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TRAVEL: Experiencing Great Wines and Good Food on a Vineyard in Thailand

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It was a two hour drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai so we had to wake up early. Our van was waiting in the hotel’s parking lot at around 8:30 AM, even though we agreed to meet at 9:00 AM. Good thing, we try to be as early as possible and we went down to the lobby at 8:45 AM. Or maybe we were just excited for this new experience. We met with the Thai driver and confirmed that he was driving us to GranMonte vineyard and winery in Asoke Valley, Khao Yai, Thailand.

And then, we drove to the vineyard.

The two-hour drive to GranMonte didn’t feel that long. Unlike Bangkok, which feels as traffic-jammed as Manila, the drive going to Khao Yai is like taking NLEX. It was pretty smooth. There was a great view of nature along the way. However, unlike NLEX, giant Buddha statues appear every now and then along the way. It was a nice sight to see though.

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GranMonte is a family-owned estate. Visooth Lohitnavy’s passion for wine is the inspiration behind it. He founded GranMonte, which conveniently lies at the foothills of KhaoYai National Park. The name “GranMonte” translates to “Big Mountain”.

This is also where Visooth, his wife, Sakuna, and two daughters, Nikki and Mimi have settled.

Both the vineyard and winery operations are under the watch of Nikki Lohitnavy, the in-house oenologist and winemaker.

By the way, if you plan to take a tour of GranMonte, I suggest you book a tour beforehand. We booked our tour the night before. We just called them up. You can find their details at www.granmonte.com. Also, the best time to do the tour is when the grapes are in bloom. When we went there, they just harvested the grapes so sadly the vineyard was a blank slate. They told us that harvest will be by February so maybe go before that time.

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The grapes were just harvested so… no grapes. 🙁

We availed of a package tour – a tour of the vineyard and winery, wine-tasting, and a lunch set we can enjoy at their restaurant, VinCotto.

Arriving at 11 AM at the vineyard, they asked us if we wanted to start with the tour or the lunch. Since we were still full from breakfast, we decided to take the tour.

Vineyard and Winery

Here’s a little background of the vineyard:

GranMonte Estate Single Vineyard has a 15-hectare wine grape planting area that lies in Asoke Valley, 350 meters above sea level. Some of the current varieties they produce include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Semillon, Verdelho, Durif, and Grenache. All their grapes are grown at their estate and only used for their wines.

We rode on this purple open mini-bus to tour GranMonte’s 15-hectare vineyard. Unfortunately, the grapes were just harvested. Otherwise, the vineyard would have been blooming with it.

After the vineyard, they brought us inside the winery (where the magic happens).

GranMonte’s winery opened in 2009 with a maximum capacity to produce 120,000 bottles of wine annually. The winery has a state-of-the-art facilities with equipment imported from France, Germany, Italy, and Australia. It operates in close coordination with the vineyard.

There was a slideshow presentation inside the winery. But what took my attention are the large, steel vats. Apparently, this is where the wine is produced (and not by stepping on the grapes). I was expecting to hear that they were stepping on the grapes to get the wine and I jokingly asked about it, and they told me that they don’t do it that way. Plus, that would not be hygienic.

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To ensure quality, these wine-making equipment are imported from various parts of the world.

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BRB, bottling…

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No labels… yet

After the wine is extracted through this vats, they are either placed on oak barrels (for red and white) to age or on bottles (for sparkling wine) to age as well.

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To age properly, these bottles of sparkling wine are not to be touched

They gave us a quick tour of the wine cellar where the oak barrels and wine bottles are stored to age. The temperature and humidity in the cellar is controlled to ensure the best-tasting wine. I’m not a wine expert so I just thought that’s the reason. LOL. For me, the tour of the wine cellar was the highlight. It was a unique expert. Also, it makes you feel like a rockstar surround with wine barrels.

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Since it wasn’t busy season, our tour felt like a personal tour of the vineyard. I just wish I saw the grapes too.

Wine-Tasting

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We had no use for the spit bucket

The vineyard and winery tour was capped off with wine-tasting.

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The wines we tasted

I’m not an expert on wines, I’m just an expert in drinking them so I just enjoyed every glass they served us. We tasted four of their most decorated wines – white (2014 GranMonte Viogner), rosé (2015 Sakuna Syrah Rosé), red (2011 The Orient Syrah), and dessert (2014 Bussaba Natural Sweet Wine).

These wines have won in various competitions from Hong Kong and Vienna.

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But first… let me take a selfie. My handy-dandy OPPO F1s with selfie stick was put to good use. 🙂

My personal favorite, the 2015 Sakuna Syrah Rosé.

Montino Cellar Door

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If you want to by GranMonte wines and other homemade products, make sure to stop by Montino Cellar Door. All their products are available here. They have delicious and healthy homemade goods including GranMonte’s famous 100% fresh grape juice, seasonal fruit jams, cookies, oliva dips, red wine jellies, salad dressings, pasta sauces, and baked products. You can also have a taste of their products before making a purchase.

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VinCotto – GranMonte’s In-House Restaurant

VinCotto is GranMonte’s own restaurant that offers indoor and al fresco dining. It seats 200 guests and offers traditional Thai cuisine. It also offers home-style Western cuisine adapted from the Lohitnavy family recipes. Of course, their food is best paired with their best wines.

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Thai set starters

The restaurant caters to a wide-range of diners, both local and foreigners. Hence, they offer both Thai and Western menus.

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Main course on one of the Thai sets

I had a Western and Toni had Thai. It was a three-course lunch that started with an appetizer/salad, main course, and dessert.

We paired our lunch with the 2015 Sakuna Syrah Rosé. We’re on vacation so getting drunk is part of it. LOL.

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We also decided to dine al fresco. The fresh breeze and the relaxing view of the surroundings is calling hard to be enjoyed.

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After this visit at GranMonte, I realized there is a lot more to see in Thailand. Sure, there are temples and palaces, floating and night markets, but there is still a whole more to explore. Visiting a vineyard and winery is something unique in this trip. If ever, I’d like to be back at GranMonte, just to see how they harvest the grapes. Also, since GranMonte is located in Khao Yai, next time, I might spend more time in this area than in Bangkok. Also, the Khao Yai National Park is calling.

*All photos taken using OPPO F1s.

*Full disclosure: We paid for our the trip and the tour of GranMonte. In order to give you accurate input for your trips, which is very important to us as always, we made sure the content on this review shows our personal experience and honest opinions.