Peaceful PB Valley
The cool season in Thailand is the best time to visit Khao Yai National Park, just a two-hour drive from Bangkok. The air here is fresh, you can hear nature all around, and if you visit the peaceful PB Valley Khao Yai Winery you can dine on great food, drink a glass of Thailand’s finest wine, take a tour of the expansive vineyard, and then shop for the best local produce.
Located on the fringes of the Khao Yai National Park, PB Valley Estate is recognised as the birthplace of the Khao Yai wine region. PB Valley Estate – and Khao Yai in general – is a hilly and forested region on the Korat plateau and tends to be a few degrees cooler than Bangkok all year round. However, from November to March, which is the winter season, the temperature can drop to 15 – 20 degrees especially at night.
We arrived on the outskirts of Khao Yai early in the morning and decided to first visit Pirom Café, a trendy café serving great coffee, hot snacks, and a selection of Thai food. However, it’s not the food or drinks that attracts the majority of customers, it is the stunning views and relaxing atmosphere that people come to enjoy. Sitting next to a large lake, whichever direction you choose to look, you can see beautiful tree-covered hills.
We spent the best part of an hour just soaking up the natural ambiance, listening to birds chirping and watching countless couples and groups taking ‘Instagram-style’ photos. Pirom Café is also pet-friendly and there were quite a few well-behaved dogs (all on leads, it must be noted) walking and rolling on the grass.
Our trip to Khao Yai was to visit Thailand’s first – and many say, best – winery, PB Valley, which was established in 1989 and produced its first wines almost a decade later in 1998. Over the years, the entire estate has become a major tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of local and overseas visitors on a daily basis. Although, the coronavirus outbreak has stemmed the flow of foreign visitors, Thai families and couples still flock to the winery and its outstanding restaurant, Great Hornbill Grill.
Open daily from 9am, the restaurant is a popular choice and within an hour or so of opening, the place was almost full. The best seats are outside on the veranda where you can get the best views of the vineyards and the rolling hills in the background. The menu is quite amazing with traditional Thai dishes such as Som Tam and Gai Yang (grilled chicken), but those with a serious appetite can indulge with a fine rib-eye steak, succulent ribs or a delicious pizza from the wood-fired pizza oven.
We can certainly vouch for the freshness of the Som Tam and the juicy grilled chicken, which were both presented in a fashionable style; the Som Tam in a wine bottle cut in half. During the cooler month from November to February, guests are entertained with live music, and if you’re lucky, you might just visit during a special event. Either way, you can call in advance to make bookings or to enquire about the schedule.
After a quiet indulgent lunch, we made our way outside to the booking area for the winery tour. PB Valley is home to a variety of red wine grapes that include Shiraz, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon as well as white wine grapes such as Chenin Blanc and Colombard. These grape varieties are grown once a year during the cool and dry season. Pruning is done by hand by a team of professional viticulturists from the end of September to early October. Once the vines are tied in place, nature takes over the roughly 160 days later the grapes are ready for harvest.
However, during our visit, the grapes were still very small. To stop local wildlife feasting on the baby grapes, huge nets are installed to protect the precious produce. Our guide informed us that PB Valley grows table grapes of the seedless Maroon variety, which originate from Australia. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the part of the estate where these were growing he informed us that we could pose for photos with the little pearls but were not permitted to pick any.
The 1 hour and 10 minutes tour is conducted four times every day at 9.30am, 11am, 1.30pm and 3pm and costs Bt350 for adults and Bt300 for children under 12 years of age. You do get to taste a few glasses of wine for your entry fee, whereas children will be served fresh grape juice. PB Valley covers more than 2,500 Rai (1,000 acres) of fertile land and at 300 metres above sea level, provides an almost ideal environment for growing grapes and other fruits.
After visiting the vines, we arrived at the business centre of PB Valley, where the grapes are brought after harvesting. A giant Barrique room is home to hundreds of enormous oak barrels, which we were informed were made in France, as well as several huge stainless steel tanks. The process of making wine dates back thousands of years and like all production processes, winemaking has its own unique fashions and trends. Some vineyards will swear by oak barrels, whereas other may prefer stainless steel, and a few natural winemakers prefer the original amphorae and clay jars.
As the grapes are unloaded from the conveyor, they enter a destemmer and crusher machine from which a wine pulp is pumped into a mash fermentation tank where it sits for a week to ten days at about 20 degrees for red wines and 13-15 degrees for white wine. After racking and pre-filtration, the wine is stored in either an oak vat or stainless steel tank, a decision on this is made by the chief vintner. After ageing, the winemaker tastes samples before deciding on the blending process if any is needed. The final two steps of producing wine are stabilisation and fine filtration before the new vintage is ready to be bottled, sold and drank.
The wines at PB Valley are meticulously made and as such have been widely accepted by the international market. What’s more, not only have these wines won numerous awards but they have also won many orders from around the world. After our tour, we sampled a lovely Chenin Blanc, a fruity Shiraz and a stellar Shiraz – Cabernet Sauvignon. For serious drinks, you may want to inspect Pirom Brandy, a fine XO quality brandy made from the estate’s finest grapes and aged for over six years.
If you would like to spend a quality, fun and informative family day out then a visit to PB Valley Khao Yai Winery is a must. For more information, call customer service at +66 (0) 8173–38783 or +66 (0) 8548–11741 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Punch Media Digital.