Village farm and winery is a boutique winery in the middle of the hills in nam keow. Along with the students and profs of CACS, our first day in this little winery has been gifted with many surprises. My dad and I were supposed to share a room but we were booked separately instead so this is pretty cool for me. I have the whole bed and bath to myself in a log cabin overlooking khao yai’s countryside. It’s beautiful and it’s a place that really takes you far, far away from all the hustle in the city!
It is funny though, since I am alone in the room, it’s pretty silent in here. But I can hear the conversation of the people next door. Not that I’m eavesdropping, there’s just really nothing to listen to here but the birds, the wind, the tree branches and the smooth air coming from the air conditioner in front of me…and the conversation next door. I hope I won’t have any problems tonight though, I’m a little freaked out about what my mind would brew if I hear muffled snoring. I went next door and dad even had a wooden bathtub all to himself! The students were in the biggest cabin and they had an infinity pool!
Our winery tour started with a welcome drink of grape juice and a short itinerary review by the owner, Mr. Virawat. This winery is currently being operated by Mr. Virawat who hired a Frenchman to supervise all the wine making. After lunch and our short intro to making wine in their winery, I started to appreciate their drive to create beautiful wine from Thailand. Although still a young winery, I especially liked their Mo Cherie Rose 2009 which had a beautiful bouquet of strawberries and candy. Although a bit high on the tannin, this was something that would fit the Thai food we were eating. The grape juice was absolutely amazing too.
Winemaking in a non-winemaking country is a very courageous undertaking, you wait more than ten to twenty years to get your wines on the good list. So far, this winery is on their 10th but you can already see that they’ve been striving hard to make the most out of their wine making potential. This one is truly a labor of love. It makes you wonder how much surplus money these guys have to spare on an undertaking like this. It’s pretty awesome.
After lunch we were given a tour of the wine making facility. This is a boutique wine maker, they only a have a few vats and a small temperature controlled room for their barrels that have been stacked up to save on space. We were given some rest time and then went about an hour drive to the satellite plantation where we were going to have the night harvest. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting much because I’m not too in touch with the wine making scene here in Thailand and from what I’ve seen back in Village Farm, they always reiterated that they used to be more of a vegetable and fruit farm before moving into planting grapes. It’s funny because whatever I expected was shattered by the beautiful setup and festivities coming in a few hours.
Finally, I started seeing grapes. After long winding roads of wilderness and lots of forests, there were grapes…rows and rows of grapes planted on the side of the hill. I was starting to feel like I was in Europe except it was pretty warm, and I was in shorts. The doors of the van opened and we were welcomed by rows and rows of grape vines with fruits, and a large log terrace, and a beautifully decorated reception area with a wooden sign that says “Night Harvest Festival”. Our students came out of the vans in awe and they started running to the grape vines for picture taking.
There was a tiny small hill and when I reached it, there were little chairs and tables and cocktails set up with a small wine booth where people can drink and socialize. There was also a band in country clothing playing “La Vie en Rose” and all these classics on top of an old wooden pick-up truck. It was beautiful. Suddenly I realized that this was really something they direly prepared for…and it was beautiful. Everyone took their own positions, going around, taking pictures, sipping wine and eating canapes, others liked to stay beside the band and play around with them. I actually felt like I was in one of those old movies, where the baron had an estate and people were invited to some late afternoon snacks…only I was horribly ill-dressed (I was in shorts and a pair of ballet slippers) since I thought that my dress would be something I would regret wearing to a night harvest.
The sun started to set and our group was given a special tasting of the Village Farm’s best vintages, we also had a more formal virtual tour of the Village Farm. You really have to hand it to the Thais, they make everything so beautiful since they are so passionate about their work. We were led to the large terrace, where there were seats prepared for about 70-100 persons. The tables were set and we were given a choice of dishes to eat for our dinner. There was a fresh salad bar, the wine was flowing and so was the grape juice, and again there was a band singing old European favorites. The fields were beautifully lit, and after dinner (this was their first time to be open to the public, and i’m very much amazed that the food was good, honest and properly executed), they opened the night harvest to everyone.
Everyone grabbed their own boxes and were given these headlamps and shears to pick the grapes. The other workers also helped and carried some of the boxes for the ones who don’t want to carry stuff. Of course, I wanted to do some real harvesting so I dragged the box and filled it. In about an hour, I filled up 3 boxes, my stomach was filled with stray grapes, and my legs were itchy from the grass tips that hit my skin. I was tired but happy. And then of course, our mates at the school were all smiles back at the table, some of them even tried to stuff their bag with grapes (hahah this is so Filipino I laughed). Lastly, we were treated to a small cheese platter and another sampling of Mr. Virawat’s vintages. He is truly so proud that he opened this to the public, and I for one would recommend it to any wondering foodie on a budget (this tour is much cheaper than Europe, and you see different kinds of wineries varying in size and style as I realized after the tour). In the end, everyone was thoroughly amazed and impressed.
Back at the Village Farm, when some people decided to turn in to sleep, we decided to go on with the night harvest’s festivities. There was grape crushing! Girls were given skirts and are carried into these large vats filled with grapes to crush them with their feet. I totally had to try this one, so I grabbed a skirt, washed my feet and my dad carried me into the vat. The band was playing festive music as we all danced around the vats and crushed the grapes. This was of course, purely ceremonial and the real grapes from our harvest were currently being sorted behind us and were being readied for de-stemming and skinning.
Enjoy the rest of the pictures
Part 2 of this post, watch out for: The PB Winery & Gran Monte Winery in Khao Yai