One day trip to PB Valley Khaoyai Winery
Cradled like a precious gift in the palm of the hands, so it is with PB Valley Winery located in the valley of the Khao Yai mountains. A precious estate of land that is drawing much attention to the spirit of life that grows on vines in the property. Welcome to wine country in the heart of tropical Thailand. A land blessed with fertile soil for sowing excellent wine and table grapes and the ambiance of misty mornings and evenings reminisce of European vineyards but found here in the tropics.
PB Valley Winery in Khao Yai is located in the province of Nakhon Ratchasima in the district of Pak Chong, just about a two hour comfortable drive from Bangkok city. Open green country sides with a back bone of mountain ridges and bordered by the Khao Yai National Park, it offers a serene sense of calmness and clean fresh air.
Indulging in the scenic beauty is just one of the attractions of PB Valley Winery. At the entrance to greet you is a beautiful garden of flowers with a view of Khao Yai (Yai Mountain) which is often shrouded in mist unless it is a warm day. Silhouetted against the skyline with lush greenery below and a small lake with resident ducks, one can sit and ponder as the world revolves outside and you are far away soaking in the view to this picture perfect scene.
As PB Valley Winery it but just a short drive from Bangkok city, it is a refreshing change of pace to explore the scenic beauty of Pak Chong district which is well known for its national park and western styled outlets much like a cowboy town. A stop at PB Valley Winery is also a must do while you are in the area as you pamper your taste buds on some really good locally produced wines from the vineyard. With several activities to past your time there from a wine tour to dining at the Great Hornbill Bistro, it will be a most unusual experience which you would otherwise have to travel to other wine producing regions abroad.
The Great Hornbill Bistro offers a stunning view of the mountains and valley as you settle down to a great dining experience of Thai cuisine, fusion and continental dishes. There is even an open fire pizza oven for making your favorite pizza and the bistro also offers wonderful Thai cooking classes with the chefs on request. The ingredients are mostly fresh from their farms and vineyard (yes, you heard that right! Fresh vine leaves and grapes which are used to make dishes fresh from the gardens to your plate!)
The open air dining and indoor dining gives guests a choice of enjoying the great outdoor air or settling for more quiet and private conversations and dining indoors. Decorated in nice wooden finishes throughout. it gives an ambiance of a natural cottage feel. The garden seating is wonderful on cool winter days when it is a comfortable temperature and mist shroud the mountains surrounded by green fields and flowers in bloom. It also makes a great venue for a wedding reception events, outdoor parties and other banquet events.
While you are at the Great Hornbill Bistro, enjoy a sparkling glass of pure Shiraz grape juice or one of their house blend cocktails or even have a wine aperitif to start off your day at PB Valley Winery. Also try their house specialty of PB Valley style Maeng Kam which is made from fresh vine leaves picked from the vineyard and served with fresh lime bits, fresh bird eye chili and with a piquant sweet sauce! This is a recommended must try appetizer at PB Valley Bistro.
If you are a mushroom fan then you absolutely must try their farm fresh mushrooms, grown at their own mushroom farm in PB Valley. Pick your choice of champignons from huge Portobello, Swiss browns, White buttons and Oysters. Ask for the Chefs recommendations of mushroom dishes for the day but my favorite was the Yum Hed dish which was deep fried crispy mushroom combined with fresh young mango, nuts and a combination of lime juice, chili and palm sugar!
Next to the Great Hornbill Bistro is the PB Valley Winery product store. Here you can purchase a range of products made at the two PB Valley sites, one of which is in Khao Yai and the other in PB Valley Chiang Rai. Off course available is their selection of wines produced at the winery of which some are international wine award winners which you also get to sample later on their wine tour. There is a good variety of wines to choose from either Chanin Blanc, Shiraz or Rosettes. There are also premium limited quantity wines available but you will have to see if there is any stock as only a very small limited quantity is produced.
