Dan, my husband, and I first encountered Narbona wine several years ago at Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, New Jersey (a great restaurant – get the fries!). One of its managers, Hugh Preece, introduced us to Narbona’s 2011 Tannat, and we instantly fell in love with the wine. Side note – Hugh also introduced us to Portuguese wine, which eventually led us to getting married in Portugal…
Back to the wine, the 2011 Narbona Tannat was big, tannic and everything we love in wine. We proceeded to order numerous cases from various wine distributors in the US and, when they eventually sold out (possibly to us?), we decided that we needed to visit the Narbona vineyards in Uruguay. It didn’t hurt that I have been wanting to visit Uruguay for a while, and that Anthony Bourdain had recently visited Uruguay. In any case, we made reservations at the Narbona Wine Lodge over US Thanksgiving 2018!
On arrival, the Narbona Wine Lodge was everything we wanted and more! However, it was slow and definitely a place to get away from it all. And, it was difficult to find any reviews online so, here you are!
Narbona Wine Lodge offers 2 types of rooms, a suite and a bigger suite, all overlooking the vineyards. We stayed in the larger suite, and it was totally worth it! Particularly, the Rose room. The Rose room is located on the second floor of the lodge overlooking the vineyards. Guests enter the room via a set of old and narrow stairs. However, before even entering the room, there is a private balcony overlooking the vineyard!
The balcony also has a table (for dinner!), two lounge chairs, and a fire place, which we used every night!
The inside of the room is split into 4 parts – a spacious living area overlooking the vineyards, a king size bed, a decent sized closet, and a large, antique bathroom with a separate shower and tub, as well as a really comfortable chair. The room also offered a flat screen TV, a Nespresso machine, and complimentary non alcoholic beverages. Wine was available in the room for purchase!
All in all, we really enjoyed the Rose Room and it was a very comfortable stay! If returning, I would stay in either size suite.
In all honesty, food options at Narbona Wine Lodge are limited. The property has one restaurant that serves breakfast lunch and dinner. The restaurant is pretty much open all day, and caters to outside guests as well as hotel patrons. Since there is only one restaurant, Narbona is lucky that its quite good!
Breakfast is served daily and complimentary to all hotel guests. In fact, I think breakfast is only served to hotel guests. Each morning we went to the restaurant and were presented with a list of food and drink – coffee, tea, fresh orange juice, breads with butter, jam, and dulce du leche, eggs, ham and cheese, Narbona yogurt, granola, among other things.
Guests can choose as many dishes as one wants. We were pretty gluttonous and tried everything at least once. Our particular favorites were the eggs, the yogurt, and the dulce du leche. The eggs are served scrambled with a bit of cheese, and they are really, really tasty!
The Narbona yogurt, made from a local farm, is also interesting – the yogurt is served in a milk bottle and its consistency is liquid. I poured it over the granola like cereal.
However, the dulce du leche was both me and Dan’s favorite! I don’t know what it is about Uruguayan dulce du leche, but its better than Argentinean dulce de leche and Narbona’s was the best I’ve ever had. I typically ate it with a spoon or on some sort of bread… #carbsdontcountonvacation
Dan and I also ate at Narbona’s restaurant for 3 dinners – twice in the restaurant (including for Thanksgiving) and once on our balcony. For dinner, the restaurant offers a printed menu and you order as in any normal restaurant. The menu changes slightly from night to night but is generally made up of several meat and pasta dishes.
While staying at Narbona, we tried two dinner appetizers – a corn soup and the beef empanadas. Since I ordered the corn soup first, I will start with that. I ordered corn soup on Thanksgiving, thinking it was kind of Thanksgivingish. It wasa corn based soup mixed with corn and cheese. It was pretty tasty, but did not photograph well.
The other appetizer that I tried, the beef empanada, was MUCH better in my opinion! For those unfamiliar with Uruguayan cuisine, empanadas are quite popular in Uruguay, just like in Argentina, and unlike Argentina, are often served with a slightly spicy tomato sauce. The empanadas at Narbona were very tasty, as was their tomato sauce! I would definitely order again.
For main courses, I ordered pasta each night. Narbona makes it owns and Uruguay has a strong Italian immigrant influence, so I thought it had to be good. My first pasta was a spaghetti in a tomato meat sauce. It was tasty and very filling, but not Italy good.
The other pasta that I ordered, and which I ordered twice, was a spinach and cheese ravioli in a brown butter sauce. Similar to the spaghetti, this was very good but again, not quite Italy quality.
Dan ordered two meat dishes – a lamb dish and steak. Both were good, but he much preferred the steak over the lamb.
For dessert every night, we ordered the dulce du leche pancake – basically a dulce de leche crepe. Don’t miss this at Narbona’s restaurant! And, its a great excuse to try Narbona’s dulce de leche.
While not clear on Narbona’s website, every stay at Narbona receives a complimentary standard wine tasting with the wine maker or sommelier. The standard wine tasting is a tasting of 3 wines paired with local cheese, olive oil, and wine. For our tasting, since we had already done the more upscale tasting, we tasted Medio y Medio (a semi-sparking wine), Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. The tasting was quite nice and I would not skip out on it. The tasting is private, per room, about 30 minutes long, and you can book it in advance online or on arrival.
