Route 21 Km 268 Carmelo, Uruguay
Boutique vineyard meets shabby–chic farmhouse meets foodie–nirvana in the rustic Narbona Wine Lodge, a small Relais & Chateaux hotel that quietly enchants while taking guests back to simpler times.
Uruguay is known worldwide mostly for its glamorous playground of the super–rich, Punta del Este. Or perhaps for Montevideo, a smaller, calmer, more economically stable counterpart to Buenos Aires, its bustling neighbor directly across the Rio Plata. But for those travelers looking for a taste of authentic Uruguayan countryside, yet untainted by mass tourism, they should look into Uruguay's charming wine country of Carmelo.
Carmelo is easily accessed by plane (a 45 minute flight from Montevideo and a 30 minute flight from Buenos Aires), by boat (a scenic 3 hour ride through the Tigre Delta from Buenos Aires), or by car (3 ? hours from Montevideo). It is a place where the increasingly popular Tannat wine varietal thrives, where cows graze freely in picturesque rolling fields. Rural general stores sell homemade jam, cheese and bread. Time seems to have stopped somewhere around the 1950's.
Narbona Wine Lodge embodies the best that Carmelo has to offer, and a stay in the region without getting to know Narbona would be a terrible loss. Once you get acquainted with Carmelo, you realize that the Wine Lodge is just one part of a cohesive offering. The owner of the Wine Lodge also own two local restaurants, a bodega, a, dairy farm, a port, and the very relaxed Four Seasons Carmelo just ten minutes away.
The Wine Lodge is only fifteen minutes from town, but it seems light years from, well, everything. That's what helps makes it so enchanting for those who can embrace the tranquility. It is a place where the stars can be seen in their full glory at night, where birdsong can greet you in the morning, and where you are encouraged to meander freely throughout the vineyards. The property itself dates back to 1909, and still boasts a lot of its original architecture, antique vehicles and farm machinery. Black and white photos throughout the five guest rooms demonstrate Narbona's rich history.
Each of the rooms is spacious, private, and drenched in natural light. A couple rooms have large balconies or patios, perfect for watching the sun set over the vineyards. The hotel has gone to great lengths to maintain the rustic, antique ambiance: clawfoot tubs, stained glass, wood floors, and high ceilings. Still, the rooms are equipped with all of the modern amenities a modern guest would desire, including a king sized bed, air conditioning, a large LCD television, CD player, and free Wi–Fi.
If you fear that you may become bored in such a remote environment, don't worry. Take a bike, which the Wine Lodge provides, and go explore the area, finding little–known wineries as you go. Go horseback riding. Golf at the nearby Carmelo Golf Club. Try polo. Go on a sunset boat ride down the river, or for the more active, kayak or sail. Swim or lounge at the large hotel pool. Indulge in a spa day at the Four Seasons down the road. Arrange a picnic in the vineyards. Take a wine–making class, or just do a tasting with the onsite winemaker. Learn to make grappa. And eat. For God's sake, eat at the Wine Lodge.
Take advantage every meal that you can at the hotel's on–site restaurant. Housed in a hundred–year–old renovated general store, with lovely patio seating, the restaurant serves up unpretentious peasant cuisine that satisfies on a level way deeper than just your stomach. Locally grown and organic food abounds, with the dairy products being produced at Narbona's own farm nearby. Beautiful salads, soups, wood–fired pizza, local meats, homemade pastas, and more are accompanied by award–winning house wines and decadent desserts. The setting is very romantic, the outdoor area lit entirely by candles at night. It all comes together to help you slow down and appreciate country life through every one of your senses.
Web Address: www.narbona.com.uy
Total Number of Rooms: 5
Published rates: $220-350
Review and photos by Cathy Brown.