Provence: La Coquillade

Provence: La Coquillade

Set back in the vineyards on a lush hilltop near Apt, the recently opened La Coquillade is an eco-friendly 28-room neo-Provençal hotel with six bastides, or large farmhouses, facing a timeless sweep of countryside. Granted, the rustic beams have been painstakingly treated to look ancient, but never mind—this is still deep Provence, with no cutesy tourist trappings. Each of the airy, prettily designed rooms is different, decked out in sumptuous pale earth-tone fabrics and sleek contemporary furnishings. The split-level honeymoon suite has its own pool and state-of- the-art steam bath. The owner, Swiss entrepreneur Andreas Rihs, is a die-hard cycling enthusiast, and he offers guests high-tech mountain bikes to explore the surrounding Luberon hills.

In the kitchen is young chef Christophe Renaud, who trained with Jean-Luc Rabanel at the famed L’Atelier in Arles. Expect exquisite, wildly imaginative combos, from beet-and-Granny- Smith gazpacho to flavorful salads composed of 20-odd tomato varieties. Main dishes might include homemade foie gras, rare “forgotten” vegetables from the hotel’s garden and whimsical desserts like banana spring rolls with Espelette pepper and passion fruit sauce. In good weather meals are served on the terrace, surrounded by fields of pungent lavender.

Next door, in the hotel’s 74-acre vineyard, the Cave Aureto is a gleaming ultramodern winery producing award-winning red, white and rosé wines—try what they call their “petit miracle”, AOC Luberon, a superb blend of syrah and grenache, with notes of plum, licorice and dried figs. And for music lovers, the summer international piano festival at La Roque d’Anthéron—an extravaganza with the world’s finest pianists performing in mostly outdoor venues (this year July 22–August 20)—is less than an hour’s drive away.

Doubles start (low season) €150. Gargas, website

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of France Today

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