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


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.

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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.

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From the vineyard emerged the first group of dancers

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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.

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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.


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


GranMonte Estate – 2009 Sakuna Rosé

October 9, 2011

“New latitude wines”, is a catchphrase coined in 2004 by Bangkok based wine writer Frank Norel.

For a long time the tropics were not considered suitable for the production of grape vine. The territory between latitude 30 and 50 were vintners “nowhere land”, so to speak.

This has certainly changed over the last decade. Nowadays grapes are grown in places like Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Brazil, and of course Thailand.

In November this year (12.-18.11.) already the 3rd International Symposium on Tropical Wine will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Beautiful colour – Rosé is ideal for the hot days in Bangkok

So far, I have visited about half of the Thai wineries. I love the wines produces by GranMonte Estate, a Thai wine producer from the Khao Yai wine region in the Asoke valley.

GranMonte is a family business and boutique vineyard. At this years Decanter World Wine Awards GranMonte won two silver and one bronze medals. This is recognition of the hard work of Nikki and her parents, Sakuna and Visooth Lohitnavy.

GranMonte Estate – 2009 Sakuna Rosé

Recently I discovered that I had “forgotten” a bottle of 2009 Sakuna Rosé in my wine fridge. Since it was a beautiful sunny day, the GranMonte Rosé wine was my natural choice to accompany our lunch.

Thai wines lend themselves to be paired with Thai food as well. The high acidity of the whites is a good requisite for such food and wine pairing. The Colombard and Chenin Blanc varieties are doing well in the tropics and are producing stunning examples of New Latitude Wines. But also Syrah and Cabernet are doing well.

The back label advised to consume the bottle within one year. Oh, I thought, it’s 2011 now and the wine was from 2009! Would it be too late?

Alas, it turned out that the bottle was perfectly fine. The Rosé made from Syrah grapes tasted fresh and fruity as the previous bottles I had served.

In an earlier blog entry I have described how to get to GranMonte Family Vineyard. The winery is definitely worth a visit. The trip from Bangkok to the Asoke valley takes less than two hours. However, I do know how the current monster floods have affected the region and the roads to get there. Maybe the end of the rainy season is a better time for a visit.

Luckily there is shop in Bangkok where you can get the GranMonte wines.

Address:
Granmonte Co,Ltd.
17 / 8 Soi Sukhumvit 6, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110
Tel : +66-2653-1522 Fax : +66-2653-1977
Mb. : +66-8-9169-7766
Marketing@granmonte.com

Address at Khao Yai
Granmonte Vineyard & Wines
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
Nakornrachasima, Thailand
Tel : +66-36-227-334-5


Vineyards of Thailand Part 2: Gran Monte, Asoke Valley, Khao Yai

January 11, 2010

Gran Monte vineyards

I have visited Gran Monte located in the Asoke Valley in the Khai Yai area before. But this time we did not have an appointment with the boss, Mr. Visooth Lohitnavy, and a winery tour was out of the question. We played the innocent tourist, and walked right into the cellar door and tasted the new vintage.

Cellar door to the right, beautiful mountains ahead

The tasting room

2009 was a great year for Gran Monte. The winery won about 20 national and international awards for its “new latitude” wines, and is now firmly established as one of Thailand’s top producers easily matching international standards.

Wines on display in the tasting room

2009 Spring Chenin Blanc

Though Chenin Blanc is usually not “my variety”, I just loved the ‘2009 Spring Chenin Blanc’ which won a silver medal at the AWC Vienna International Wine Challenge 2009. It’s a very fresh wine with a beautiful bouquet, and a clean finish. I liked it much better than the ‘2009 Sole Unwooded Chenin Blanc’. The ‘2009 Sakuma Rose Syrah’ was not for tasting but we bought some bottles nonetheless. Finally, we bought a whole selection from different vintages, varieties and price ranges. More about the food and wine pairings and our experiences with Gran Monte wines will follow soon.

Newspaper reviews about Nikki Lohitnavy

The daughter of Visooth Lohitnavy, the managing director and CEO, is Nikki (or Visootha). She is the first female wine-maker in Thailand. With a degree in oenology from Adelaide, the young vintner is on a mission, and one can feel this when visiting Gran Monte. The 2009 vintage with its excellent whites shows her hand.

Gran Monte has a guest house and restaurant at the winery. The park around the house and the cellar door is very lovely too. When we visited the place was very busy, with many visitors dropping in, most of them Thai. Apart from wine, there are a wide range of local produce including creams and lotions available from the shop.

Gran Monte is definitely worth visiting when going on a winery tour in Thailand, a “must” so to say. There are many other interesting things to visit in the Asoke valley and its surroundings. Khao Yai is just a beautiful region.

Address:
GranMonte in Bangkok
Granmonte Co,Ltd.
17 / 8 Soi Sukhumvit 6, Sukhumvit Road,
Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110
Tel : +66-2-653-1522
e-mail: Marketing@granmonte.com

GranMonte Vineyards and Wines at Asoke Valley, Khao Yai
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
Nakornrachasima, Thailand
Tel : 081-923-200-7 , 084-904-194-4, 081-900-828-2 , 080-661-755-5
www.granmonte.com