On the last leg of our journey through Uruguay, we departed Treinta y Tres for Punta del Este, a coastal city. On the way there, we took a tour through the Saman Rice Mill. The mill receives the rice after it has been harvested from the field, and begins the process of turning it into the rice we eat. Uruguay exports much of its rice product. I thought the experience was pretty neat.
After leaving the mill, we traveled the rest of the way to Punta del Este. Upon checking in to our hotel, we were thrilled to find it was within walking distance to the beach and to the shops downtown.
On our last full day of the trip, we visited the Alto de la Ballena vineyard and winery. Roughly translated, “alto de la ballena” means “hill of the whale.” While visiting, we were shown the hills on which their vines grow. Because of their location on the hill next to the ocean, they have very rocky soil. The cool breeze off the Atlantic keeps the grapes at an ideal growing temperature. The grapes we sampled were sweet and juicy. After seeing the vines we sampled a few of their wines, including their Viognier (a white wine), Tannat-Viognier (a red/white blend) and a Tannat-Merlot-Cabernet franc (red blend). The Tannat grape is the most prominent grape in Uruguay. Alto de la Ballena considers their Tannat-Viognier their flagship wine. After sampling the wines, we went to see the facility where they press and ferment their wines. They used French and American oak barrels to age their wines.
After leaving the winery, we traveled to our final farm visit: the El Cristal ranch. They had both beef cattle and soybean crops. This farm was located close to a lake. The lake is a place where government-protected birds migrate to every year. The farm owner told us that he has to plant extra crops each year to make up for what he loses when the birds eat his crops.
When our visit was over, we returned to our hotel in Punta del Este. At dinner, we gave Bruno, our host, a plaque celebrating our time together and the time he has spent hosting other UGA students on previous trips.
I had an amazing time in Uruguay and already wish I could return!