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February 18th 2011
Published: February 25th 2011
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Today was a really long day. We got in to Santiago at about 2 am and tried to sleep a few hours in the airport before our 7 am flight to Buenos Aires. When we got there, we hopped in a cab with a very friendly can driver named Omar. He and Eric quickly got into a broken English/Spanish exchange about Argentinians in American sports. Omar drove us through what seemed to be the Bs As ghetto to the BuqueBus terminal where we would catch a ferry to Colonia, Uruguay. The ferry is huge, like a small cruise ship. It takes about an hour to get to Colonia, where we met our driver, Juan, who drove us to our hotel in Carmelo, a town of roughly 17,000 in the Uruguayan countryside.

We splurged and stayed at the Four Seasons for two nights - it was well worth it. The hotel's property is about 8 km from the town of Carmelo and is beautiful. Tall pine trees and Australian eucalyptus trees dot a grassy and sandy landscape that reminds me somewhat of South Carolina. The Asian inspired property has a beautiful tiered, blue tile pool and also a sandy beach on the Rio de Plata (which we learned is the widest river in the world, measuring something like 160 miles at the widest point; we think the river is also the inspiration for Argentina's River Plate futbol team). Our room (our own bungalow!) is unreal. It's like a small house. It has a serene outdoor patio with a table and chairs and a lovely daybed that overlooks the river. The inside is plush and delightfully comfortable, but rustic. The bathroom is my favorite part. Thatched pocket doors, a beautiful tiled shower, a big tub that looks into our private garden, which has a really neat stone outdoor shower. There are screens on all the doors and windows, allowing a sweet breeze to float through. I could live here. 😊

The hotel has a some nice restaurants, but we chose instead to heed the suggestion of our friends, the Estells, and head to the Narbona Winery and Vineyards for a tour and dinner. Before heading to the vineyard, we played backgammon over cocktails (caiprihanas and local beer); I beat Eric fair and square and he then beat me back. 😊

Narbona was delightful; it may actually be my favorite part of our trip, so far. It felt like we were in Provence or Tuscany - not Uruguay. The vineyard was founded in 1909 and the structures on the property reflect their age and the history of the place. The buildings were made of stone and stucco, with worn iron framed windows and iron staircases. Our Italian guide - Valeria - showed us the old and new presses, casks, the cellar, the fermenting room, and the beautiful hammered copper "boiler" that is used to make the ever-potent grappa, which we learned is made from the seeds and skin of the grapes after they are pressed for a secondary production (which is sold to other vineyards and not bottled with the Narbona brand).

The grounds at Narbona were stunning. Outside the room with the cellar was a patio with a long wooden table with benches that probably could seat 20. I thought of friends and family as we toured the grounds. I imagined how fun it would be to fill that table for a big family dinner or with all our best friends. Anyone want to go to Uruguay? 😊 Outside the room with the copper pot, were two really cool looking wire or iron framed mannequins, which made me think of Ker - I snapped a few pictures which turned out pretty cool. I felt like Tricia, snapping pictures everywhere I went, and wishing I had some training in photography.

We tasted the grapes straight off the vine; they were sweeter than a concord grape, but about the same size and color. The vineyard produces 10,000 bottles a year and does some private label bottling for the Four Seasons as well. Sadly, they do not export to the States.

After our tour, we sat down at the bar for our wine tasting. The room is spectacular and my written explanation wouldn't do it any justice. We tried a 1998 and a 2004 Tannat (red) and a white wine that is similar to a sauvignon blanc. We split on which red we liked best and both agreed that we loved the white, which was really light and summery. The wines were served with a variety of cheeses (blue, mozzarella, parmesan) and breads that are made at Narbona in the cremery and panaderia (bakery) repsectively. The tasting was wonderful.

We settled into a cozy little spot inside for dinner and shared several of the homemade pastas and a mushroom risotto, paired with the 2004 red. Delcious. We drank so much wine, I can't remember what we had for desert, but we enjoyed some great espresso and some very strong grappa with honey. All in all, we were there for almost four hours. It was just fabulous. We sleep well after the long day and lots of vino...


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