I was delighted to find out recently that my old pal Anne de Ravel is the chef at the fabulous Château Les Carrasses, a 19th-century wine domaine near
, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the South of France. It’s midway between Beziers and Montpellier . The property has just been extensively restored and converted to a boutique winery and luxury hotel estate; it opened officially in late July. Perpignan
Anne was a consultant for the New York Times Magazine, Part II, Entertaining (from 1984 to 1992) and a producer at Food Network in
from 1992 to 2001. She returned to her native New York in 2007 to open a cooking school called Saveur France , which she still operates. Languedoc
At Château Les Carrasses Anne is using local ingredients to create classic Mediterranean dishes and tapas, which are served in a bistro or on the roof terrace with spectacular estate views.
“This is not a gastronomic restaurant,” she tells me. “I prepare simple dishes I would do at home for my friends using fresh seasonal ingredients I pick up at the market. The menu changes all the time.”
Also on the property are eight acres of gardens, an infinity pool, floodlit clay tennis courts, a boules court, an orchard and a vegetable garden. Olive trees are being planted.
Château Les Carrasses has 28 apartments and villas, many with panoramic views, all fashioned from the estate’s original 19th-century buildings. (Rather than traditional hotel services, the property offers what's known as "self-catering," which means there is no room service and no daily maid service.) The château itself, like a fairy-tale castle, was built in 1886, on the foundations of a rest stop along the pilgrim Route de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Around two main courtyards are all the buildings traditionally found on a wine domain: the château, winery and cellars; a blacksmith’s house, stables, forge, granary and the estate cottages, which have been transformed into guest accommodations. The largest can sleep eight. All have fully equipped kitchens, air conditioning, free WiFi, flat screens, DVDs and fully loaded iPods. Most have sunny private gardens and terraces with BBQ, outdoor dining areas and sun loungers. Many have private heated pools. The amenities are by Fragonard. Rooms begin at 200€ per night in high season and 114€ from November to March.
Owner Karl O'Hanlon wants Château Les Carrasses to be a destination for wine lovers and he has already begun producing a number of Les Carrasses vintages. On Sunday September 25, he staged his first wine class: a one-day outing to a local domaine where the harvest was underway. The group learned about various varietals and how they’re picked and when; the differences between pressing and macerating; how oak barrels affect the wine-ageing process and much more. They also tasted and compared a number of wine grapes–Mourvedre, Macabeu, Carignan, etc.--and sampled juice from the vats at various levels of fermentation.
A gourmet picnic among the vines was followed by an afternoon session on wine blending, back at the château. The group then set out to blend their own wine from
, Grenache and Carignan grapes. The wines were judged in a blind tasting by all participants. Syrah
The next wine class, with a focus on ageing and blending, will be the weekend of November 26. In December, the château will host a WSET II course, run by wine director Matthew Stubbs. Stubbs has 24 years experience in the wine trade and is one of only 300 Masters of Wine in the world. After years of buying and selling wine in the
he decided to live the dream and move to the Languedoc-Roussillon, which he calls “the most exciting and spectacular place to make wine on Earth.” UK
Other courses are being added and will be posted on the Les Carrasses website when details are confirmed. Special food-and-wine weekends are also being planned.
: 04-67-00-00-67 France
Reservations from US: 011-33-4-67-00-00-67
: 08-45-686-8067 UK