"Your Wellness Coach"

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

I have to blog about the successes of one of my good friends, Maureen. I've known her since we were both students at Powell High School and when I was living in London, she was as well! We randomly connected on Facebook and she came to my 26th birthday party in Putney. That was almost nine years ago. Since then, Maureen married (her English boyfriend) Sam and they have a smart, fabulous little boy. Those are all certainly successes - but that's not what I'm blogging about today. 

Maureen began research more than a year ago about entrepreneurship. She wanted to start her own company and began by interviewing successful women business owners. After gathering information, she sought out a mentor and joined a program where she learned techniques about setting and meeting personal goals. Soon after that, guess what!? She started her own business as a wellness coach! (Obviously I'm very proud of her!) 

Maureen has a background of working in the wellness and health industry for more than 10 years and promotes the idea of integrated health and wellness education. She has a Master's degree in public health from Boston University and recently started her own website for her business. The reason for this blog post is to talk about the fabulous fact that Maureen asked me to be a beta tester for her online wellness coaching program. 

We're in Week 2 of the program and I've learned several things so far. During the first week, we set our personal health goals and during the second week we're working on nutrition and healthy eating choices (writing down everything that we're taking in and learning about how many calories our bodies need daily). Maureen provides readings each week, interactive forms to discuss where we are individually in the program, and we have the option of meeting with her and others in the program twice a week for online chat sessions.  


Maureen will be taking her second class of team members in April. The great thing about all of this is that you meet with her online and through email. It is extremely convenient. You don't even have to leave your home or office to participate. I'm very impressed thus far. If you're interested in her services, please email her at "yourwellnesscoachclt" at or "@" "gmail.com." (I separated her email address to protect her from spam.) 

The best part about this modern approach to health and wellness is that online coaching makes participants feel like they are part of a "family" of people improving their health within a program and finding someone like Maureen as a coach means encouragement, knowledge, and support are just an email away! 

Punta del Este

Friday, 7 February 2014

Punta del Este is a very pretty city on the ocean with great restaurants and friendly people. It is very busy in the summer as Argentinians come here to vacation. We were there in the low season so things were slower and more private. 

Our hotel was on the water and we enjoyed walking the beach in the mornings. You can see how vacant it is in the below picture. However, it should be noted that many South Americans enjoy going out at night to dance and fellowship (especially on the weekends) so not seeing people on the beach in the morning isn't that odd. James and I awake and walking the beach before 8:00 a.m. was odd. 

Our favorite restaurant in Punta del Este, Casa de los Terre, is across from the bay where lovely boats are moored. The spot isn't that fancy but the food is incredible and the service impeccable. Plus, the views from the tables by the open windows are gorgeous.

I usually don't have dessert but it was included in our meal and my goodness, it was worth the calories. Dulce de leche is a popular ingredient in Uruguay and made up this dish with mini pancakes, ice cream and shot with Baileys. To. Die. For. 

Olives near Punta del Este

Thursday, 6 February 2014
From Punta del Este on one of our last days in Uruguay, we went to the olive groves of Colinas de Garzon. This is the first brand of extra virgin olive oil produced in Uruguay that has received international awards and the grounds are gorgeous!

The tourist experience here is well designed, with a concentration on education. First, we watched a movie about the evolution and spread of olive trees around the world. Olive trees originated in Syria. Oil was popular and made into perfumes. The crop then spread to Greece. From there, the trees were taken to Italy, and then Spain. Finally, the olive was transported to Mexico, and then California where trees were planted at missions. 

Apparently Uruguay is a great place for producing olive oil because olive trees grow well here. The soil is sandy and copious amounts of rain water can filter through to the roots of the plants. The harvest season is from April to June depending on the maturation of the olives and the fruit is gathered through a technique they call "milking." Workers run their hands over the branches, gently pulling away the olives.

Here's a look at the tanks where the oil is processed. The oil settles in these tanks, is filtered again, and kept cool. The oil can rest in steel for four years where nitrogen is slowly collected and interacts with the product.

