Goulburn Valley Highway, just east of Yea.
Address: 5355 Goulburn Valley Highway, Yea
Open: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily
Tel: 5797 2101
Email: info@reesmiller.com
Web: www.reesmiller.com
Contact: David Miller or Sylke Rees

The last vineyard in this first cohort of Upper Goulburn wineries with cellar doors is Rocky Passes Estate, a small boutique vineyard of about 6 acres (5 acres Shiraz and 1 acre Viognier) located in Whiteheads Creek, near Seymour. I only know their one-page website and their listing in our membership directory. Rocky Passes Estate is another vineyard dedicated to organic grape growing and wine making (there are quite a few in our region). Cropping levels are kept low (about 2 tonnes per acre). The cellar door was opened in 2006. The wines can be ordered by mail, phone or e-mail.

How to find them:
Rocky Passes Estate
Situated at the southern end of the Strathbogie Ranges, the wines are made using organic practices and biodynamic preparations.
Address: 1590 Highlands Rd,
Whiteheads Creek, Seymour
Open: Sundays 11.00 am to 4.00pm or by appointment
Tel: 5796 9366
Email: rockypasses@activ8.net.au
Web: www.rockypassesestate.com.au
Contact: Victor Oles or Candy Westney

I hope I could stimulate your curiosity. The Upper Goulburn Wine Region is a rural place with real people who love what they are doing, have passion for their wines and commitment to the environment.