An Expert on The Other Wine Country
By Miranda Plunkett
You may be familiar with the Cabernets of Chile and the Malbecs of Argentina but the Tannats of Uruguay are comparatively unknown. Uruguay often overlooked as a backwater sandwiched between its larger neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, is far more accessible and interesting than it’s given credit for.
The beautiful UNESCO City of Colonia del Sacramento is a mere 45-minute ferry ride from downtown Buenos Aires. From there head north an hour or so through rolling farmland to the sleepy town of Carmelo where the vines begin to appear and a small sign directs you to the Narbona Winery.
More than a century old and owned by one family the Narbona estate lay abandoned for close to 30 years following the exodus to the city after WWII. An entrepreneurial businessman from Buenos Aires recently bought the vineyard and estate back to life maintaining its feeling of Provencal charm yet introducing a dynamic architectural production facility. Relais & Chateaux have given their accreditation to the 5-bedroom hotel whose individual rooms are each named after grapes; a personal favorite being Pinot Noir which is on the ground floor and has a fireplace and sitting area.
The separate restaurant, cheese pantry, deli and bakery are all housed in the old grocery store at the main entrance. The majority of ingredients and wine, of course, come from the estate and the chef’s skills match those at any Francis Mallmann (Argentina’s celebrity chef) restaurant down to the ubiquitous chimichurri herb sauce. A wine-tasting can be arranged in the antique cava filled with hundreds of dusty bottles. A swimming pool, exercise room, hiking and biking through the vines are also available if you can stir yourself from the utter serenity of the vineyard and gardens.
Narbona is a perfect break for a two-night stay as part of a larger South American trip. You can be met at the ferry terminal in Colonia and handed the keys of a rental car with a pre-programmed GPS, or a private transfer to and from the winery can be arranged. The ferry, known as the Buquebus goes back and forth daily between Colonia and Buenos Aires. And a visit to the old citadel of Colonia is well worth including for its cobbled streets, small museums and historical significance.
Miranda runs a travel consultancy business, mlpdestinations.com, and advises clients on all areas of travel from whom to travel with to preparing outline itineraries.