Travel Tip: Living the Château Life on Bordeaux's Left Bank

The region's great estates are opening their doors to wine-loving guests. Here is your guide to luxury accommodation and fine dining amid the vines
Travel Tip: Living the Château Life on Bordeaux's Left Bank
A private chef will cook meals for you at Château Cos-d’Estournel's La Chartreuse. (Courtesy of Château Cos-d’Estournel)
Mar 26, 2018

This tip originally appeared in the March 31, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator, "2015 Bordeaux."

Bordeaux has never been more welcoming to wine lovers. The city has been beautifully restored. Its infrastructure has been updated, including the addition of the Cité du Vin museum of wine. Its restaurants are better than ever. And now, responding to the growing demand for luxury tourism, a number of châteaus have opened their doors to overnight guests.

Wine lovers want to experience life inside the great châteaus, partaking in the pleasures of fine wine and food amid the vineyard landscape. Happily, this opportunity is increasingly available to visitors: Some estates rent rooms, some welcome guests for private dinners, some have restaurants open to the public, some feature a mix of the above. Most have five or fewer guest rooms, making them attractive choices for an intimate getaway with a small group of friends or family. Expect a concierge, decor that reflects the taste of the owner, and an optional chef. A handful of châteaus have opened restaurants and wine bars that are yet more accessible.

So whether you dream of sipping a glass of wine on the limestone terrace of an 18th-century castle, waking up to a view of vineyards, or dining on a menu of local delicacies paired with a vertical tasting in the private salon of a château, it's all possible—if you know where to go.

Château Beychevelle and La Table de Beychevelle

Hotel, Private Dining
Telephone (33) (0)5-5673-38-01
Rooms 11
Suites 2
Rates $465 per night, includes breakfast, winery tour and tasting for 2; closed Aug. 1 to 15 and mid-December to New Year's
Private Dining From $220 per person for a party of 6; includes 4 courses and 3 wines

Philippe Roy
Guest room at Château Beychevelle

This sprawling 18th-century château is surrounded by vines and a park stretching toward the Gironde estuary. Sitting on the terrace in the evening, under the stars, you might feel transported back in time to when barrels left the estate by flat-bottomed boat from its tiny port. But there's no clinging to the past at Beychevelle. Last year, the estate unveiled a new state-of-the-art cellar, and after undergoing extensive renovations, the property began hosting overnight guests and private dining. The decor is grand classical French augmented with modern comforts.

Even if you're not an overnight guest, you can have lunch or dinner at La Table de Beychevelle from Monday to Thursday. Contact Christine Pinault, La Table de Beychevelle's director, to plan your stay or meal; it's possible to dine with someone from Beychevelle, and the estate offers three tour options, including a private master class.

Château Chasse-Spleen and Baravin

Hotel, Restaurant
32 Chemin de la Razé, Moulis-en-Médoc
Telephone (33) (0)5-5658-0237
Rooms 3
Rates $245–$306
Winery Tours and Tastings $12–$73
Wine Bar Open daily, May to October
Cost Small plates, $15–$49; wines by the glass $4–$15

Courtesy of Château Chasse-Spleen
Château Chasse-Spleen

Céline Villars-Foubet and her husband, Jean-Pierre Foubet, recently transformed their 18th-century château into an art center, wine bar and bed and breakfast. The art on display is a mix of temporary exhibits and pieces from their personal collection, beautifully integrated into the landscape, château and guest rooms. The bedrooms are light and elegant, designed as part of an immersion in contemporary art.

The stylish wine bar, Baravin, features wines from the owners' estates, including Chasse-Spleen and Gressier-Grand-Poujeaux, and serves small plates. All the food is grown within a 124-mile radius, so you can expect carefully chosen regional specialties like cured ham and cheese from the Basque country and local foie gras.

Château Cos-d'Estournel and La Chartreuse de Cos d'Estournel

Hotel, Private Dining
Telephone (33) (0)5-5673-1550
Rooms 6
Suites 2
Rates $24,000 per night, includes meals and wine for up to 16 guests

Cos-d'Estournel owner Michel Reybier is also a luxury hotelier, and he spared no expense when he built the opulent residence at this second-growth estate. Designer Jacques Garcia brought his flamboyant style to the lavish interior, which showcases exquisite antique doors from India, handpainted wallpaper and rare Persian carpets. The winery's technical director, Dominique Arangoïts, will take you behind the scenes at Cos; depending on the time of year, you might harvest grapes or taste the different lots that create the final blend for the grand vin.

The residence, which accommodates up to 16 guests, features six double rooms, two suites, a private cellar and a heated indoor pool. The accommodations include concierge service and access to a heliport in addition to meals and wines, with a private chef preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinners are accompanied by one vintage of Cos-d'Estournel Blanc and three of Cos-d'Estournel.

La Table d'Agassac at Château d'Agassac

15 Rue du Chateau d'Agassac, Ludon Médoc
Telephone (33) (0)5-5788-8950
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Cost 4-course prix fixe $54–$182

D'Agassac's 13th-century moated castle looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. On a sunny day or warm evening, reserve a table on the terrace and see what sommelier Giovanni Curcio has in store. Curcio—who worked at Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy, and L'Arpège in Paris before alighting in the Médoc—helms the restaurant, offering wine-and-food pairing menus that change daily. All meals are a four-course prix fixe. If you choose one of the wine-pairing menus, each glass of wine is served blind.

