Uruguay – Delightful Experience of Wine, Food and Dance

Day 40; 2023 Grand South America and Antarctica

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023; Montevideo, Uruguay

After 10 days at sea, everyone was glad to arrive in a port – and a warm one at that. Just a few days ago we were shivering in sub 20-degree temperatures with stiff winds. This morning in Montevideo, Uruguay, the temperature was near 60 degrees and quickly reached the low 70s.

Having explored town on foot with my sister (on her birthday) in early 2020, I decided to see more of the country today and joined a ship’s excursion to the Juanicó Winery. I had the good fortune to sit on the bus and at the winery with Rovi, a sommelier from the ship. He knows a lot about wine, so he was a great companion. The winery staff was eager to delve into the details with him.

The Juanicó Winery traces its roots back to 1740 and for more than 100 years was owned and operated by the same family. We toured the vineyards, hearing about the various grapes that grow in this soil. Harvest won’t start until January, so the grapes really haven’t even formed yet.

Scattered throughout the vineyards are the clay nests of the Hornero, built by the male in hopes of attracting the female. I saw similar nests in Kruger National Park in South Africa in March – were I a birder, I could tell you whether they are the same or not.

The winery complex has several historic buildings, as well as a more modern venue where we sampled four of the wines. My favorite was the Albariño – a light white wine. Then we had a huge meal. Uruguay, like its neighbors Argentina and Brazil, is known for cattle, so steak was the centerpiece, along with sausage and chicken. Salad and roasted potato (white and sweet) filled out our plates. A pavlova served as dessert, accompanied by a port wine.

For the finale, we enjoyed a performance of malambo, a folkloric dance developed by gauchos (Argentine cowboys).

During our free time to explore the estate, I started a sketch of one of the pavilions, but will need to finish it later.

Before heading to the winery 30 minutes north of town, we toured the city, with its mix of colonial and modern architecture.

Everywhere I saw the popularity of maté, a traditional South American caffeine-rich drink. In a lecture a few days ago on the ship, we learned how the drink is made and consumed all the day. Dried yerba maté leaves are soaked in hot water in a “maté,” also the name for the container traditionally made from a gourd. Locals carry a thermos of hot water to keep replenishing their maté, which they drink with a special metal straw. I saw them everywhere – in the park, on the bus and at the winery.

Upon returning to the ship, I indulged in a massage and facial port-day special. My neck has been stiff the last few days and I’m hoping this will help. It sure felt good at the time. I was way too full for dinner in the dining room, so enjoyed a caprese salad and fresh papaya in the Lido. The papaya was popular – when I went back for more it was gone.

The night ended with the sight of suitcases in the hallway, including a few of the new rolling duffle bags.

I get a little thrill when I see them and know mine aren’t among them, as I am not yet leaving. About 250 passengers who booked just the first segment will disembark tomorrow in Buenos Aires. I will miss some of the new friends I have made. About 125 new passengers will join us for the last 33 days of this cruise.