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Villa Baulieu, Alain Milliat Brunch & Mireille Darc Buzz
Just three hours from Paris consider putting Villa Baulieu, located at Rognes, Aix en Provence, on your list of 1,000 things do do before him upstairs calls. Nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano the handsome 17th century château which, following a seven year transformation, recently launched as a luxury B&B: Villa Baulieu is now open to a happy few.
There are six rooms, 2 junior suites and 3 suites all with views overlooking 300 bucolic hectares of park, farm and vineyards which surround the gated Villa. Each apartment showcases the history of Baulieu and the people who lived there. Joseph-Pierre Pitton de Tournefot is pure 1850's English country house style, there's also the magnificent Louis X1V, through the 18th century of Napoleon 111 as well as 1900's Spanish, Provenҫal or Italian-Venetian styles.
Responsible for the subtle, pleasing décor is French architect and interior designer Guy-Marie Kieffer. “The project at Baulieu is for me the privilege of breathing new life into a château. I worked with the owners, the Guénant family, who are passionate collectors, placing rare, antique furniture mixed with contemporary paintings and fun sculptures giving the guest-rooms and public areas a modern aspect without detracting from the history of an exceptional lieu. All in the heart of Provence vineyards”, says Monsieur Kieffer.
“With the exception of the four surrounding towers dating 1805 Baulieu, this estate of the Counts of Provence, has not changed very much”, explains Bérengère Guénant, daughter of the owners, graduate of IFMHI (Institut Franҫais de Management Hôtellerie International, Paris).
Bérengère has been in charge of the vineyards and the transformations for the last seven years, and she's still only 32! “I have a great team around me”, she modestly explains the success of Baulieu.
David the Butler (ex-La Mirande, Avignon) is not only a Master Sommelier but a patissier and Cheese-Master as well. Christophe is the talented young chef. The wine experts are Marseille oenologist Jean-Patrice Margnat for the current Cuvée Bérengère; oenologist Stéphane Derenoncourt and Villa Baulieu's winegrower Michel Fabre lovingly nutures the future Cuvée Villa Baulieu over 8 hectares of vines.
“The vineyard has been active for over 2000 years”, says Bérangére. “With its 140 hectares of vines planted on the site of the volcanic crater, at an altitude of 430 meters, it's one of the largest estates in Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence. The site, faces the Lubéron and is above the Durance Valley, the Abbey of Silvercane and the Roque d'Antheron”, says Bérangére.
Stay in the park, swim in the 20-meter pool or book the jacuzzi hidden in one of the fairytale towers. Breakfasts are sumptuous affairs with fresh juices, local breads, cakes, croissants, jams, eggs and honey, local chesse. You're a guest of the house, so discuss with chef what you want to eat. There's no formal restaurant yet, but, once a week a table d'hôte dinner and wine tasting. Bérangére and her team will be delighted to help you discover the beauty of Provence and la vie du château.
Chateaux et Hôtels Collection,
T: 04 42 60 39 40
How To Get There:
From Paris Gare de Lyon to Aix TGV Station or Marseille Marignac Airport and by Road A7: Exit 26 Senas
Or Helipad on the estate: N43°38'25.713”/E5°23'4.8762'
Rooms and suites from 420€-1370€ include breakfast
The chateau can be privatised by arrangement
Why Go Now?
The Aix-en-Provence Festival from July 5-27th showcases two opera world premieres, with the controversial Katie Mitchell directing.
“They're amazing, juices by that guy from Orlienas”. “You mean Alain Milliat?”
“Oui, bien sur”. This is an overheard conversation in chic bars and restaurants when juices, nectars and jams are the topic of discussion. Alert readers know that juice maven Milliat recently opened on the left-bank. It's a restaurant, tea-room, meeting place, read, a sort of bibliotheque/chapel of pure healthy substances. Now there's brunch on the blackboard and it's excellent.
Brit Jon Irwin is head chef, you've already met him on these pages. His second is almost an Irwin lookalike, comes from Stuttgart home of Mercedes Benz and Porsche. “No, says Jens Ruoff, wearing the whites while Irwin catches up on “Téléfoot”, I've got a VW but have a three-year plan for the Porsche!” he admits.
Meanwhile Ruoff's travelled the hexagon in his VW, worked in vineyards, restaurants and now he's chez Alain Milliat. “I like the concept of AM”, he explains. To-day Ruoff's favourite juice is Peche Blanche, but he changes frequently.
For Sunday Brunch he's proposing the signature Oeuf cooked at 62°, crème de pomme de terre, boeuf séché et comté as a brunch starter, with fresh cereal based breads and a chilled flute of AM juice. Or a glass of wine or champagne. “It's really hard to maintain the 62° when you cook the egg dish at home”, admits Ruoff. “Eggs begin to cook at about 70 F degrees, and will be "scrambled eggs" at 82 - but if the 62 degree temperature is maintained, the result is a safe egg that will act like a raw egg in recipes and provides a fully usable protein source”, he adds.
To-day market fresh Pintade Fermière is roasted with sliced honey grilled courgettes. Not very “Brunch” but a light spin on tradition. There's a buffet table with smoked salmon, salad, cheese from Marie-Anne Cantin, cereals dried and fresh fruits. Pastries, mini-muffins, tarts and Mme Cantin's slightly acidic fromage blanc. AM's a welcome addition to the Paris brunch scene. Discover Grenelle Sunday Market from 7am-2.30 pm as well as rue Cler for which AM is the perfect addy.
“So Jens, where are you off to to-night as AM's shut?” “Probably to Le Grand 8, rue Lamarck, good food, 100% natural wines, perfect for a Sunday night with my girlfriend”, he grins.
159, rue de Grenelle, 7th
Metro: La Tour Maubourg, Line 8
T: 01 45 55 63 86
Shut -Sunday Dinner
Sunday Brunch 35€ - Book 12-14hrs or 14-16hrs
Starter + Main + Dessert 28€ Lunch – 36€ Dinner + wine/juice/nectar
Boutique open 10am-22hrs
Restaurant 12-14hrs – 20-22hrs
Downstairs can be privatised.
Order on line
Super-chef Guy Martin's left bank bistro chic, Sensing, was the scene for the presentation of Duval-Leroy's Femme de Champagne to actress Mireille Darc last week. Headed by Carol Duval-Leroy since 1991, the company is one of the few remaining 100% family-owned Champagne firms, ranked in the top 15 Champagne houses. Toulon born Ms Darc, who clinked glasses for a long time with Alain Delon, was honoured for her fundraisng work with “La Chaine de l'Espoir” created by Professor Alain Deloche. Receiving a cheque for 10,000€ the Professor explained this would be used to continue treating and healing children. La Chaine de l'Espoir is a non-profit organization providing access to medical care and education for poor children in developing countries.
And, talking “women in wine” do you know Maria Cuny? This burgundy winemaker, a former shepherdess in the Roquefort region, is worth a visit when you're in the area. Or order on line, because you're worth it.
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