Monday, October 29, 2018

What's Happening at Château La Coste?

For anyone interested in wine, design, sculpture or architecture--or simply experiencing very unusual and beautiful places--a visit to Château La Coste is a must.
On the 600-acre property you’ll find organic grapevines spread out in lush sun-baked rows and a shimmering olive grove, a gorgeous hotel and spa, restaurants (from casual to Michelin starred), a state-of-the-art winery, a wine shop, a book shop and a world-class Art & Architecture Park.  You need at least three hours to do it justice but you could easily spend a whole day.

If you haven't been to La Coste in a few years, there are plenty of new things to discover. It's definitely a work in progress!
While the newest incarnation of Chateau La Coste is roughly 20 years old, there's been agriculture and winemaking here as far back as Roman times. On the property are cobbled Gallo-Roman pathways, dry stone walls, bridges, underground wells...and the vestiges of an intricate watering system currently undergoing restoration. A lovely Venetian-style villa in a rosy pink hue has stood here since 1682.
It was in 2002 that the current owner (the Irish art collector, real-estate developer and hotel investor Patrick “Paddy” McKillen) bought the property and decided to transform what was a fairly nondescript wine domaine into a world-class destination where art, architecture and agriculture would blend seamlessly. The idea had already been successful in the Basque city of Álava, headquarters of Vinos del Marqués de Riscal, where Frank Gehry had been commissioned to build a hotel. Here in France, McKillen and his family expanded on that idea, inviting artists and architects from all over the world to “visit, explore and find a place...that inspired them to create.” 
Today this "starchitect winery," roughly 20 minutes north of Aix, has a large visitors' center designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando, plus numerous installations and buildings crafted by other luminaries such as Jean Nouvel and Frank Gehry. Viewed from the country road that winds into the agricultural village of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, the rounded aluminum Jean Nouvel winery glints silver in the distance and is joined by a Frank Gehry-designed music pavilion, two more buildings by Ando and sculptures by Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois and many others.
The list of artists with work on view here grows every year and currently includes sought-after names such as Alexander Calder, Michael Stipe, Andy Goldsworthy, Paul Matisse, Tracy Emin, Ai Weiwei and many others.  A Renzo Piano-designed gallery opened in 2017; 2018 welcomed a permanent piece (“Dead End”) by Sophie Calle and a permanent installation (“Komorebi”) by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. See the full list of current artists and architects here.
Ongoing and future projects include a piece by Tony Berlant and Frank Gehry, a sculpture by Per Kirkeby and a “massive” project by Louise Bourgeois and Jean Nouvel.  A Richard Rogers pavilion is also being planned.
To see the major features of the Art & Architecture Park, plan for a two-hour stroll with some gravel and gentle hills. To do it on your own, you'll be given a map of the 30-some installations. Guided tours are also available and can be public or private; more info on that is below.
A gorgeous five-star hotel called Villa La Coste was completed in 2017 by the Marseille architecture firm Tangram. It has 28 "villa suites," spectacular views, an elegant spa, art by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol (among others), a tapestry by Fernand Léger… and not one but two restaurants from Michelin three-star chefs. An ornate 19th-century tea pavilion was shipped over from Vietnam.
If the timing is right, you should definitely start or cap your visit to Château La Coste with a meal. Be sure to check the website or phone ahead for winter hours and reservations.
The one-star restaurant Louison from Marseille-based chef Gérald Passedat currently serves lunch (during the weekends) and dinner (every day); expect to pay 100€ or more for lunch or dinner, beverages excluded.
The second restaurant is the Salon, which they describe as "bistronomic" (blending gastronomic and bistro). The Salon is open every day for lunch and dinner; expect to pay from 38€ per person for lunch and from 50€ for dinner, without wine.
In 2017, Château La Coste also opened the first Francis Mallmann restaurant in Europe. Serving  "New Argentinian" cuisine, it's open for lunch (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and dinner (every day); expect to pay roughly 80€ per person for lunch or dinner, beverages excluded.
For more dining options, Le Restaurant de Tadao Ando in the main reception center is open every day for lunch (but again, check the site for seasonal hours). Menus start at 34€; seating is indoors and out.  My friends and I loved everything about our lunch here last November: the sunshine on the terrace, the soothing calm of the reflecting pool, the excellent food and wine and the gracious warmth of our server.  
La Terrace, open from 10 am to 9:30 pm every day in summer and on weekends in winter, serves a lighter menu of fresh salads, chilled soups, home-made tarts, farmers cheeses and organic charcuterie, accompanied of course by Château La Coste wines. The Terrace often has live music.
When you plan your visit, make sure to also leave time for wine tasting in the pretty wine shop...or a tour of the winery ("chai"), available by appointment only. And definitely save time for perusing all the art and architecture titles in the bookshop.
And what about those wines after all? Château La Coste makes wine using biodynamic principals which strive to preserve the fertility of the soil and the terroir in general. The first harvest was in 2008 and the wines earned the organic "AB" distinction the following year. Today they make a wide range of extremely popular reds, roses and whites (from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Cinsault grapes) which range in price from roughly 11€ to 120€. Learn about the wines here and see the wine tasting schedule here.
Château La Coste hosts a number of open-to-the-public events each year including outdoor movie screenings, art exhibits, workshops and classes for kids and adults, concerts, evening visits, wine workshops and more. For the schedule, click here and see the current art exhibits here. You can also sign up to receive a newsletter with alerts about upcoming events.
The Art & Architecture Park is open for self-guided visits year round (you'll be provided with a map; current entry price is 15€ full price and 12€ for students, job seekers, seniors and groups, free for kids under 10 years old).
Guided visits are available in French and English, on a set schedule, seven days a week. In Winter, tours are offered in both French and English at 10:30 and 2:30. In July and August, tours are offered in both French and English at 10:30 and 4:30. Private tours are also available by reservation and groups are welcomed. Seasonal opening times, admission prices, directions and more can all be found on the bi-lingual website.
Chateau La Coste
2750 Route de la Cride
13610 Le Puy Sainte Reparade
+33 (0)4 42 61 89 98

