Tag Archives: Uruguay’s wine country

Female winemakers in Uruguay are rockin’ the bodega

12 Nov

Okay, so I bet you saw “Uruguay” in the title and thought, ‘Señorita Vino’s going to share yet another gratuitous Diego Forlán image. The one with his shirt off.’ If you did, congratulations! Here’s your reward:

Don't say I never give you eye candy. Credit: Fotitos21.

Don’t say I never give you eye candy. Credit: Fotitos21.

And now for the real meat of this post…In my latest article for Latina magazine’s TheLatinKitchen.com, you’ll get to know four fabulous young women who are making wine in Uruguay’s male-dominated wine industry.

artesana

Read the story and learn how they got their start. You’ll find out how women are transforming the style of Uruguay’s most popular wine, Tannat. And you’ll even pick up a new way to evaluate wine, which has more to do with Antonio Banderas than with balance and complexity.

¡Salud!

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Most Romantic Wineries

14 Feb

There’s more to Valentine’s Day than sappy cards and waxy chocolate. And if you’re reading this, something tells me you know what that would be: Vino!

Yes, darlings, if you want to really score some points this Valentine’s Day (or to paraphrase the late, great Donna Summer, anytime you feel love), get thee to a winery. Here, in no particular order, are Señorita Vino’s top three romantic winery picks. Mmmmuuahhhh!

1. St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Napa Valley

Do you remember your first time? The exhilaration, the butterflies in your stomach, the thought that this could be The One? Ah yes…I’ll never forget the first time I joined a wine club without telling my husband. It was St. Supéry.

The Atkinson House at St. Supéry Vineyards. Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

The Atkinson House at St. Supéry Vineyards. Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

My idea of the perfect date - a private barrel tasting. Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

My idea of the perfect date – a private barrel tasting. Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

Pétanque, s'il vous plait! Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

Pétanque, s’il vous plait! Photo courtesy of St. Supéry.

And Señor Jim was so accepting of my impulsive streak that we celebrated one of his Big Birthdays here with a private barrel tasting. Sip some of their sublime Sauvignon Blanc, then indulge your inner francophile with a game of pétanque. That’s French for bocce. Santé!

2. Bodega y Granja Narbona, Carmelo, Uruguay

The only depressing part of my visit to Bodega Narbona was that I was on business and thus traveling without my better half, the sensational Señor Jim. This is the kind of place that will make even the most die-hard cynic break out the red wine and roses. Not only can you taste a selection of fine Uruguayan wines, including the country’s signature Tannat, but you can dine here and stay the night. ¡Excelente!

A tasting room at Bodega Narbona. Photo courtesy of Bodega Narbona.

A tasting room at Bodega Narbona. Photo courtesy of Bodega Narbona.

Old-world charm in a new-world winery. A guest room at Bodega Narbona (image courtesy o Bodega Narbona).

Old-world charm in a new-world winery. A guest room at Bodega Narbona (image courtesy of Bodega Narbona).

An al fresco lunch at Bodega Narbona.

An al fresco lunch at Bodega Narbona.

Carmelo is in the heart of Uruguay’s wine country. It’s fairly easy to get there from Buenos Aires. Take the ferry to Colonia del Sacramento and then take a bus or taxi to Carmelo.

3. Castello di Amorosa, Napa Valley

¿Qué cosa? A medieval castle in the middle of a California vineyard? Winemaker Dario Sattui was so taken with medieval architecture and a particular castle he visited in Beaune, France that he decided to build one of his own back home. Besides the well-known international varietals like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay, Castello di Amorosa produces Italian classics such as Pinot Grigio, Barbera and Sangiovese.

A view of the castle from the vineyard. Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

A view of the castle from the vineyard. Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

And here’s the super-romántico, almost-too-good-for-a-telenovela part: The winery offers two different proposal packages! Yes, chicas y chicos, you can pop the question in the castle tower or in a “hidden” room. You get 30 minutes of privacy, a  bottle of wine and a fruit and cheese platter. You even get to keep the glasses! That’s what I call romance.

