Travel

Escape to the Chateau! Live like French royalty among vineyards and oyster farms of the Médoc

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Cordeillan-Bages looks magical lit up at dusk

Cordeillan-Bages looks magical lit up at dusk

There is something undeniably magical about a stay at a French chateau.

It is the stuff of Disney movies and dreams – and Chateau Cordellian-Bages fits the bill for both.

A beautiful gold-stone turreted chartreuse (country mansion) set in a gorgeous wine-growing estate in the Haut-Médoc, a charming part of France a 40-minute drive from Bordeaux, it is exactly the sort of chateau chic you hope for when you plan an escape to the chateau.

As the sweeping drive takes you to the entrance through acres of vineyards – the chateau owners produce some of the regions finest wine – you cant help but feel a little like visiting royalty.

Château Cordeillan-Bages is more than just the chateau itself – it is part of a remote, gold-stone hamlet restored by the Cazes family in 1989, nestled between two hectares of vineyards in the Médoc region just south of Pauillac on the left bank of the Gironde estuary.

The gold-stone chateau Cordeillan-Bages

The gold-stone chateau Cordeillan-Bages with its cute turrets and charming gardens

The chateau is famous for a wine beloved to those in the know – the fifth growth Grand Cru Classe, Chateau Lynch-Bages – and is one of the most famous vineyards in all of the Médoc region, but theres plenty more to do in this lovely part of France.

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Cycling the beautiful countryside, horseriding, bikes and hikes in the extensive 19th century forests, drives through medieval towns and villages and more than 150 miles of white sandy beaches on the nearby Atlantic coast.

Away from the vineyards, surfing and watersports are a big deal and with such a long coastline accessible, beaches are uncrowded and peaceful.

Theres also an annual wine marathon, the Marathon des Chateaux du Médoc, that takes place every September. This may be the only time the term fun-run really applies – youll run 26.2 miles alongside people dressed as giant wine bottles with 20 wine stops en route that fuel runners with wine, steak, oysters and cheese as they pass through the vineyards of the Médoc.

Le vibe

Relaxed but elegant. We pulled up next to a line of Ferraris parked outside the hotel and felt slightly out of place in our little car – but we neednt have worried. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, no matter what wheels you arrive in.

The interior of the hotel combines French art de vivre with interiors designed by Milan-based architect, Anne-Monique Bonadéi, designer accents and walls adorned with contemporary works by Pierre Alechinsky, Emilio Perez, Tan Swie Hian, Antoni Tapies and Gérard Titus-Carmel.

The laid-back atmosphere extends to the grounds, where you can relax by the outdoor pool or sunbathe on the terrace overlooking the vineyards. This is the spot to grab a glass of Lynch-Bages as the sun sets ahead before heading in for a Michelin-star dinner in the hotel.

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Les rooms

The rooms are a neat blend of modern design cut with traditional chateau flourishes. Theres a transparent glass wall that frosts over for privacy and nice big shower heads. From all of the 28 rooms youll be treated to some sort of greenery for a view — be it the courtyard or the front garden filled with ornamental magnolia trees. Oak cupboards and Danish lighting finish off the peaceful, earthy design.

The rooms have a soothing blend of contemporary and traditional design with a little Danish design flair

The rooms have a soothing blend of contemporary and traditional design with a little Danish design flair

What to do

Wine is the natural choice – of course, you must tour the vineyards of the chateau and beyond. Elsewhere though, theres much more to do. Oyster tasting is a highlight in the Médoc region. You can simply rock up at La Petite Canau farm to discover how the regions refreshing oysters are cultivated once theyre transported from Brittany while enjoying the wide skies that stretch across the farm.

During the tour and tasting, theres the chance to learn about the logistics behind oyster farming. This particular farm is essentially a weight-gaining farm for the oysters, packing them with enough nutrients to make them plump and meaty.

Different farms favour different flavours which can be achieved through the salt levels of the water theyre soaked in, which is why the oysters of La Rochelle are particularly salty compared to those in the Médoc region. Its certainly an alternative date location—sipping wine and eating oysters as the sun slowly sets.

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In 2010, the Cazes family renovated the village of Bages which is peaceful pit stop out of the hotel grounds.

Cycling through the vineyards and through the country paths is ideal for getting around and seeing the local area and some of the worlds most famous vineyards – Chateau Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothchild are all just minutes away from the hotel.

A short distance from the hotel, youll reach the centre of Pauillac, with its wine library and the largest estuary in Europe, the Gironde, where you can gently cruise along the waters.

Festivals and events happen all summer long here, including the festival of the cinema Les Vendanges du 7ème Art and winegrower presentations.

In August, the House of Tourism and Wine hosts a rendez-vous for lovers of music, gastronomy and wine in an idyllic setting on the estuary.

The food

The château, which has the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the Medoc, welcomed young Michelin-star chef Julien Lefebvre to lead the way in 2017, at the age of 35. His passion for sourcing natural produce draws in crowds of curious gastronomy lovers to try his contemporary French haute-cuisine.

One of the dishes at the Michelin-starred restaurant t Cordeillan-Bages

One of the dishes at the Michelin-starred restaurant at Cordeillan-Bages

During the early summer months, the Pauillac region is famous for its asparagus and strawberries with local producers harvesting their crops, so expect the freshest ingredients.

We tried the eight-course tasting menu which started with a decorative pre-amuse bouche on a winding bark-like ornament stippled in canapés.

Next came a modest batch of Laurent Hullots asparagus with caramelised morels followed by line-caught meager, a succulent fish served with Read More – Source