After a fabulous Thai wine weekend kick off at GranMonte Vineyards, we were on to our second stop of the day, PB Valley. Appropriately, PB Valley — formerly known as Khao Yai Winery — was the second vineyard in the country to attempt growing wine grapes. Yet as the first winery to open in the now bustling Khao Yai wine region — yup, in Southeast Asia just four wineries makes a wine trail! — PB Valley has earned its self-appointed moniker as the “birthplace of the Khao Yai wine region.”
When I’d written to PB Valley enquiring about the capacity for groups and the availability of tours in English, I received an invitation for a private tour from Heribert Gaksch, the German-born Head of Marketing and Business Development himself.
Heribert greeted us at the entrance with another open-air tram, and promised us a very special behind-the-scenes experience ahead.
As we wound through the seemingly endless fields, it became clear that GranMonte paled in size to PB Valley. With nearly 800 acres, almost 200 of which are planted with grapes, PB Valley easily has the largest vineyard in Khao Yai. Aside from grapes they also grow other produce, much of which finds its way into the fresh meals served in the onsite restaurant.
In its exploratory years, PB Khao Yai Winery planted over fifty different species of grapes until they found their vintage. Today, they plant Syryah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dornfelder, Chenin Blanc and Colombard — though I must admit, they all looked purple and green to me!
In a remote corner of on of the lush vineyards, we came to a stop. The original plan, Heribert explained, had been for us to meet some of the harvest team who had been working the field tirelessly throughout the season. However, sadly, due to the traffic we’d hit leaving Bangkok we were running behind, and they had just left the fields moments before. As punishment for our lateness, Heribert joked, now we were being put to work.
And he handed out baskets and shears and let us loose.
What a blast we had! Later, as we all recounted our highs and lows of the weekend, this moment was listed as a near-universal favorite.
While I doubt we’ll be called back for an interview anytime soon — our rate of grapes per minute was tragically low due to the number of times we needed to stop for selfies — it was an unbelievable experience to get out there, get our hands around some grapes and really see and feel the vines up close and personal.
In between giggles, we learned how PB Valley had come to be. The history of PB Valley wine starts with a different beverage entirely — beer. In 1989, Dr. Piya Bhirombhakdi, former president of Singha Beer (a brand that will be familiar to anyone who has traveled Thailand!) and a passionate entrepreneur, became intrigued by winemaking and established Khao Yai Winery. They made their first planting in 1992, just barely beat to the punch by Chateau de Loei Vineyards in the north, who made their first planting in 1991. After several years experimenting with grapes, the winery opened in 1997, just in time for the first harvest a year later.
Later, as other wineries began to establish themselves in the Khao Yai Region, the company decided to change their name to PB Valley, after founder’s initials, in order to avoid confusion. The logo, a hornbill perched atop a cluster of grapes, is a nod to the vineyards’ location on the cusp of Khao Yai National Park.
Having these precious friends together in one place, tipsy on wine and life and vacation — this is why I’d planned this very trip.
Once Heribert managed to wrestle the shears back from us and wrangle us back onto the bus, we were off to the winery and education center.
Helmed by two Thai winemakers trained in Germany and New Zealand and with a capacity of a million bottles per year, PB Valley competes for the largest winery in Thailand — it was certainly the largest-scale and most impressive production area we personally saw.
No surprises from this former crafter — my favorite aspect was the labeling machine.
Finally, on to the tasting. As we tasted PB Khao Yai Reserve Chenin Blanc, PB Khao Yai Rose, and PB Khao Yai Reserve Shiraz, we learned of the many impressive tables PB Valley wines have made it to, from Thai State dinners to the first class menus of Thai Airways flights.
Like GranMonte, PB Valley also has a gift shop with local sundries and onsite dining at the highly-rated The Great Hornbill Grill. Onsite accommodation is currently under renovation and should re-open soon.
