Johnny and I recently returned from Punta del Este, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I sip a Tannat from Uruguay as I type this. Looking back at photos of our trip, it all feels like a dream.
We were drawn to South America to visit my friend Lauren and her boyfriend Marcelo, who is from Argentina, as they finish out a year there together (more on that in future posts about BA). Uruguay was planned at the beginning of the trip for a private wine experience that I have to give credit to our friends Leslie and Chandler for discovering and attending on their trip a few weeks before us. We found that The Wine Experience is the number one-rated activity in Punta del Este on TripAdvisor for good reason.
Expert travelers in the making, we flew into Buenos Aires from Dallas, cabbed an hour and a half to the ferry station (Buquebus), took a bus from Colonia to Montevideo, Uruguay, after a ferry ride across the river mouth from BA, and finished it off with one more bus and a taxi to our final destination in Punta del Este.
Johnny and I had envisioned a commuter ferry but were surprised at the passenger boat that carried several hundred (maybe 1,000 or more?) travelers an hour across the water at a high speed, in comfort and complete with food, alcohol and duty-free shopping. We booked this leg of the trip in advance and learned that it’s wise to book as early as possible (especially over a holiday like this past Easter) and to do so on the Uruguayan site, not the Argentina version, for costs. Cost-wise it made most sense for us to take the long route to Punta del Este, but were able to go direct from Montevideo to BA on the way back.
Punta del Este is a beach city on the Atlantic Coast that serves largely as a vacation spot for Buenos Aires residents and other neighboring South Americans. Wealthy BA residents have vacation condos in Punta del Este like New Yorkers do in the Hamptons. Whitewashed and bustling, the peninsula is the most touristy spot and where we stayed during our two-night excursion.
After a long day of traveling, we arrived to Punta del Este in time to check into our hotel and head to dinner. El Secreto sits near the water’s edge and is a few blocks walking distance from Hotel Romimar where we were staying. The food was fantastic and we promptly began with Tannat, cheese and cured meats, before sharing a mild fish entrée and splitting the first of many desserts featuring dulce de leche.
Ryan, owner of The Wine Experience, picked us up at 10 a.m. after our continental breakfast that resembled a European B&B – coffee, fruit, cereal, fresh croissants and pastries, and cheese and cured meats – and drove us along the coast to our first destination, Narbona Winery. We enjoyed a private tour of the boutique winery, before wine tasting paired with cheese made on site. Ryan guided us through the entire event, sharing details of the Tannat grape native to the area, the history of the winery and touring us through the various rooms of the bodega. We sipped glasses of wine (much more generous than tastings I have in the states!) while overlooking the vineyard and courtyard. As Ryan kept repeating, “It’s a rough life in Uruguay.”
Next, Ryan drove us to the Playa Vik, another boutique location – this time a resort – located on the water in a more remote area outside of the peninsula, in Jose Ignacio. Playa Vik accommodates roughly 30 people in the villas on the property and is extremely exclusive. Because of his connections, the three of us enjoyed a chef-prepared lunch on the pool deck overlooking the ocean while we continued wine tasting from the Vik family vineyards. Work from local artists adorned the foyer by the pool, complementing the scenery that extended inside and out.
After our wine adventures, Johnny and I took to the local grocery store to purchase wine to bring home, with suggestions from Ryan. We then explored the marina and seaside of the peninsula in Punta del Este before heading to dinner. The spot was a local recommendation from our gracious tour guide who joined us for dinner and more wine after his final tour that evening.
La Milonguera was our first experience with parilla (pronounced “pa-ree-sha”), the grilling style that is so common in South America, and it was deliciously indulgent. And as was already becoming a trend, we finished with dessert that featured more dulce de leche.
The next morning we were back on the bus, headed to Montevideo to take the ferry back to Buenos Aires and meet Lauren and Marce for lunch and the rest of our trip.
Look for more updates on the rest soon!