Our last port – yesterday – was Montevideo, and we wanted to do something special. We decided to arrange – with the help of Crystal Symphony’s concierge and shore excursion manager – a visit to the Juanicó winery (dating back to the 19th century), located about 45 minutes from the port. Our excursion included a driver, round-trip transportation, a tour of the winery, and a private lunch with wine pairings.
We had a wonderful time.
Our driver, Alvero (who spoke no English), picked us up at the ship and we arrived at Juanicó right at 11:00 AM. We were greeted by our guide, Dianela, who showed us the vineyard and explained how the wine was made. Having made many visits to the Napa Valley and the Paso Robles wine region of California, we’re very familiar with the production (and consumption) of wine. Daniela was a wonderful guide and we enjoyed the tour, which lasted about 45 minutes.
Here are some photos of what we saw:
The main building at Juanicó, where we were to have our lunch
Touring the grounds with our guide, Dianela
The vines, the grapes of which will eventually be used to produce cabernet sauvignon
Some of the grounds surrounding the winery
Part of the production plant
Assembly line production to bottle, cork and label the wine
This building was built by the Jesuits back in the 18th century
Following the tour, we went back into the main building and Dianela showed us the private wine cellar, down some very rickety stairs. The cellar was being prepared for a special dinner that evening.
Scary stairway to the wine cellar
Wine is stored in these casks from 1 – 3 years.
Setting up for a fancy dinner in the wine cellar
While we were in the cellar, Dianela showed us a very special place: the Wine Library, a secured area of the cellar in which are many very fine bottles of vintage wine are stored. Dianela unlocked the door and told us to go inside and choose a bottle as part of our wine tasting. How does one choose from so many treasures?
Dianela helped us select the perfect wine to accompany our lunch
Daniela displays a 2004 Don Pascual Merlot – the unanimous choice
Ascending the stairway – much easier than descending
Once we got back upstairs, we were shown to a beautifully laid out table next to a huge picture window overlooking the vineyards where we were to enjoy our lunch.
Sitting down to lunch
And our view
The 6 wines we sampled at lunch, including the very special Don Pascual merlot
As Dianela poured the 1st and, a bit later, the 2nd wine, she presented us with a tray of meats, cheeses, olives and bread – a wonderful start to our lunch.
A little something to get our lunch started
Then, for our 1st course and our 3rd wine, came individual quiches with a fabulous pear and blue cheese combination, incredibly fresh plum tomatoes and delicious greens.
Next up, paired with the 4th and 5th wines, came a tenderloin of beef served with a delicious wine reduction and grilled vegetables.
During this course, Dianela presented the Don Pascual Merlot, which perfectly complemented the beef.
(By the way, we were encouraged to ask for seconds on any of the wine(s) that we enjoyed.)
Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel, dessert appeared.
Individual cheesecakes topped with fresh fruit
By the time we’d finished dessert, it was time to return to the ship. We thanked Dianela for a delightful experience and departed.
45 minutes later, we were back aboard Crystal Symphony.
Cost of the Juanicó tour (exclusive of transportation), 3-course lunch with 6 wine pairings was $90 per person. We thought it was quite a good bargain. The wines are perhaps not the quality that you’ll find in California or France or next door in Argentina, but they were delicious and this excursion was one of the highlights of our 3-week vacation.
Should you find yourself visiting Montevideo, I would highly encourage you to arrange your own excursion to Juanicó. It will be time well spent.
TRAVEL/CUISINE TIP: Juanicó