The oil is constantly analyzed for acidity. Oil with 0.2 acidity is perfect. This is the quality of oil we tasted. The world standard for acidity is 0.5. Our guide suggests that cooks buy smaller bottles of olive oil and that once it is opened, the oil should be used within two weeks. Who knew? After a tour of the facilities, it was time for a ride on the tractor to see the grounds! 

The grapes were first planted on the grounds 10 years ago and the production yields about 2,000 tons of oil each season. They also grow almonds here but our guide said it is not as simple of a venture as the olives. 

Garzon employs 800 people to work on the farm each year with another 200 seasonal workers when it is harvest time. In another life, I'd love to work to harvest olives or grapes for a season. The weather in Uruguay is lovely and the people are very friendly. I'd certainly have to work on my Spanish, however...

Next up: olive oil tasting and lunch! When tasting olive oil, you are supposed to cup the dish in your hand to heat it up. Then, after smelling the oil, take a small sip and move it from side to side in your mouth. Breathe in and "shhhhh" through your teeth to feel the spiciness. 

Our fantastic guide explained all of this as we tasted three types: Monovarietal (intense yellow with green hues, herbaceous aroma and hints of tomato leaves and artichoke), Bivarietal (pure yellow and mild fruity aroma, delicate smell of clover, soft but with character), and the Trivarietal (deep golden and intense fruity aroma, subtle clean smell from fresh olives).

This trip really was so special. James selected activities that he knew I'd love and I was so thankful to experience new things such as a cooking class, olive oil tasting, and one-on-one time with a sommelier. Uruguay is by far one of my favorite destinations and I cannot wait to return to the rolling country side and wide, powerful river.

Bouza Winery, Montevideo

Wednesday, 5 February 2014
This boutique winery is a working farm by a family started in 1942 as an orchard. Here the family grows three red grapes: Tannat, Merlot, and Tempanillo, and two types of white grapes: Albarino, and Chardonnay.

The grandson of the family took our small group on a tour and explained they have 30 hectares of vineyards and produce approximately 120k bottles of wine per year. The focus of this winery is not on production at Bouza, but instead on quality. 

The parcels of grapes are small and the rows are wide. They are each tended to carefully and the different parcels are treated on specific schedules. 

We learned that the winery is organic and no irrigation is needed because Uruguay gets so much rain. Bouza winery experiments on different parcels, using different growing techniques for different vines. For instance, they used granite rock at the base of some of the vines to reflect heat from the sun and offer soft light to the bottom of the vines (these grapes grow close to the ground). 

The harvest is in February or March depending on the maturation of the grapes. I found it interesting that the crews harvest at night when the day is at its lowest temperature. At Bouza, grapes are harvested by hand.

The first step after picking the grapes is the selecting table. It vibrates and knocks items that aren't just the grapes through a strainer. Then the grapes move on to another selection table where people pick out any grapes that aren't perfect. The grapes ride a conveyor belt and go through two rollers. They aren't crushed, however, because that would create a bitter taste. (You can see the processing area behind the guests in the photo below.)

There are three types of tanks for wine: steel, French oak and concrete. The concrete tanks are original to the farm but rarely used now. In the tanks, fermentation begins and the grapes change from juice, to a sugary mixture, to alcohol.

(French oak tanks)

(Concrete tanks)

Our guide told us more about why French oak barrels and tanks are popular in the wine making world: inside the containers, French oak isn't sealed completely. The wood is slightly porous allowing oxygen to come in and help the chemicals, giving stability to the wine. White wines age six to nine months and reds age eight to 18 months. 

From the processing room, we went to the area where the wine is stored. Interestingly, the family has a cellar inside a cellar where they keep several bottles from each year of production. This way, they can get together periodically and sample the variations, "tasting the journey" as the winery matures. 

At Bouza, there is also a fantastic antique car showroom. The "father" of the family collects old cars. The cars are started up and driven every week and any that fall into disrepair are immediately fixed. There are full time employees here that only work on the cars!