Since we came to Narbona to taste wine, we also booked the Narbona Marriage, which is a tasting of 5 wines paired with 5 small tapas-style plates. Like the standard tasting, the tasting is private and can be done anywhere on the property. We choose to have ours in the cellar!
The Narbona Marriage pairing was excellent and was more than enough food for a lunch or dinner, and well worth the $70 USD per person cost. The tasting took about an hour and you can drink as much as you want from the bottles after the tasting…. Side note – it may be a good idea to just take it back to your room. For our tasting, we tasted sauvignon blanc, rose, pinot noir, the red blend, and the Luz de Luna – their top of the line wine!
If you do the both, I recommend the standard tasting first. We did it opposite and it almost seemed silly doing the standard tasting second.
And on the grappa note, there is complimentary grappa available in the reading room, which is pretty nice considering its selling for about $6 USD/glass in the restaurant!
The Reading Room
In addition to the free grappa, the reading room offers a lot of games and books for guests and well as a fireplace that is usually lit.
The Pool and Gym
Narbona has a nice pool with lounge chairs and vineyard views. Use of the pool is free. There is a very small gym attached to the pool area with a treadmill, bike, and a few weights.
Narbona has about 10 bikes with helmets that guests can ride around the property. We rode them through the vineyard one morning and it was quite nice. Definitely recommended if you have free time.
“The Mule” is a small Kawasaki vehicle that guests can drive around the property. The keys are in the Mule at all times, and you can really just drive it whenever you want. The Mule is particularly fun to drive though the vineyards! We definitely took it out one morning!
The mule was actually pretty easy to drive, but the seat belts are oddly difficult to unhook.
The Property & Wine Tours
We received a short tour of the property upon arrival and got a quick introduction to the wine making process. Guests really have the run of the property and guests can go almost anywhere during the stay. If you want a more robust tour regarding wine making, I recommend emailing to set up a tour.
While not proper shopping, the Narbona restaurant has a small stores selling Narbona food products, including olive oil, olives, pasta, granola, jams, etc., and wine.
For additional cost, Narbona Wine Lodge can arrange other activities for you, including a picnic in the vineyards, horseback riding, a sunset cruise, and even a helicopter tour! I recommend perusing Narbona’s website and emailing if you have any questions.
HOW TO ARRIVE AND GET AROUND NARBONA
Narbona is located outside of Carmelo, Uruguay, a small town in the Western part of Uruguay, about an hour from Colonia and a 3 hour drive from Montevideo (the capital of Uruguay). Around Narbona, there are a few hotels and Puerto Camacho, a small port with a restaurant and bar.
To get to Narbona, flew from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, took the Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Colonia (1 hour) and then hired a taxi to pick us up in Colonia and drive us an hour to Narbona (for $100 USD). While this seems like a lot of work, it was actually not that difficult!
Alternatively, you can fly into Montevideo and rent a car or taxi or take the bus from Montevideo to Narbona. The bus is, by far, the cheaper option. We hired a taxi to drive us from Narbona to Montevideo and the 3 hour drive cost us $300 USD.
Once you are at Narbona, I recommend asking Narbona to call you a taxi to get around the area. Narbona also offers a free shuttle to the Hyatt down the road and Puerto Camacho.
For further reference, there is no Uber, Lyft or other similar service in Carmelo and walking between Carmelo and Narbona would not be an easy walk.
Also, there is a ferry that runs directly from Tigre, Argentina (a Buenos Aires suburb 1 hour from down town Buenos Aires) to Carmelo. A cab from the Carmelo port to Narbona will cost about $25 USD.
- Narbona is definitely a quite place to get away. Come here for wine and to get away from it all – not for a party atmosphere.
- There is not a lot of English spoken in Carmelo, but most Narbona employees do speak English (with the exception of some of the restaurant staff). A bit of Spanish will help.
- There is no ATM at Narbona. The closest ATM is in Carmelo. Get cash before arriving!
- And, on that note, Uruguay uses both the Uruguayan Peso and US Dollars, and ATMs dispense both.
- Book wine tastings at Narbona and the neighboring vineyards in advance. Tours are not constantly offered, especially in English.
- Check your final bill – we found a few unintentional errors. They were all related to wine that we purchased at the restaurant and took back to our room (they thought we purchased them from the room).
STEAL OUR TRIP
Narbona Wine Lodge: 21, 70100 Carmelo, Departamento de Colonia, Uruguay. Reserve online far in advance if you must stay at Narbona – there are only a few rooms. Email is responded to quite quickly.
ON A BUDGET
Carmelo is not an expensive place to visit. The town itself is small and definitely offers budget options for housing and wine. If you are on a budget, look for a guest house, hotel, or hostel in Carmelo. Rent bicycles in Carmelo to visit the various wineries during the day.
See my next post for more information about wine travel in Carmelo, Uruguay, including where you should taste and how to get around!
Have you been to obscure wine destinations? Tell us about it in the comments!