A Few Things about Wine

September 8, 2010 § 2 Comments

Mika at PB Valley vineyard


I recently wrote a story about the rise of wine drinking in Bangkok for BK Magazine, during which I asked the business manager of Siam Winery why they bothered to have such a resort-like vineyard with holiday packages and stuff.  He said, “Because the impact of a wine is not just what’s in the bottle. It’s also where you are, who you are with, what occasion you’re celebrating.”


I’ve drank countless bottles of wine since I started drinking at age 18, many of those bottles being those 2-litre Yellowtail monsters and those from Trader Joe’s lovingly called two-buck Chuck.  But these are the ones I will never forget:

– One night in July 2005, G. and I drank a bottle of a cheap Pinot Grigio on my rooftop in Boston.  It was the first time I’d heard the name.  The night also involved Nina Simone, a makeshift waltz, Thai papaya salad and becoming a woman, as they say.

– In the summer of 2007, in New York, on a Tuesday, I went to the Clinton Street Baking Company with C.  We’d just become friends again after a long hiatus.  The restaurant had a cheap wine promotion, and we got a bottle of Rioja Crianza and drew all over the butcher paper tablecloth. On our way home, standing on the corner outside Katz Deli, it started to rain.

– This past June, I split a bottle of Great Western Pinot Noir 2006 with S., on the bizarre porch swing that sits on the concrete 30th floor rooftop of my apartment building in Bangkok.  I had just turned 26, and we didn’t know each other very well yet.

And earlier this year, I had what I think was the experience that caused me to actually take notice of wine.  I’m told all wine enthusiasts have one, the gateway.  For me it was a work thing, a press dinner to sample the Valentine’s Day set menu at Bo.lan. I sat across the super cute winemaker from Siam Winery and beside a jolly old Belgian man, and every delicious course was paired with a wine from Siam Winery. I had been very sad, recently returned from New York, but by the time we got to the Monsoon Valley Muscat 2008, I was ecstatic.  I didn’t know a wine could taste like lychee.

Pere Guillot collection


True story: In May, when I was living in the middle of nowhere in the south of France, I was surrounded by vineyards. I took my bike to one, walked into their cave and bought a bottle of wine and felt very pleased with myself.  A few days later, I rode off to do it again, this time at a different vineyard. I rode down the two-lane country road, up a gravel path, past a scary dog and finally lay my bike down and continued towards an airplane hanger-like cave at the domain of Pere Guillot, where I discovered no less than four old Frenchmen, all red-faced from a day of drinking.  I was weirded out, but asked for a degustation anyway. One thing led to another, they found out I was from Thailand, and the father, the eponymous Pere Guillot, said his son visits Thailand often on wine business, called him over, and introduced him to me. They were adoring me and pouring me GIANT tastings of no less than six wines.  When I finally picked one to buy, the son, Laurent, went in the back and emerged with a BOX of six bottles, and refused to take any money for it.  “C’est un cadeau!” So nice!  I somehow hitched it onto the back of my bike and, drunk and talking to myself, toddled away back to the residency.


I recently rewatched French Kiss, that film with Meg Ryan and Kevin Cline playing an unlikely Frenchman.  There’s a scene where she visits his childhood home, and they are drinking wine, and she doesn’t have much to say about it.  Mildly outraged, he pulls out a box of herbs and dried flowers, gives her a few to smell, and then asks her to drink the wine again.  And, of course, she has a revelation.

I want that box!

Nikki Lohitnavy, the first female winemaker in Thailand


All of this to say that recently, also at a work thing, I befriended a lady who turned out to be the leading wine educator in Thailand–for whatever that’s worth.  We got to talking and she invited me to do her beginners course at a discounted rate.  I sampled maybe one hundred wines over four sessions, visited two vineyards and wineries in beautiful, scenic Khao Yai–GranMonte and PB Valley–and am happy to report that I can tell the difference between a Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon, an oak wine and a stainless steel wine—but I’m not always right.

Sotheby's wine encyclopedia


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