The Sarapee Winery

The Sarapee Winery is a boutique winery occupying only 12 rai of land. While its size is modest, its wine is becoming good table fare. The Dining Out Team went on a reconnaissance mission to Sarapee, and learned more about making wine in the tropics than we could imagine. Owner Diether Geidt provided an overview of the vineyards and wine making processes while his wife, Alema Greis, prepared a delightful meal that can only be described as “down home” food, tasty and hearty. Both delighted us.

The family has been experimenting with grape vines for 12 years. The vines are grown under protective plastic greenhouses, preventing the development and transmission of fungi as well as infestations of insects. Several vines are grown outside of the protective environment for demonstration purposes, and these unlucky vines displayed plant diseases as well as some fat worms that were quickly chewing their way through the leaves. Only organic fertilizer is used at the vineyard, and a fraction of the usual chemicals controls diseases and pests. Diether comments that the plastic is not beautiful, but is effective. We vote for “effective” any day over the abundant use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides.

We went inside where the wine is made. The bouquet was heavenly. The grapes are hand-picked, sorted individually, and pressed. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats imported from Italy. Bottling, corking and labeling is all done by hand. This is truly a boutique operation, employing only about six people, and the benefits of that individual attention are evident in the product. Five red wines and one white wine are presently produced at the vineyards. They range in price from 480 to 850 baht per bottle.

Alema called, and dinner was served. The restaurant is only a few steps from the vineyard, and there are both open air and air-conditioned rooms. The d้cor is simple, and features beautiful art from all over Southeast Asia. We were particularly drawn to a highly detailed piece from Bali.

“Down home” is not an expression intended to in any way detract from the tastiness of the food served at the Sarapee Winery. It simply means that we all enjoyed it, and were relaxed eating it. It was clearly comfort food to all of us. An assortment of cheese and dark bread was served along with a plate of smoke meat and sausage arrived. Then followed grilled sausages, potatoes pan fried with onions, cabbage, carrots and green beans heaped on one plate. An unusual and delicious cooked carrot salad arrived. We loved it. Then came chicken stewed fork-tender, lasagna, and spaghetti with meat sauce. A breaded, fried pork chop was served with fresh hot vegetables. This is very affordable food, starting at about 95 baht and going up to less than 200 baht per plate.

Diether stayed with us throughout the meal, and I would recommend that you ask him to do the same should you have a meal and wine tasting at the Sarapee Winery. He recommended wines for each dish, uncorked and served them. He described them and we discussed each as we dined. We learned about his relationship with other vintners in northern Thailand, how they support each other and learn from each other. We found out that his father in law owns about two hundred acres of land in Chiang Rai, and that the family is experimenting with grape vines there. Every type of soil, every altitude produces a different tasting grape. We wish Diether and Alema great good fortune in their venture. Telephone and make reservations for your own private wine tasting and dinner. Enjoy.

Sarapee Winery, A. Sarapee, Chiang Mai 50140, 04-803-1977 or fax: 053-968-029. Drive past the Sheraton Hotel out the Old Chiang Mai–Lamphun Road. About 3.5 miles past the intersection of the Superhighway and the Old CM-Lamphun Road, turn right at the second stoplight, just over a bridge. Pass two schools on the right, a petrol station on the left, and turn left immediately after the crematorium on the left. There you will see a small red and white sign that says “Sarapee Winery”. Follow the signs. Turn right into the Geidt Export Company compound, and – voila! – Sarapee Winery.