The PB Valley wines are available for sale not only at the winery but also selected wine outlets in Bangkok, however buying from the retail shop in the winery means you can also select premium and special years of bottling. The award winning wines are indicated with a colored medallion stamp on the label so if you want to try one of the special award wines, just look for the stamp.
Worthy of mention are the following achievements of PB Valley winery which includes being the first Thai Wine ( PB Shiraz and PB Chenin Blanc) to be served to the Ministers attending the APEC Meeting in Thailand in 2003. Followed closely by the Awards by the Tourism Authority of Thailand “Kinnaree Award” for Outstanding Performance 2008, “Kinnaree Award” for Outstanding Performance 2013, “Kinnaree Award” of Excellence 2015 and the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014 & 2016. Quite an impressive lists of awards and achievements accomplished over the years!
Aside from producing wines, PB Valley Winery also produces a variety of tantalizing goodies from their farms. Some of these goodies include preserved fresh mushrooms in soy sauce which is used as condiments for rice dishes or special grape chili paste which is a very unusual product used in cooking or even eaten as is, fruit preserves and snacks. Most of these products are for the moment only available at the PB Valley retail store.
They even have a fresh bakery section at the retail store that sells fresh baked pastries made with fruit and preserves from their farms. The Chiang Rai farm produces a variety of fruit products from Passion fruit, Lychee, Longan, Mango and Star Fruit while the PB Valley Khao Yai produces grapes and Japanese melons.
A highlight of PB Valley Winery in Khao Yai is off course their very unique wine tasting tour. This tour last approximately an hour where you have the rare opportunity to go around the vineyards, visit the wine production center, do some wine tasting and visit the little museum with a history of PB Valley and how it started.
A good thing is during this wine tasting tour in Thailand is you do not have to really walk from place to place, there is a tram available to take you on a comfortable tour around the vast property of PB Valley Khao Yai while you sit back and enjoy the view. With around 1000 acres of vineyard and plantation, it is an interesting tour to indulge in, plus you get to learn about wine production and try some of their more famous wines.
You can watch a vlog of the tour to PB Valley Winery Khao Yai right here to get an idea of the activities and things you can do there. Also note that PB Valley Winery Khao Yai has other activities throughout the year which includes a annual farmers market in December and other various interesting fairs of which updates are regularly available at their PB Valley Khai Yai fan page here.
As you take a ride around the property, you will stop at the vineyards. In case you are not aware, PB Valley Khao Yai grows several varieties of grapes including table grapes. The fertile soil of Khao Yai and moderate climate makes it suitable to grow a variety of grapes in the region. In January to March it will be grape picking season when wine grapes are ready for harvesting. On the other hand, table grapes are more or less available almost year round.
During the grape harvest season, PB Valley Winery offers special tours for you to go and pick the grapes and try your feet (yes, feet!) at the traditional way of grape stomping! This fun activity attracts visitors who want to give a hand, eerrrr …feet at what it feels like to try stomping on grapes to make wine. You can also watch how grapes are pruned so that you get the best quality for making wine.
Did you also know that grape vines are not grown from seeds but by root cuttings? There, now you know! These cutting were originally imported from vineyards in Spain, France and Italy then locally grown at PB Valley. The soil at Khao Yai is well irrigated and loamy so that means that the roots of the vines need not go deep into the ground to find a water source and yet is drained sufficiently in the dry seasons and even during wet seasons so as not to have root rot.
After the grapes are harvested and sorted, they are brought to a sorting room where the grapes have their stems removed with a special machine, leaving only the whole grape. Then the grapes are put into a crusher to lightly crush the grapes leaving the seeds intact ( because the seeds are bitter and will change the taste and quality of the wine). The seeds are removed and dried to be sold in the retail shop as whole grape seeds which has a high quality of health benefits while the juice and skin is placed into waiting vats to allow the crushed grape skin to tint the juice.
Two types of vats are used in the wine making process. All grapes no matter green or red, produces a clear transparent grape juice in the crushing stage. The only difference is that for red wines, the skin is left to ferment with the juice to produce the nice deep burgundy color which is further enhanced when aged in oak barrels.
