A Taste of Home – Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

Despite the bombings and the chaos of Mother’s Day weekend, my friends and I decided to stick it out in Hua Hin.  And I’m glad we did, after the initial two bombings Hua Hin fell back into being a sleepy little beach city.

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One of the few things I dislike about Thailand is the serious lack of wine.  Not that it’s really anybodies fault, wine just isn’t part of Thai culture.  I guess hot and humid isn’t good for growing grapes, but the only thing you can grab to drink around here that’s local is either beer or rice rum, AKA cheap Hong Tong and Singsom, AKA death and destruction.  Recently I’ve discovered this SUPER Thai rice whiskey that doesn’t have any writing on it in English & smells like rubbing alcohol, but this is about wine not whiskey, I’ll save that for later.  So when one of my friends let it slip that there’s a winery in Hua Hin and that we go, I immediately started foaming at the mouth.  Wine tastings were one of my favorite things about studying abroad in Italy, and are still one of my favorite things to do at home, ex. my going away party winery hopping in Michigan.

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Throwback to enjoying the finer things in life, in Michigan, with the squad.

Seeing as Hua Hin tends to attract a wealthier class of traveler, it makes sense that they have something western and posh like a winery.  I also saw an excessive amount of cheese in Hua Hin compared to other areas in Thailand.  We decided that is probably due to the fact that people can actually profit from selling cheese despite heavy import costs because people who visit here can actually afford to buy it.  And I don’t mean crappy processed American style “cheese” that you can find at 7/11 either – I mean the good stuff; like Brie, Gouda, Gruyere, and everything else your heart could possibly desire.

So we made a reservation, and on Saturday around 4 we hired another van to drive us about 45 minutes to Hua Hin Hills.  The winery was absolutely gorgeous; it had the rolling hills filled with grapes of western wineries coupled with the lush Jurassic-Park-esque hills of Thailand in the background.  I was excited to see that there were in fact grapes, as I have heard rumors that cheap rice wine is consumed in Thailand on occasion.

As a reminder to the fact that were still in Thailand, after sitting at our table we saw elephants in the distance.  Hua Hin Hills offers a tour of the winery on the back of elephants.  Personally I wouldn’t do this because they use a bench contraption that isn’t humane, and they allow multiple people on an elephant at once which is also not fun for the elephant, plus I’m too poor to spring for an elephant ride through a winery, but it was still cool to see elephants walking through a vineyard.  But if you’re into that stuff and you’re not a peasant(like me) seeing a vineyard on the back of an elephant would be pretty cool.

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I was expecting to do a tasting with a sommelier and eat crackers and be told to sniff for the “essence of pear” and all that jazz, but of course, once again my western expectations were not met.  You only really see the winery and do a legitimate tasting if you do the elephant tour.  The “tasting” I decided to buy was just 3 glasses of wine at my table, so it was more like a “with dinner” kind of thing.  Of course, they had to pour one at a time, wait 15 minutes, and come back because alcohol gets warmed up in about 30 seconds without ice here.  Have you ever had ice in your beer?  After coming to Thailand I have.  Every single time we order it at dinner.  But no complaints, I’ve come to accept that when places in Thailand try to masquerade as something Western, the quality isn’t usually the same.  It was enough to make me happy.

 

The wine itself was okay.  In their defense I’m a bit snobby about my wine sometimes, and it’s not really fair to critique a country whose climate can’t really do wine, but just because I’m going to anyways.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as wine that I’ve had at tastings in the US and Europe.  The wine tasted a little bit watered down, and didn’t really have as much flavor as I was expecting.  But it was good enough for what it was.  They poured a white, a red, and a rosé, so it was pretty standared.  I bought the cheapest tasting available, which was 280 baht, coming to about 380 baht after splitting tax/service charges with the other people sitting at my table.

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While I didn’t splurge on it because I’m saving up for Bali and Vietnam right now, some of my friends ordered a cheese plate, and it actually looked pretty legit.  It had olives, brie, gouda, and some other cheese that made the winery feel a little more like home.

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Photo credit Julie Von Forrester.

All in all the winery was absolutely gorgeous, we spent a lot of time taking pictures.  The dining area is on a pretty balcony that overlooks the vineyard as well, so the whole experience was really pretty.  I’d definitely recommend stopping in if you’re in the Hua Hin area and feel like a splurge, or just if you’re in Thailand and you miss real wine.  Check out their Facebook page here. 

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