Château La Coste Delivers Modern Art, Food and Wine
A friend and her husband arrived in Provence for three nights, but their work schedule only allowed for a tiny window of social time. We headed directly from l’Aéroport de Marseille Provence to Château La Coste for lunch and a vineyard walk to see the modern art sculptures.
Located just outside the agricultural village of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, Château La Coste is about 35-minutes from the airport and only 16 kilometres from the old centre of Aix-en-Provence. Plan to spend at least half a day onsite to allow enough time to visit the installations, browse architectural book collection in the boutique, have a bite to eat, and sample some wine.
Architecture and Art
The evolution of Château La Coste is ongoing, as its Irish-born owner Patrick McKillen has a grand vision for this 200-hectare (600 acres) estate. The Venetian-style bastide (manor house) dates from 1682, and the vineyard was established in the 18th century. However, Roman era vestiges unearthed on the property indicate that grapes were cultivated in the same vicinity long ago. Leveraging his successes in real estate development and luxury hotels, McKillen purchased the property in 2002. It was his sister Mara who first identified the neglected property, and she continues to collaborate on the concept.
Fans of contemporary architecture will be impressed by this wine estate. McKillen hired French architect Jean Nouvel to master plan the vineyard and to design the wine cave. The polished aluminum structure could be mistaken for an aircraft hangar is, in fact, the wine cave. Japanese architect and artist Tadao Ando designed the central building, the Centre d’Art which houses the bookshop, Bistro restaurant and a covered parkade. The open-air music pavilion, conceived by Frank Gehry, is a jumbled combination of glass and wood. These world-renowned architects were challenged to work within the natural landscape and the existing agricultural buildings.
Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider awaits you as you drive into the property, this oversized metal creature may give anyone who has arachnophobia a bit of a fright. Sprinkled throughout McKillen’s property are 30-odd thought-provoking sculptures by Alexander Calder, Andy Goldsworthy, Ai Weiwei, Liam Gillick, Paul Matisse, Sean Sully, Tracy Emin, and others.
The self-guided Art & Architecture walk takes about two (2) hours to complete (you get a map and details when you buy tickets). The pathway involves rolling hills and stairs. It is possible to push a stroller most of the way, but anyone with mobility issues should consider a guided tour from the comfort of a golf cart.
Read: Chateau La Coste New Discoveries at the Vineyard by Anne-Marie Simons
Food and Wine
Although the Art & Architecture walk attracts visitors, McKillen is cognisant that a 15 Euro/pp tour will not improve the bottom line in that same way as food and wine purchases. His intent from the beginning was to produce a world-class location and equally notable wines. Guiding vineyard’s wine production is talented winemaker Matthieu Cosse (a biodynamic winemaker from Cahors in southwest France). Château La Coste received organic certification in 2009.
When it comes to food at the vineyard, there is something for every taste and budget. Three Michelin star chef, Gérald Passedat oversees all the kitchens onsite. Located inside Villa la Coste (more detail on the hotel below) is Louison a one Michelin star restaurant and Passedat’s only location outside of Marseille. Restaurant Le Salon, in the hotel, offers a selection of fresh gastronomic choices in a casual bistro environment. Reservations required.
If you have watched the Netflix series Chef’s Table, you will recognize Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann for his open fire cooking technique. The restaurant (his first in Europe) carries his name Francis Mallmann, and the menu follows his signature cooking-style. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and it’s best to consult the website for seasonal hours.
Taking the price down a notch is le Restaurant Tadao Ando in the Centre d’Art. Here, the tables and service flow seamlessly from inside to the exterior. The modern architecture that invites you to soak up the view.
If the weather is favourable for al fresco dining la Terrasse gets my vote with its limited, seasonal menu. On our visit, we enjoyed fresh pea and mint soup, a caramelized onion tart with salad, and Scottish smoked salmon. They do not take reservations.
Stay at the Vineyard
Five-star luxury hotel Villa La Coste was probably the most natural addition to the property given McKillen’s investments in high-end London hotels Connaught, Claridge’s and the Berkeley. Fitting a 28-suite hotel into a hillside was the job of Marseille-based Tangram Architectes. The rooms are like private cabins with discrete entries and expansive views of the Luberon Valley and Mont Ventoux. Top off your stay with a relaxing treatment in at the spa.
When you purchase your tickets you will get walking maps and details on the specific sculptures.
All captioned photos were provided by and published with the permission of Château La Coste.
Tadao Ando Chapel. Photograph Andrew Pattman
Tom Shannon, Drop, 2009 © Tom Shannon and Château La Coste 2015. Photograph © Andrew Pattman 2015
Château La Coste Francis Mallmann Portrait 4(c). Richard Haughton
Château La Coste Francis Mallmann Restaurant Extérieur. Richard Haughton
Tadao Ando, Restaurant, 2011 © Tadao Ando et Château La Coste 2016. Photograph © Andrew Pattman 2016
Tadao Ando Art Centre 2011© Tadao Ando Château La Coste 2016. Photograph (c) Andrew Pattman 2017
Jean Nouvel Cuverie 2008. © Jean Nouvel ADAGP Paris 2015. Photograph Andrew Pattman © 2015
Tadao Ando Gate Château La Coste. Photograph Andrew Pattman 2017