After three days in Hua Hin, Ian and I’s relaxation retreat was almost complete. We’d ticked almost every box: sun, sand, sea, and sleep. There was just one last unwinding agent to attend to: wine.
So far, our explorations of Thailand’s unknown wine country had been a wild success. Two days in the Khao Yai district had revealed three beautiful vineyards — the boutique, female-helmed GranMonte Wines, local powerhouse PB Valley, and family-run, organic Alcidini. Now, in a totally different region of the country, we had one more chenin blanc to cheers to at Hua Hin Hills, the southernmost vineyard in Thailand.
About 45 kilometers inland from coastal Hua Hin, the vineyard is picturesquely set among rolling jungle hills dotted with temples. We arrived just in time for the latter of two free tours offered per day, at 1pm and 4pm. The tour was short and sweet and conducted from the back of a bright red, branded, open-air jeep. Had this not been our fourth winery in a week I might have been a little bummed we didn’t stop once for pictures, but as it was I’d had my annual fill of photographing grape vines.
There are other activities on offer to allow you to explore the vineyard a bit more thoroughly. Mountain bikes can be rented for 100B for thirty minutes, or 150B for an hour, and in retrospect would have been a lovely way to explore — yet we were too hungry pre-tasting, and too tipsy post. For the creatives at heart, bottle painting is on offer for 300B per set. Elephant riding is also available, but as romantic as it may seem to cross a vineyard atop Thailand’s national animal, I personally recommend you don’t for all the reasons detailed here.
One important detail to keep in mind is that Hua Hin Hills consists only of a vineyard, not a winery. The production facility, Siam Winery, is located in Samut Sakhon, about two and a quarter hours back towards Bangkok. Someday, I look forward to visiting the winery and taking one of their tours as well!
Togther, Hua Hin Hills and Siam Winery produce Monsoon Valley Wines, one of the most common bottles spotted on shelves in Thailand. The company also produces Spy Wine Coolers, the best-selling “wine-based drink” in the country, a financial stepping stone that allows them to produce their prestige wines. The family behind the brand is no stranger to beverage-based success: the winery was founded by the late Chaleow Yoovidhya, cofounder of and recipe-creator for Red Bull.
In 1986, Yoovidhya’s oldest son Chalerm established the Siam Winery company, which today represents over 30% of the Thai wine market — and recently overtook PB Valley as the most prolific producer in the country. As of 2014, the company was producing 260,000 bottles per year, with over half being exported to Europe, the US, and beyond.
And so after much anticipation, we were off to taste a few in The Sala.
Inside The Sala, which serves breakfast as well as a daytime menu, our eyes widened at the offerings for both wine tastings and treats. The obscenely affordable Khao Yai region had spoiled us, and these prices seemed shocking in comparison. But we quickly decided to throw budgetary caution to the wind, accept that this was going to be far and away our most expensive winery visit, and just enjoy it.
In the end we spent 2,500B (about $70US!) at the restaurant and a further 1,750B ($50US) on wine to take home. Considering the tastings ranged from 100-200B per person at the previous sites we’d visited, it was a good thing we’d decided to laugh about the bill.
We settled into a vineryard-side table and I selected the Sweet Wine Tasting for 240B, which included glasses of the Muscat and Chenin Blanc Late Harvest. Ian went big with the Grand Monsoon Valley Tasting for 1,050B, which included a Colombard, a Cuvée Blanc, a Chenin Blanc, a Shiraz, and a Cuvée Rouge. We passed on the Thai tapas pairings and instead ordered a cheese board, which was perfection. Unlike the wineries we’d visited in Khao Yai, which were European influenced in everything from their menus to their architecture, this one was all Thai.
There’s no mistaking it — these are Thai wines produced from Thai grapes to complement Thai food. The labels are emblazoned with the mythical naga, a Thai guardian figure, and the bottles are stamped with the Thai Buddhist year — currently, it’s 2560 — rather than the widely used Gregorian calendar in which we just rang in 2017. Funny enough, there is one quirk in this otherwise thorough exercise in Thai nationalism: a German winemaker, Kathrin Puff, who makes the magic happen at Monsoon Valley.
After our final toast, I was ready for a little playtime among the vines.
It had been the perfect afternoon — though it hadn’t quite started as planned. We had taken our resort’s free shuttle into Hua Hin to catch the official vineyard shuttle from their Hua Hin Hills Bistro & Wine Cellar downtown. (If you can’t make it all the way out to the vineyard, this is a chic little spot to taste and buy Hua Hin Hills wines right in town!)
The round trip shuttle leaves twice a day for 300B per person, first at 10:30am and returning at 2:00pm and next at 3:00pm and returning at 6:00pm. However, we made the critical mistake of not booking ahead, and arrived to find that the shuttle had filled and left before our arrival. It’s worth noting I’d scoured the website and seen nothing about reservations… but I still should have known better.
