Anyone who knows me knows that ya girl loves a good Vineyard. I also love all-things Rose. I love Rose in any weather. Cold, warm, morning, evening, I am all for it. Which is why when I learned about Gran Monte in Asoke Valley, Thailand I knew it had to go on my road trip itinerary of Northeast Thailand. Better yet, I also visited Farm Chokchai Bulakul one of Thailand’s first cattle ranches and home of the best local steaks. So if you’re looking for something different to explore when in Thailand this is the post for you… Steak, Wine and a heck of a good time!
Wait, There’s a Vineyard in Thailand?
I know what you are thinking. When one thinks of Thailand the word vineyard does not normally come up as the top 10 things we think about.
Yet, there are a few Thai Vineyards and I have made it a mission to visit them all if I can. Today though, I talk all about Gran Monte. It is one of the smaller vineyards but from my research seems to be the best in actual taste.
I have been spoiled with wine living due to my lucky ducks of my mom owning a stunning home there. As such, I still know nothing about a good wine or not. I go by taste. What I do know though it is really hard to grow grapes. The climate is a major factor in the success of a vineyard. It’s no wonder there are only a handful of vineyards in Thailand. It costs money and the care that must go into it is massive.
Driving down the road at Gran Monte felt like a deja vu moment. I knew I was in the very hot climate of Thailand yet, it felt like I could be in Napa, Italy or even France. The winery is located in Khao Yai (thus the main reason we were able to have a visit here. Make sure to read Part 1 here!). The atmosphere is serene and the natural surroundings are gorgeous with the grandeur of the mountain range surrounding you. Making Gran Monte an ideal name for it.
Due to being at 350 meters above the sea level, this is the idea “microclimate for growing high-quality grapes for winemaking in wet tropical region.” Best yet, Gran Monte has this to say about how they curated winemaking techniques for the climate:
“Our viticulture and winemaking techniques are tailor-made to suit the soil and climate conditions particular to Thailand, leading to GranMonte’s unique and high-quality products which we dubbed “‘The best fruit of Thai soil, bottled.’” We pride ourselves on our sustainable viticulture practices which are important in preserving our environment and ensuring health and safety of our workers, and are necessary for producing excellent quality wine grapes in our vineyard.”
You Had Me At Rose
Tours at the vineyard are available and come highly recommended. They do last about 2 hours and cost money. I’ve been told the information you learn is valuable… Full-disclosure I did not do the tour as we hit some traffic and all we wanted was wine and food. The first two sentences come from my 60-year old wine-loving father.
The restaurant is great. Nothing to go on and on about though. You eat there for the view and cause, wine. I would actually recommend either fully embracing the pasta section of the menu, local dishes or sticking with the wine. I was trying to be good and ordered scallops. It was eh. I enjoyed the fried Thai food appetizers much more. Make sure to order the cheese tart with grapes for dessert. IT WAS SO GOOD.
Wine like most alcohol in Thailand is heavily taxed. As such, it can be expensive to get a good bottle of wine. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the prices of the wine and sparkling wine. Bottles started at just under 1,000 baht. They also have INCREDIBLE grape juice for all you mocktail lovers and or children. Do what I did… Started with a cold glass of grape juice, transitioned with sparkling wine and ended with Rose!
A bottle was ordered but I had to go with a Rose. Was it the best damn Rose I’ve had? Nah, not at all but was it the best Rose I’ve had from Thailand? You better believe it! The location and fact that the wine was used from grapes in the vineyard that surrounded me, was pretty cool.
Look At Them Vines
We went on a Sunday in the late afternoon and had the vineyard essentially to ourselves. As such, we walked around in the heat, slightly tipsy and I made Sean do a photoshoot for me. It was also my brother’s birthday so Dad and I made a silly video to send to him. Again, I can’t reiterate how strange it is to be walking through the vines but knowing you are in Thailand. It was a surreal moment and one of my favorite memories so far of our trip here.
The Legend of the Thai Cowboy
Beef is expensive in Thailand. Good beef is very very expensive in Thailand. Much of the beef comes from Australia, Japan or New Zealand. So I was slightly skeptical when I heard that I could get a good steak from beef in Thailand. Yet, I did.
Chokchai Bulakul is in one word weird.
It is really weird and I loved every weird moment at it. Located just outside of Khao Yai it was one of the first kinda mini-western places in Thailand. Now in Khao Yai, you can now see lots of “cowboy” places but this was THE original one. The owner went to the US and fell in love with the cowboy culture. As such, he bought this untouched land (now worth millions) and created not only a tourist attraction but provides great local beef and ice-cream. Farm Chokchai has been around for over half a century and is popular with upper middle class Thai as a day trip.
Half-Attraction and Half-Western
The Farm is massive. They have everything and anything. From a massive multi-story museum that talks history of the farm to just a floor of hella expensive cars. There is a petting zoo where you can pay to feed baby cows and sheep. Fancy riding a pony? No worries, you can do that too. Want to shop and buy a cowboy hat or genuine leather cowboy boots, you are sorted. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this place was weird. There is something super surreal about walking around haystacks whilst being surrounded by wooden cows as Johnny Cash plays through the speakers. Did I mention it is also like 100 degrees out? In Northeast Thailand?
Side Note: I have to warn you they also offer elephant rides. Which was hard for me to see. I don’t support elephant riding like that and I hope that Chockhai ends elephant rides as an attraction. The petting zoo area where the baby cows and sheep are kept are just open a few hours a day where they are then returned to bigger facilities. I had mixed feelings about this but they seemed happy and very well fed. So do what feels comfortable to you. You can easily bypass this area.
Get Yourself A Steak
It’s not cheap but it’s not gonna break the bank too much if you get a steak. I would recommend eating the steak first and then opting to feed the baby cows… Again, not the best steak I’ve had but the best steak I’ve had from Thailand. Top tip, you can buy fresh jerky in spicy beef, sweet beef, and sweet pork. GET THEM ALL. IT IS SO GOOD. Well worth the money and in my opinion, I’d go out of my way to get that again. In fact, I almost made Dad do a detour so I could pick some up at the end of our road trip.
Of course, if you have vast amounts of cows you gotta do Ice Cream and let me tell you. I saw the light when I had Umm! Milk. Highly recommend all the flavors but you have to get the original flavor, fresh milk. You just gotta. It is so familiar yet different all at once. Make sure to take an artsy photo like this and then enjoy.
Wine, Steak And A Different Time
It seems fancy and it is but if you go to Khao Yai make sure to add these two detours to your list. If anything do it for the gram! But really, you should go and enjoy yourself. It is cool seeing how two different families have created a business for themselves starting with a basic land plot.
One of the best parts about staying in one place longer is we get to not only hear about more off the beaten track places but go to them. Thailand is truly one of my favorite countries because every time I come I always learn and experience something new. There is something for everyone which makes it a perfect. You can find yourself on a beach one day and then the next day you could be hiking a jungle or exploring rice fields.
Stay tuned for Part 3 and my final installment on Northeast Thailand. I’ll be talking about Khmer Temples, Buri Ram, and Essan culture!
You can find Gran Monte here.
You can find Chokchai Farm here.