Wine Lover's France: The Chateau de Berne Winery
My first visit to Chateau de Berne in 2006 was a memorable one. Just two years into my job with The International Kitchen, I was still getting used to staying in luxury accommodations, eating at Michelin star restaurants, and drinking wines that cost more than I usually spent on a whole meal. Let me just say that the Chateau de Berne nearly ruined me for every other place I've travelled, it was just amazing. Sure, I'd stayed in large, airy rooms -- but not ones with a working fireplace ("Would you like us to light the fire for you this evening? Lay it for you to light later?"), "Frette" bathrobes, and a balcony overlooking miles of vineyards. And yes, I'd had amazing food and wine during my travels, but whether enjoying breakfast in my room, lunch on the terrace, or sipping wines at the winery, the staff at Chateau de Berne made sure my stay was unforgettable.
Because wine is usually the focus of our Wednesday blogs, I'll spare our readers more details about my room, my food, our visit of the Lorgues market, the cooking, etc. (feel free to call our office to learn more!), in order to focus on the winery. The Var part of Provence, in which the Chateau de Berne is nestled like an old uncle's noble estate, has been a wine producing region for thousands of years. Particularly known for its rosé wines, the climate and soil make it perfectly suited to wine making. The Chateau de Berne is emblematic of this. There is a gorgeous hotel (a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateau group), wonderful restaurants, not to mention a spa, but the estate's primary activity since the 18th Century has been winemaking. Today it boasts almost 300 acres of vines and a state-of-the-art winery, all carried out under the official certification of sustainable farming.
The Chateau de Berne's vines are planted on two plots, the Château, where lovely rosés are produced, and the higher-up Plateau, which is reserved for the finest vintages. The wines are vinified and matured on site, at the estate's large winery, which is also host to local concerts and festivals throughout the year. During a cooking vacation at the Chateau de Berne, you not only have the chance to enjoy the estate's fine wines with your food, but you are treated to an in-depth tour of the facilities, and can even go out exploring the immense grounds by bike or four-wheeler. A tasting will acquaint you with the ins and outs of Provence's wine-making laws and practices, as well as with the estate's many award-winning wines.
And don't forget to take some wine home with you! After my visit of the winery I was generously gifted a bottle of their Grande Cuvée Rouge, a bold, extremely dark wine, 90 to 95% Syrah if I remember correctly, and reminiscent of a fine Burgundy. My hostess explained that the Côtes de Provence AOC regulations prohibited them making a single-variety wine, so they added just enough Cabernet Sauvignon to satisfy the letter of the law.
Like the rest of Chateau de Berne, it was sheer perfection.
By Peg Kern