Superb wine and food pairing menus at Monsoon Valley Vineyard
If you’re serious about wine you might roll your eyes at the mere thought of a winery in Thailand but, as the old saying goes, “don’t knock it, till ya try it!” That bit of sage advice couldn’t be truer when it comes to visiting the Monsoon Valley Vineyard. In fact, renowned wine critic Robert Parker remarked that the 2008 Monsoon Valley Columbard “had a resemblance to the wonderful Colombard that used to be made in Napa Valley by the owners of Chalone”.
Built on a former elephant corral, this valley vineyard sits roughly 150 metres above sea level, protected from some of the harsher extremes of the Thai weather. The soil type mixes sandy loam with slate, making it perfect for planting Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Sangiovese, Muscat, and the aforementioned Colombard. This geographical region is on the 13th latitude, which classifies the vineyard’s output as ‘New Latitude’ wine—a combination of the New and the Old World, accentuated with an exotic touch.
The first planting dates back to December 2004, and the area used for cultivation has increased year by year. Currently there are 300 rai (100 acres) given over to planting, and the grapes grown here are processed in nearby Samut Sakorn province at the Siam Winery—founded in 1986 by Chalerm Yoovidhya (the man behind Red Bull)—where German-born winemaker Kathrin Puff oversees the production of Monsoon Valley wines, the label used by Siam Winery for their premium vinos.
Visiting Monsoon Valley Vineyard (as of March 1st the name has been changed from Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, to avoid confusion) is a wonderful daytime excursion if you are in the Hua Hin area. Visitors who make the journey—it’s about 45 km west of downtown Hua Hin—can explore the vineyard by jeep (2 tours per day), by mountain bike (30 minutes for B100, or B150 for an hour), or on the back of an elephant (B300 for 15 minutes, or B500 for a half-hour). But tour or no tour, it’s worth the trip just to experience the fabulous food and extraordinary views on offer at The Sala Wine Bar & Bistro, where an elevated, outdoor, wraparound terrace overlooks the broad expanse of mountain and valley. There’s lots to choose from on the menu, but indulging in one of the expertly curated food and wine paired tasting sets is a wise move. There are four such tasting sets to choose from, ranging in price from B400 for the Sweet Wine Tasting Set, to B1,730 for the Grand Tasting Set.
Among the many highlights was the chilled crabmeat and apple timbale, paired with a faultless 2016 Monsoon Valley Colombard (the vineyard’s best-seller), notable for its hints of green apple and gooseberry. We were also impressed by the 2012 Cuvée de Siam Blanc, a 50-50 Chenin Blanc and Colombard mix with amazing golden-yellow colouring, and hints of honey and almond (which paired beautifully with the foie gras terrine). This vintage is one of the winery’s premium flagship range offerings, denoted by the black tiger on the label.
Fans of fruity wine will love the 2015 Monsoon Valley White Shiraz, which has an easily discernable strawberry backbone, offset by a little cracked pepper. It makes a great seafood mate, and in this case paired well with the lobster and red curry. Other highlights included the 2015 Monsoon Valley Shiraz, which beautifully complimented the lovely smoked duck breast, while the 2011 Cuvée de Siam Rouge—another of the black tiger label premium vintages—perfectly partnered with a juicy cocao accented roasted lamb chop. Finally, the 2016 Monsoon Valley Muscat, served with a tiramisu parfait dessert, capped the meal off beautifully.
We also snagged a couple of not-on-the-tasting-set-menu specials, beginning with a taste of the captivating Monsoon Valley Blanc de Blancs Brut, a dry sparkling wine with toasty oak character that made the accompanying lemongrass tuna tartare all the more enjoyable. The other sneaky sip was the impressive 2016 Monsoon Valley Sangiovese Rose—a wine style I’ve never actually tried before. Paired with twin slices of seared black pepper tuna, it was a lovely introduction to a new best friend.
Note: On Saturday March 11th there will be a special Harvest Dinner celebration. The event runs from 4pm to 9:30pm, and includes a delicious 4-course pairing dinner with award-winning Monsoon Valley wines. Tickets are B3,500 net, and a round-trip transfer is just B300 per person.
Monsoon Valley Vineyard
Open daily: 9am-6:30pm (8pm Nov-Mar) | 1, Moo 9, Baan Khork Chang Patana
Tel: 081 701 0222, 081 701 0444 | www.monsoonvalley.com