PATTAYA – It was a merry crowd that had assembled at Pedro’s Gastrobar one recent Saturday night. You might recall that Pedro’s is inside Hotel Vista Pattaya and shares the same soi as the Pattaya International Hospital. Despite the direction signs, Soi 4 is easy to miss at night. I mention this only because I did actually miss it while swerving to avoid two demented motorcyclists. I said “Oh bother” to myself (or words to that effect) and laboured through the heaving traffic around the block to exactly where I was half an hour earlier. By the time I tottered feebly into Pedro’s Gastrobar (probably with a blood pressure reading worthy of the Guinness Book of Records) Tony Malhotra’s party night was getting into full swing.
Tony Malhotra, Executive Assistant Manager for Hotel Vista, proved to be not only a talented event organiser but also a confident and persuasive MC. Although he described the event as “a party” there was also the opportunity to taste a range of McGuigan wines from Australia, imported into our fair land by Siam Winery in Bangkok. The wines were introduced and described by Dr Iain Corness who added some interesting remarks of his own. McGuigan Wines was established by Brian McGuigan in 1992 although the family has been involved in the Australian wine industry for more than fifty years. The company produces over fifty different wines, many of them for the mass market. Although McGuigan Wines have won many international awards, these have tended to be for their more expensive products.
At Pedro’s Gastrobar, several McGuigan wines were featured, notably the series called the Black Label. Marketing strategies have led us to believe that if something is called “Black Label” it’s a prestigious product. However McGuigan have cunningly adopted the name for their basic, entry-level wines with the result that they sound more expensive than they actually are. Most of the Black Label range sells for $10.00 in Australia, the equivalent of a mere Bt 270. Needless to say, that’s a fraction of what they actually cost in Thailand thanks to the staggering percentage of tax we have to pay.
The welcome wine was a crisp Black Label sparkler made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, followed by Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2014. This grape produces fresh wines with a dash of acidity which some people find a bit daunting. Dr Iain then introduced the third wine, a 2015 Chardonnay from McGuigan’s Private Bin range. The clever reference to a “private bin” implies that you’re getting something special but in reality the wine is only a notch up in quality from the basic Black Label range. Even so, it was perhaps the most appreciated white wine of the evening with greater depth and body.
I was disappointed to notice that most people were not bothering to look at the wines, let alone smell them. Many guests simply clinked their glasses, exchanged a quick chok dee and knocked the stuff down the hatch. Well, I’m sorry if I sound a bit sniffy, but being a life-long wine lover it saddens me when people ignore the wine’s aroma. It’s like not bothering to smell a rose. You see, wine makers make an effort to give each wine an attractive colour and aroma. If you ignore them and just have a swig, in my view you’re missing out on much of the enjoyment.
So then it was onto the two reds of the evening, the fruity Black Label Merlot and the Private Bin Shiraz. It seemed that many guests enjoyed this wine, because it had a bit of depth to the taste and showed some of the Shiraz character with the usual dark fruit aromas. Finally, Dr Iain introduced the last wine of the evening, a locally-produced Muscat Rosé from Siam Winery using grapes grown in Hua Hin. This was a fortified wine which simply means that the flavour and alcohol has been bumped up with a dose of distilled spirits. It’s a pink, sweet wine and made a pleasing contrast with its smooth and fruity flavours.
To accompany the wines, there was a seemingly never-ending supply of attractively presented food, designed by Executive Sous Chef Adisak Anupaipruek (Chef Joe) and prepared by his talented team. The amazing selection included spicy salmon and assorted canapés, varieties of cold cuts, green and black olives, a variety of breads and spreads and a selection of Gastrobar signature pizzas. I was tremendously impressed by the splendid waiting staff who served the drinks to the many guests and remained remarkably charming and good-natured despite the obvious difficulties of working in a busy and crowded environment.
For many of the guests, the prize draw was evidently the highlight of the event and was conducted enthusiastically by Tony. During the evening, live music was provided by the Gai-Kan Band, two charming and highly competent local musicians Khun Mong and Khun Dang. They delighted the guests with their exuberant and thoroughly musical performances. It added to a delightful evening. Incidentally, you can keep in touch through Pedro’s Gastrobar Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PedroGastrobar which gives information about upcoming events. And if you come to the next party, try not to miss the entrance to the soi.