The stainless steel drums are mostly used to produce the Rosette which is a young wine with a slight rosey pink color as the skin is only left on for awhile to give it a slight tint. In the stainless steel vat, sugars and yeast is added to help the juice ferment into wine. The Rosette goes straight from the steel vat to the liquid purification process and then bottled while the other wines are fermented in Oak vats for longer periods before liquid purification and stored into oak barrels.
Two types of oak barrels are used. American oak an French oak. The oak barrels are stored in a special cold room which is temperature controlled to allow the wines to age perfectly before bottling. This wine storage room is the best room in the house at PB Valley Winery! The moment you open the door you can get a whiff of the heady wines aging in the barrels and the aroma is the closest thing to heaven for wine lovers. Wouldn’t you just love to spend all your time in there having a go at every barrel eventually and indulging in some of the best wines produced at the winery!
These oak barrels have been specially imported for the wine production at PB Valley Winery and in the picture below you can get an idea of the size of each barrel. The American oak barrels are slowly being replaced with the French oak barrels which produce a more woody, smokey flavor to the wines. Wouldn’t you like to get your hand on one of those full barrels? It reminds me of those pictures we used to see in books of old pirate sailing ships with caskets of wooden barrels laden with wine and whiskey!
Next up from the production tour is the wine tasting. Something I have been waiting for the whole afternoon! Three chilled bottles of wine were waiting along with a serving of crackers and cheese. Khun Heribert Gaksch of PB Valley Winery took me through the motions of how to appreciate the wines of PB Valley.
Did you know that to fully appreciate the aroma of wine in the glass for ladies or even men, it is better to hold your wine glass at the base as sometimes the perfume from your sleeves or wrist will mask the full aroma of the wine? There, that is another thing you just learnt!
I sampled three different wines which was the Chanin Blanc (White), Rosette and Shiraz. Most of these three wines were bottled in 2013 through 2014 if I am not mistaken.
These three wines are the house specialty and also their best selling wines. The wines are also recommended at the Great Hornbill Bistro and paired with some of their dishes by the chef. If one glass is not enough for you, there is always the option to buy a full bottle at the bistro or retail store!
The Chanin Blanc had a distinct sharp fruity flavor, which would go great with some of the less spicy dishes in Thai cooking or a western meal of fish and poultry. The Rosette is my personal favorite. A light slightly sweet fruity flavor, it is a very easy wine to drink any time of the day with or without food accompaniment. Great as an aperitif or even with snacks, for a non-drinker like me, I could easily have finished the bottle. So if you are looking for a nice wine to drink all day practically or on a special occasion, you really must try the PB Valley Winery Rosette!
Last but not least was the Shiraz, this wine had a nice strong woody fruity aroma and easy on the palate. A perfect accompaniment with Thai slightly spicy dishes and off course red meats. Also very easy to drink but with a more strong flavor than the Rosette, this is a wine suitable for lovers of good red wines. These 3 wines that were sampled are award winning wines at the AWC awards in Vienna and the rare time that Thai wines have won international awards.
The vast expanse of land at PB Valley Khao Yai and PB Valley Chiang Rai means that they are able to be more diversified in their agricultural varieties. Of late is the new crops of coffee beans. Soon full production of Arabika and Robusta coffee beans will be available from PB Valley Winery.
The raw coffee beans will be roasted and packaged at another facility in the PB Valley estate, then vacuum packed into aroma sealed bags for retail. These freshly roasted coffee beans are of the best quality, making it perfect for ground dripped coffee and a must try for coffee lovers.
At the end of your fascinating visit to PB Valley Winery, settle down for a cup of fresh roasted and brewed aromatic Arabika coffee while you enjoy the evening view and followed by a walk in the gardens to take a peek at the resident ducks and rabbits which are a hit for the kids visiting PB Valley Winery Khao Yai as well!
Picture credit: Sukidragon