Señorita Vino wishes you all a Champagne-toast-worthy Valentine’s Day. I’ll leave you with a sentimental quote you can memorize and casually tell your  main squeeze as you’re uncorking a bottle of bubbly tonight:

“May our love be like good wine–grow stronger as it grows older.”  (Old English toast)

!Salud!

Wines of South America: Uruguay’s Wine Country

3 May

News flash: An article posted Tuesday on InternationalLiving.com states that the best quality of life in Latin America can be found in Uruguay. World Cup soccer and Diego Forlan notwithstanding, I realize some of my non-Uruguayan Latin American readers may disagree. Being of Peruvian heritage myself (and let’s not EVEN bring up futbol at this point), I was simply looking for a timely news hook besides Cinco de Mayo on which I could hang this blog post.

Kidding aside, Uruguay oozes old-world charm and pristine natural beauty, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I had the good fortune to travel there on business. Never one to miss an opportunity to sample a country’s wines, I did some exploring in Carmelo, Uruguay, which looks a lot like Tuscany minus the throngs of tourists.

Early morning in Carmelo, Uruguay’s wine country.

Carmelo, located in southwestern Uruguay, is one of the country’s lesser-known wine growing regions, and Tannat is perhaps Uruguay’s best known wine, a deep purple, full-bodied explosion of ripe blackberries and bold tannins. Uruguayan Tannat is not something you’re likely to find at the local grocery store, although more U.S. wine shops are beginning to carry it and I would say it’s worth the search.

Tannat wine, produced at Zubizarreta vineyards in Carmelo, Uruguay.

Unlike California’s Napa Valley and parts of Argentina, Carmelo’s wine country is not easy to explore on your own unless you have a local contact or you are fluent in Spanish and have a knack for finding places off the beaten path. When I was there in 2009, most of the wineries had no web presence and wine tourism was virtually nonexistent. But therein lies the charm of Carmelo’s wine country.

Kick back with a bottle of wine at bodega Irurtia in Uruguay’s Carmelo region.

Irurtia, one of the bodegas I visited, is operated by the grandchildren of founder Lorenzo Irurtia, who migrated to Uruguay from the Basque country in the early 20th century. Spread throughout the winery and grounds are mementos from the family’s past, including Lorenzo’s vintage adding machine and his son Dante’s collection of classic cars from the 1930s and 1940s.

The family’s classic car collection is on display at the winery.

Tasting wine at Irurtia is a little like hanging out in the gothic-style dining room of a good friend whose family happens to make wine. Maria Jose, who runs the winery with her brother, casually pours some of the wines while talking about the history of the vineyards and the vines’ French root stock. The Tannat grape originated in France and was brought to Uruguay in the late 19th century by Basque immigrants.

Maria gets ready to pour some of her family’s wines.

Irurtia has won awards for its wines in international competitions and produces a lovely Pinot Noir, so don’t limit yourself to the Tannat if you happen to go there. And yes, going there is the only way you can sample Irurtia wines as they are not yet available in the United States. The winery now has a website and you can use the contact form to arrange a visit.

Tannat is not the only grape in town.

Besides wine, the Carmelo region offers delights for foodies and nature lovers alike. My fellow cheese addicts will be thrilled to know you can get your fix at any of a dozen artisanal cheese makers on the road from Carmelo to Montevideo (about 165 miles). When I say ‘artisanal,’ I mean families making cheese out of their homes from milk produced by goats raised in the backyard. The epitome of farm-to-table.

A tiny cheese shop on the property of a family who makes artisanal cheeses.

You can do what I did and make stops along the cheese route as you head to Montevideo. You can also day trip it from Carmelo, but it may make for a long day. Whatever you do, be prepared for some of the best cheeses you’ll have this side of the Eiffel Tower. In fact, once you’ve tasted your cheese, pay it forward by stepping out back and personally thanking the goats who produced the milk.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

I’ve never lived in Uruguay so I can’t speak to its quality of life. However, if wine and cheese are any indicator of an ideal place to live, Uruguay is a winner in my book.

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