My favorite of the lot is this little one (below). It was manufactured by an airplane company in Germany and is built with parts of a plane! Fascinating. 

Once our tour was complete, my guide Tamara and I were escorted to the gorgeous restaurant for lunch and wine tasting. The restaurant at Bouza is modern and spacious. There were large crowds there for business lunches even at 2pm when we were seated! 

While I adored Narbona winery, Bouza is a different experience all together. Both are certainly worth visiting just to see the different styles of wineries in the region and the various approaches to growing and tending to grapes.

Cooking Lesson in Uruguay

Monday, 3 February 2014
James opted out of the private cooking lesson but of course this was one of my most favorite experiences in Uruguay. I went with our guide Tamara and our driver to La Quinta de la Arteaga. The venue is used for weddings and parties and the chef is well known in this area (just outside Montevido). 

Chef Leonardo was very patient and kind. He didn't speak much English but explained the sound when meat hit the pan as "music to his ears." Chef Leonardo also said that he likes using large, white plates as a canvas - saying that food is art.

The experience was amazing and I learned to make sauces and lamb cutlets as well as an amazing but simple to make potato, apple lasagna. 

Finca Narbona Winery, Carmelo

Sunday, 2 February 2014
About 10 minutes away from the Four Seasons resort is a treasure of a winery with a small restaurant. I would return to Carmelo just to come back to this private, small, breathtakingly beautiful property. There is even a small inn here with just five rooms as well as an outdoor eating area and pool for guests.

Our private tour began with our guide telling us about the name "Finca." He was a French man who started the winery in the 1950s. He was a bit ahead of his time because the wine did not take off as a local commodity so he returned to France. In the 1990s, the Narbona family purchased the rundown winery, renovated it, and replanted grapes here in 1993.

On the property, visitors will see many artifacts from the 1950s. Some are still in working order.

Our guide took us into the brand new, main winery that has a gorgeous tasting room that is not open yet. It will fully open later in 2014 and has space for what I know will be amazing parties. The lighting in the cellar is not great for pictures but the ambiance was fantastic.

There are 20 acres total at the Finca Narbona Winery. They grow olives on four of those acres, fruit trees on four acres, and the rest are for grapes. Grapes are harvested in February and March depending on how advanced the grapes on in their growth cycle. (If you ever get a chance to go to Uruguay, try to plan your trip during the grape or olive harvest season. Some wineries even let visitors participate in the work.)

Many wineries in Uruguay grow a grape called Tannat. It is a fantastic varietal and is well known in this part of the world. It isn't as light as a Pinot Noir but not as heavy as Merlot. The grape comes from Spain and if you ever have a chance to try it, I highly recommend Finca Narbona Tannat, 2010.

Again, we just loved the grounds with the romantic outdoor eating space, framed with vines and staged on a huge old farm table. Our tour next took us to the tasting room in the "old house" and we were blown away by the ambiance and charm. Here's James following the sommelier down into the cellar for our private tasting.

The narrow stairs open up into an intimate tasting room where the wine is stored. 

Our sommelier had a set up of local cheeses and three Finca Narbona wines for us to sample. She walked us through each wine, showing us the proper way to taste it and what to notice about how it touches the tongue.

This was the best part of the tour for me (hard to beat wine tasting, right?) because we were able to get an excellent education on how food impacts what we're drinking and also how different wines can have highly complex tastes that are recognized with a little practice. 

We sampled Narbona Sauvingnon Blanc, Narbona Pinot Noir (2012), and the Tannat Roble (2010). The pinot noir was lovely with a taste of forest fruit such as berries and mint. It was dry on the tongue and we sampled it with local Colonia cheese. The tannat had a more complex scent with a taste of chocolate, and raisin. It was smoky with a touch of acidity. The sommelier explained that if you have a dish such as meat like pork or beef that is a bit fatty, you need a stronger wine to break up the taste of the meat.

I did not want to leave this small, romantic spot but the end of our tour ended with lunch in the small restaurant after a quick stroll through the gardens where they grow herbs and vegetables for the kitchen.