Phaya Yen, Thailand

Photo: PB Valley khaoyai Winery

After a few days in Bangkok, you started to get twitchy. You loved sampling the street food, visiting the temples, and getting the best (and cheapest) massage of your life. But you desperately needed some fresh air and silence. So you tracked down the friendly concierge at your hotel. You expected him to suggest a floating market, an ancient city, or a national park as a day trip. Instead, his response shocked you.

The concierge proposed PB Valley Khao Yai Winery. Yes, a winery in Thailand. You didn’t even know that Thailand grew grapes or produced wine. So you were intrigued. Very intrigued. Of course, you started planning the adventure on the spot.

When Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, and Tempranillo grapes were planted in 1989, PB Valley Khao Yai Winery became one of Thailand’s first wineries. Its vineyards sit in the cool hills almost three hours northeast of Bangkok. They’re in the Khao Yai Wine Region, which is home to cows and covered with orchards. Plus it borders Khao Yai National Park, the country’s third-largest national park, where wild elephants still roam. The setting couldn’t be more picturesque.

A gorgeous landscape doesn’t equal good wine, though. So you joined the tour. The trolley wove around the vineyard with stops to explain the winery’s history, look at the vines up close, learn about the production process, and walk through the cellar. Three glasses of wine were waiting for you at the end of the tour. The Chenin Blanc smelled like tropical fruit. The Shiraz Rosé was refreshing on such a hot day. While the slightly sweet Tempranillo changed your expectations of the Spanish grape.

The wines on their own were interesting. But they blossomed with food. After the tasting, you moved to the Great Hornbill Grill. The restaurant’s wooden tables and wood-fired pizza oven are set among the vines. Miang bai angung (stuffed wine leaves), Java barb (fish) salad, baked vermicelli with river prawns, and even a grape pizza soon started filling the table. The wines now paired perfectly with the local cuisine and the rising temperature. Your skepticism dissipated with each bite and sip. Thailand is officially on the wine map.

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