Luckily, an ex-employee-turned-taxi-driver was loitering around the bar and heard our tale of woe and offered to take us for 1,000B (about $35) round trip. Considering we were going to spend 600B on the shuttle, it wasn’t a bad deal for a forty-five minutes each way in a private SUV — and he even called the winery for us to let them know we were coming and to hold the tour! Lesson learned. If you plan to take the vineyard’s shuttle, call ahead to book.
So yes, our trip to Hua Hin Hills was a bit pricier and more chaotic than our previous Thailand winery trips. But it was a completely unique experience, and possibly the most scenic — and when it came to The Sala, architecturally impressive — of them all, and so we treasured every last drop.
Cheers, Thailand, for another delicious tasting!
I was worried that one of the vineyards would include elephant rides. Luckily it’s not part of the package when you go for a tasting! I’m so intrigued by Thai wines right now, I can’t wait to try them one time for myself
And I’m also glad they have the mountain bikes as a super green alternative 🙂
Sorry I’ve been missing from the comment world for a bit, but this post is faaaaaabbbbuuuuuuu! Seriously, love the peek into the wine culture of another country (being from so close to Napa makes one a little wine snobby about international wines FOR NO REASON), and I’ll definitely have to check out your previous Thai tasting posts.
Also, the cheers pics of you and Ian are so cute! 🙂
Aw, thanks Maddy! Ha it’s funny you mention that, we went on a wine tour in Maui and the guide did a great impression of his Napa guests warning him that they weren’t going to be impressed. Lol.
OK, swooooon-worthy post!! This looked like the most amazing day, these photos are gorg gorg gorg Alex!! And big hugs for saying/recommending NO to elephant rides – I SO wish more of my friends heading to Thailand on trips would read your blog first!
Feel free to send ’em the link, Emily 😉 I have a post about a great cruelty-free animal encounter in Thailand coming up, stay tuned!
That view is fantastic! And the cheese and bread platter just made me so hungry. Looks like a sweet outing for a relaxing few days. Your blog has opened my eyes up to Thailand so much, can’t wait to read more about this country in the future
Considering I’m not going anywhere else anytime soon, there’s definitely tons of Thailand stuff coming up soon!
I love your red dress!! In fact, I often find myself envying your clothes. Perhaps in the future there could be a post on where you buy your clothes?
Actually, I bought that one on the streets of Khao San Road! I’m not too much of a shopper ha but I have been meaning to do a what to wear in Thailand post, thanks for reminding me!
I have been on winery tours, but I am not much of a wine drinker
Funny enough, I can’t stand red wine! All of these adventures pretty much only see me sipping the whites 🙂
One of my favorite places! Glad you got to enjoy.
How cool Jess! I’ve never met anyone else that has been here. Awesome that you have!
I had no idea there were vineyards in Thailand! When I think of Thailand I do not think of Wine..more beer LOL.
But it sounds like a fun activity 🙂
Definitely! Beer and buckets! 😉
Sun, sand, sea is what I need, maybe less wine but this has got my tastebuds flowing. Good on you for saying no to elephant rides. What does 2017 have in store?
Funny you should ask! 😉
Hahaha I do not know why I asked that after reading the lowdown. Blame mock exam prep for students at school. Get me out of here
Good luck with the exams! 😉
I have a feeling that a lot of people haven’t heard of Hua Hin. I have been there a couple years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t do any wine tasting. 😉 The winery looks beautiful btw.
It was definitely one of the primary reasons we went, and we weren’t disappointed! Awesome day, and slowly ticking all the vineyards off the list…
I love this! I never really knew anything about Thai wine, but now I definitely need to visit some wineries when I go.
Hoping to hit another one next month and then put together a big guide! So stay tuned 🙂
Interesting to read of a winery in Thailand. Who would have thought? I review wineries we have visited on my blog too.
Just a semantic note – “Ian and I’s” is hopelessly ungrammatical. It should be “Ian’s and my”. Sorry, I used to be a teacher!
Keep up the good work. Liz
I love me a quirky winery! I think I’d be far too intimidated to write about one in Napa or anywhere in Italy, really. But Thailand? Why not!
I meant to add, when we were in Phuket the foreign wines were astronomically expensive, even for those quite cheap back home, because the government has put a HUGE tax on them in order to promote the sales of local wine. Now I wish we had tried the local stuff.
Actually, local wine is taxed at the exact same rate, much to the chagrin of local producers! That tax isn’t to promote the sale of local wine, unfortunately. They really get burned by it — I wrote a bit about it in my review of some of the earlier wineries we visited.
Gorgeous photographs! It’s 30-some degrees in Ohio right now, and this is EXACTLY what I want to be doing 😉
Right?! Looking forward to my next vineyard visit next month!
Wow! I would never have thought Thailand would have vineyards and a winery! I’m totally going to check out Hua Hin just because of these vineyards. 🙂
This winery is a definite draw to Hua Hin! So glad we made a weekend away out of it 🙂