Photos: (1) You've arrived! The entry gate by architect Tadao Ando. (2) Working the vines. (3) The restaurant Louison, from chef Gérald Passedat, who has held three Michelin stars at his restaurant Le Petit Nice in Marseille since 2008.  (4) Restaurant Francis Mallmann. The Michelin-three-star Argentinian chef has restaurants around the world and is known for cooking over live flame.  (5) The hotel surrounded by grape vines. (6) A dish from the restaurant called The Salon. (7) In the hotel, a Pavillon Suite with views of the Luberon Mountains. (8) The hotel spa. (9) Jean Nouvel designed the corrugated-aluminum winery buildings, each 10 meters high. Together they're known as the Cuverie or Chai. (10) New this year: a sculpture called ''Komorebi” by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. (11) The Music Pavillon by Frank Gehry. (12) An installation by Liam Gillick. (13) The sculpture "Drop" by Tom Shannon. (14) An art gallery called Bastide opened this year.  (15) A section of Ai Weiwei's ''Ruyi Path.'' (16, 17). Sculptures by Hiroshi Sugimoto and Louise Bourgeois have become iconic images of Chateau La Coste.


  1. Julie: I know my dad who owned art galleries in San Francisco, Palm Springs and Hawaii, and made many trips in his lifetime to France to acquire art (and drink good French wine) would have loved this amazing place. I think the photos of Chateau La Coste are gorgeous, but probably don't do them justice, so I'd like to see it in person. Let's talk soon about how we can make that happen!

  2. What a fabulous undertaking! Absolutely not to be missed! Thanks for this, Julie.

  3. Thanks for the info! I'll be sure to check it out the next time I'm in Provence.



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