Many vineyards around the world are steeped in old family traditions. This is no different from the story of the GranMonte Vineyard and Winery in Khaoyai, which is in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima next to the Khaoyai National Park in Thailand. Even though it is not located in the normal latitude of wine growing regions of Europe, Australia or the Americas, GranMonte could not be situated in a more exotic location of tropical Thailand. Adding it to one of the pioneers of the wine industry in the country and a blooming wine tourism industry.
GranMonte is a true family run winery where it is a winery with the one and only woman enologists (winemaker to us normal people) in Thailand. The vineyard is a family affair which includes the father, mother, and two sisters. The father, Khun (which refers to a respectful way of addressing Mr. / Mrs. /Miss in Thai) Visooth Lohitnavy, started the GranMonte vineyard in 1999 and building a winery in 2009 when he was joined by his daughter, Khun Nikki Lohitnavy, after she graduated from Australia with a viticulture and enology degree. Khun Nikki became the first and till this day, the only female winemaker in Thailand who is of Thai origin, which is a tremendous achievement.
While the father and Khun Nikki run the development of the vineyard and the winery, Khun Sakuna (the mother) and Khun Mimi (the sister), manage the marketing and promotional aspects of the family business. The dedication, passion and hard work of this wine-loving family unit, has brought the GranMonte Vineyard and Winery to the forefront of wine makers and vineyards in Thailand.
Having established itself over the years as a successful vineyard which was based a lot on research and development while working with, one of them is Mahidol University Agriculture Department to develop a climate control system that has help the vines to grow healthily and yield good crops yearly, to the investment in state-of-the-art machinery and brewing equipment to process and ferment the wine.
A visit to the GranMonte Vineyard and Winery always starts with a guided tour of their vineyard and facility. The best tours are in the mornings when the climate is cooler and the sun not fully hot overhead. The first tour starts at about 11.00 am from the reception and retail area of the complex. GranMonte provides a comfortable electric tram with a PA system and an employee of the vineyard who is knowledgeable about the types of grapes, growing process and the brewery to narrate about the places you will visit during the tour.
First off in the tour is a ride to the vineyard itself which shows you rows of grapevines from the variety of Chenin Blanc, Syarah, Duriff, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Verdelho, Semillon and Viognier. The origins of the grape vines are explained along with the method of growing them and about the harvest season which is mostly in the month of late February when the climate is close to that of the temperate countries. This is also the time when there is a harvest festival at the vineyard and you can take part in some of the harvesting activities along with a Farmer’s Market.
After the vineyard, you will visit the brewery where the grapes are collected, processed, fermented into wine and bottled. This is the department where the research and development of the wines are undertaken by Khun Nikki. Inside the brewery is a grape sorting area, and a special room for the testing of wine varieties, a fermentation room with large stainless steel drums, an oak barrel fermentation area and a bottling area. GranMonte produces about 80,000 bottles of wine a year ranging from reds, whites and pinks.
The oak fermentation room has a wonderful aroma of fermenting wines and the oak barrels which the wines are kept in, are fully imported from France where each barrel costs approximately USD3,000 each and they are changed annually. Many of the wines produced at GranMonte are also exported to (surprisingly) European countries such as Germany and to the Asian region of Japan and the Maldives.
It is interesting to observe how the wine is processed but in order to see this it would have to be during the harvest time. On regular day visits to the wine making facility, you would most probably see Khun Nikki and her team busy at crafting and research into new wines or the bottling of wines from the many oak barrels.
The last stop is back to the reception and retail area where the wine tasting room is located. It is an annex room to the retail entrance area, sporting a contemporary ambiance of dark rosewood furnishings, a bar counter, huge wine chiller and well laid out tables with glass wine samplers alongside traditional cracker and cheese accompaniments.
The wine tasting starts off with a short video presentation on the story of the vineyard and winery while the staff prepare the wines for sampling. On the table is an innovative table mat which indicates what each glass of wine is going to be and its flavors, and properties. The wine tasting is for 4 types of wines which are the 2017 Gradient Verdelho (a white wine), 2017 Sakuna Syrah Rose (a rosette wine), 2014 Heritage Syrah (a red wine) and the 2012 The Orient Syrah (a red wine).
Many of the wines produced from GranMonte Vineyard and Wineries have won accolades of awards from European wine competition circuits as well as having been recognized with certificates from many establishments which are a testament to the quality, flavors and standard of wines produced which rival that of the more popular wines from Europe, Australia and the Americas.
After the wine tasting you can make your way to the sales and retail area which has a well-laid out display of goodies such as a variety of edibles from homemade fruit cakes to bottles of jams, pasta sauces and even toiletries. These items make good souvenirs of your visit to the winery. You can also buy their famous wines of which there are approximately 14 varieties for sale. There is also a small cafe where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea while enjoying the view of the vineyard.
For those who are interested to spend more time at the GranMonte Vineyard and Winery, there is a nice guesthouse in the vicinity which overlooks the best part of the vineyard and offers an astounding view of the rising and setting sun. Comfortable and complete with all modern amenities and off course breakfast, it is the perfect getaway from the bustling city over a weekend. The cold seasons of November till February are a wonderful time to spend holidays at the vineyard when the grapes are close to the harvest season.
Did you know that GranMonte Vineyard also has a lovely little bistro called Vincotto that has a superb view next to a creek? You can enjoy a delightful set lunch or dinner here which serves a good mix of western and local Thai cuisine accompanied by more wine from their vineyards. You could enjoy a great package of a vineyard tour, wine tasting and set lunch at the GranMonte Vineyard when you visit the Khaoyai region. As with most vineyards in the area, getting there means that you require your own form of transport from either a prearranged travel agent, a car hire company or to make arrangements with a car and driver service to bring you there. However, visits to the vineyard is a rewarding day trip as these are the few of its kind in the South Asian region that have successfully managed to cultivate and produce remarkable collections of wines.