July 7, 2020
We are often asked what our favorite destinations for the best cooking vacations are, and as I explained in our recent video (see below!), that…Read This Post
I’ve never written about the time I had lunch at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s beautiful chateau and wine estate in the south of France. Nestled in the countryside of Provence, the stunning estate boasts some 500 hectares, much of it cultivated with vines and olive groves. The famous couple was married in the charming medieval chapel on the estate.
Their wedding day was not, unfortunately, the day I lunched there. In fact, my experience pre-dates the Pitt-Jolies purchasing the property, but harkens back to 2006 when it was still owned by an American banker.
I was in Provence for an educational tour to learn more about the region and what it could offer to people like me, who sell trips to France (and elsewhere) for a living. I had been to Provence previously but never to this area, and let’s face it, was happy to use any excuse to get back to France! The drive up to the estate is stunning. I felt like I was pulling up to the famed doors of Pemberly, except there was too much sunshine for Derbyshire, and I don’t think there they had latticed terraces formed by age-old restanques, the un-mortared stone retaining walls that are so common and picturesque in this part of France. The day was sunny in the way it sometimes is in Provence, not a harsh sun, missing the heat of full summer, but slightly tempered and making everything glow. The flowers were in bloom. The air was clear but for the sound of our feet on the pebbled walks. The gardens were manicured and dotted with art, a marble cherub here, a stone goddess there.
The owner himself came out to welcome us and lead us in a wine tasting. The vineyards, if I remember correctly, were some of the first in the area to be dedicated to organic cultivation. (I’m guessing, given their reputation, that the Pitt-Jolies keep up this tradition.) We tasted several wines: a couple of whites, a rosé and a couple of reds. That might have helped with the sunny glow.
Lunch was sublime, not because it was the best meal I had eaten, but because, for one, I surely do enjoy dining outdoors, and two, because it was one of the most beautiful settings I have ever dined in. We ate at two tables on the terrace overlooking the gardens in front of us, with the vineyards at our back. The chairs were charmingly mismatched. A tray of “bruschette” greeted us (a bit Italian, I thought rather snobbishly, not because I don’t like Italian food, but because I thought they could have found something more French). A bowl of olives appeased me, wonderful local varieties of all shapes and flavors (some likely gathered from the trees behind me during last season’s harvest). The rack of lamb was delicious and perfectly prepared. But really, they could have just cut to the cheese course, which was very memorable. The French really have perfected the art of cheese making.
I entered the actual chateau only to use the bathroom. (Which was very nice!). The interior was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. I remember a grand piano in one of the rooms I passed through. I’ve since learned that the estate was once owned by a famous jazz musician, Jacques Loussier, who invited his contemporaries (Pink Floyd, Sade, Sting) to visit and record music at his in-home studio. As if this place needed anything to make it cooler. I wonder now if the piano came with the chateau, and dream of the nights that must have been had there back in the day.
We won’t promise to show you the Chateau de Miraval during one of our cooking vacations in Provence. The Pitt-Jolies, as far as I know, do not allow tours, let alone lovely lunches on the terrace. The best we can do is seek and find such similar experiences in which the location, the food, the climate, the “terroir” create a memory that transcends a simple meal. I will always remember that lunch.
By Peg Kern
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