Seventy-five minute tours are run five times per day and cost 300 baht per adult and 250 baht for children ages 4-12. Cooking classes and live music are occasionally featured — check the website for more details on tour times and special events.
When we reluctantly peeled ourselves away from PB Valley, it was only because we were excited to reach our accommodation for the night to rest up and drink up for round two the next day! I’d scoured the internet for lodging options before finally settling on a gargantuan Airbnb in the countryside (get $35 off Airbnb!) where we all could sleep under one roof. I’ll have more accommodation details in my upcoming Khao Yai region guide, but I was so thrilled with our choice — we had an amazing home cooked family dinner, tucked into the wine we’d acquired throughout the day, and played a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. What more could a girl ask for?
Needless to say, day one of our Khao Yai weekend was a wild, wine-soaked success. We could hardly wait to wake up the next morning and do it all over again the next morning.
Missed the first post in this series? Check it out here! Meanwhile, stay tuned for my third and final post from my big beloved Thailand wine trip.
What’s the weirdest wine region you’ve ever been to?
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You had me at that headline. Thailand produces wine? Mind blown. Another reason to head back. I need some more Asia in my life.
Thank you for appreciating that, ha ha! I thought it was quite clever. I really do crack myself up around here at Wanderland HQ…
Wow what a post, what a wonderful trip with so much fun
Thanks Jo-Anne! Appreciate you reading 🙂
Alex, I have a very serious, and very important question for you. Who is that cutie in the B&W photo with you and Ian, and why was I never introduced? 😉 Again, super sad I missed out on this (for the wine, obvs).
LOL. You missed out on both 😛 He arrived days after you left and is a lovely Ian clone/BFF. You two would have gotten on fabulously! Maybe time for a visit!
What a fun tour! I never guessed that Thailand would have a wine region – something to definitely put on my must-see list the next time we’re out there! What was your favorite wine in the batch? Better yet, what stacked up best for Cards Against Humanity?
I have to be honest, I personally didn’t swoon for the wines at this vineyard (it was the only one where I didn’t buy a bottle.) They had some great reds, but I’m a white, rosé, and sparkling girl myself! As for Cards Against Humanity… what happens in that round, stays in that round 😉
I’m still flabbergasted by the fact Thailand produces wine, but I’m starting to buy into the idea! I’ve even been checking the supermarkets for some Thai wine, but I guess I’d have to visit Thailand to bring some home with me! It looks like such a fun weekend trip with friends.
Believe it or not, they actually do export! I’d try checking with the wineries to see if they are available anywhere in your country 🙂 Though, obviously, a trip to Thailand is never a bad idea.
Who would have known there are vineyards in Thailand! So random haha, I had no idea! Looks like you had an absolute blast, and perhaps got a bit tipsy while doing so 😉 It’s my last night in Thailand, maybe I’ll grab a glass of wine! Cheers!
Tipsy on a wine tour? It would be a crime not to be! 😛
Loving this Alex!! You are the queen of alternative Thailand.
Perhaps my proudest crown! Thank you so much Becky!
Not exactly weird, but lesser known: Viriginia Wine County. Went about 5 years ago-it’s awesome! A great escape from DC or Maryland.
Nice! I felt the same about the Finger Lakes wine region in Upstate New York. I had no idea it was up there!
Thanks Carrick! 🙂
Wonderful trip. I visited Thailand last year but I did not know this amazing place. I love this and bookmark it for next trip. Thank for sharing.
Definitely stay tuned for my guide if you plan to visit this region, Thomas! It will be packed with plenty of tips 🙂
Wow Alex, that trip sounds amazing! If you hadn’t convinced me to go to Thailand before, you would’ve definitely done so now.
As for wine regions, I’ve only been to some of the usual suspects: France, Italy, Portugal and South Africa. It’s about time I shook things up, I guess 😉
And I’ve been to none of those, and bunches of weird ones… ha. I’m really working on my alternative wine expert resume, aren’t I?
Thank you so much!