Curcio curates his wine list to reflect Bordeaux, but also Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhône and his native Italy. Relying on the Coravin system, he offers many wines by the glass. You'll find L'Agassant d'Agassac 2011 ($29 a bottle) and Château d'Agassac 2005 ($109), as well as selections such as Château Pichon Baron 2003 ($293) and Château Petit-Village 2009 ($183).

Le Hameau at Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker

7 Rue de la Trémoille, Margaux
Telephone (33) (0)5-5781-1320
Open Noon to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday, May to October
Cost Small plates and charcuterie $17–$23

Eloise Vene
Le Hameau at Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker

Owner Nathalie Perrodo-Samani has overseen a renaissance at third-growth Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker, located on the main route through the town of Margaux. In addition to investments in the vineyards, she's given the estate a unique style. From the cellars to the gardens, the design is a subtle blend of classical French with Asian influences, an homage to her family heritage.

At Le Hameau (a name inspired by Marie Antoinette's pavilion at the Palace of Versailles), Perrodo-Samani has created an attractive place to stop for a bite and a glass of wine. Expect recent vintages of Marquis d'Alesme Becker by the bottle or glass, as well as a white wine by the glass from a guest grower. Examples include Marquis d'Alesme Becker 2009 ($59 a bottle), 2010 ($55 a bottle) and 2012 ($10 a glass). Food options include the "meat-eater" board, with Bellota cured ham, a terrine, condiments and a green salad, and the "shepherd's board," a selection of cheeses with a green salad. The restaurant also serves organic ice cream, sorbets and juices, as well as teas, espresso and cordials. Wines are for sale in the boutique (shipped worldwide), and there's free Wi-Fi.

Château Le Pape and The Private Table of Haut-Bailly

Hotel; Private Dining
25 Chemin Le Thil, 33850 Léognan
Telephone (33) (0)5-5664-7511
Rooms 4
Suites 1
Rates $244–$501, includes breakfast, winery tour and tasting at either Haut-Bailly (Monday to Friday) or Le Pape (Saturday and Sunday)
Private Dining $183–$220 per person for a party of 8; includes a cocktail, 4 courses and 3 wines
The pool at Château Le Pape

American Robert Wilmers, the late owner of Haut-Bailly, acquired Le Pape in 2012 and restored the graceful 19th-century manor and gardens, turning the former into a luxury guest house. The setting is superb, located in a peaceful corner of Graves, just a 20-minute drive from the city of Bordeaux. The heated pool is open from April through October, and bikes are available for a ride through the vineyards or along the quiet country lanes. Overnight guests take their breakfast at Le Pape, and with advance notice, you can order cold dishes of charcuterie, cheese and salads.

The Private Table, however, is located next-door, at sister property Château Haut-Bailly. This is where chef Jean-Charles Poinsot serves delicious seasonal cuisine with wine pairings. Vertical tastings are available upon request.

Château Ormes de Pez

29 Route des Ormes de Pez, St.-Estèphe
Telephone (33) (0)6-7948-3247, (33) (0)5-5659-3005
Rooms 5
Rates $182–$231, including breakfast

Owned by the Cazes family, of Lynch-Bages, Ormes de Pez is situated near the village of St.-Estèphe. The 18th-century manor is surrounded by large trees and a peaceful park, creating an oasis of calm and beauty. The five spacious and airy bedrooms manage to be both elegant and cozy, and the sitting rooms and dining rooms continue in the same style. This is an ideal location for a gathering of friends or family. A swimming pool is open from June through September. Manager Gilles de Marcellus can help organize tastings, visits to other estates and restaurant reservations.

The best local dining option is a 15-minute drive to the hamlet of Bages, where the Cazes family has its popular brasserie Café Lavinal and the Relais & Châteaux hotel Château Cordeillan-Bages, whose restaurant kitchen is under the direction of talented executive chef Julien Lefebvre.

Château du Tertre and Château Giscours

Hotel; Private Dining
14 Allée du Tertre, Arsac
Telephone du Tertre: (33) (0)5-5788-5252; Giscours: (33) (0)5-5797-0909
Rooms du Tertre: 5; Giscours: 3
Rates du Tertre: from $304; Giscours: from $214; both include breakfast, winery tour and tasting
Private Dining Giscours, for groups of 8 or more: lunch $183 per person, including wine, tour and tasting; dinner from $208 per person

François Poincet
Château Giscours

Fifth-growth Château du Tertre offers top-notch service and a luxurious, relaxing stay in the Margaux appellation. The bedrooms are spacious and decorated in a chic 19th-century country style. The manager handles concierge services, including the organization of visits to other estates and restaurant reservations. If you need more than the five rooms at du Tertre, its sister property, third-growth Château Giscours, has three gorgeous rooms.

Du Tertre offers private dining for groups of eight or more for lunch and 10 or more for dinner in the Orangerie, which looks out over the gardens. Meals include a bespoke tour and a tasting of wines from both estates; the experience is a unique opportunity to explore the effect of terroir through a comparative tasting of wines from the two estates.

France Bordeaux Bordeaux's Left Bank

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