Grapeless Wine in Chiang Rai

I blame my love for good wine on my parents – especially my Dad – who’s only rule growing up was ‘life’s too short – never drink bad wine’. Our family love for wine started with my parents trip to the Bordeaux region of France when I was just a glimmer in their eye. My house growing up had a converted basement to wine cellar, and I used to love opening the trap door in the floor, climbing down the creaky ladder, and staring at the dusty bottles. Every bottle has a story – from the grapes and the region to the winemaker and the barrel. I’ve been spoiled, all these years, to have the luxury of good wine (and even better company and family) create memories and stories that only happen when sitting around the table with people you love and a glass of California Zinfandel.

Every time Kevin and I have gone home this year we’ve maxed out on the amount of bottles we’re allowed to bring back to Thailand – the land of NO WINE. Sure, we can find wine places – but you end up buying a $10 bottle for $35 here. So it’s only on special occasions that we splurge.

We’d heard about the up and coming ‘wineries of Thailand’ and on our drive to Chiang Mai the other day we finally saw it: a huge sign stating ‘Chiang Rai Winery‘. Let’s GO! We wound off the main highway about 10 minutes through a small village, over a river, and into… rice patties? Wait a sec – where are the grapes?

The grounds were beautiful – we had to cross a creaky bridge to get to the barren tasting room (evidently wine tasting isn’t quite the hit in Thailand like it is in California) where we were greeted by the daughter of the wine maker. We sat down and had a tray with 4 glasses brought to us, and out came the wine. Well…

Not quite the wine I was used to – but fruit wine. Wine made from Lychees, Mangosteens, and herbs. Interesting. We tasted, and I was surprised that it wasn’t THAT bad. I mean, I’d never be able to sit down and drink a full glass of the stuff, but it wasn’t exactly horrible either. It was just – different. Very mango-steeny. There was no tasting fee, so we obligingly purchased a bottle of their ‘Thai Tokay’ which is a sweet herbal wine made from Thai herbs. It won first prize for the best Thai wine in 2002, and is supposedly very popular amongst Thai women because it’s so SWEET.