Travel Spotlight

First Look: Villa La Coste

Deep in Cézanne country, Le Puy Sainte-Réparade—a sleepy farming village less than 10 miles north of Aix-en-Provence, France—was suddenly put on the map when Château La Coste opened its doors to visitors in 2011. With an astounding collection of privately commissioned art and architectural works, this countryside hideaway is tucked into the sloping hillsides of the 600-acre wine estate.

Now, five years later, the much-awaited five-star Villa La Coste has debuted 12 out of its total 25 suites. This means that now, guests can extend their stay after sunset and fully experience the romantic serenity of the château’s landscape.

Owned by the Belfast-born property magnate and champion of the arts, Patrick (Paddy) McKillen, Château La Coste is an ever-expanding cultural project that has always centered on cultivating the surrounding terroir in every way possible. To date, the châteaux’s many offerings include bio-dynamic vineyards, a wine-tasting boutique and outdoor café, a restaurant serving delicious organic Provençal bistro fare (housed inside the Tadeo Ando–designed Visitor Center), an art bookstore and gardens masterminded by Louis Benech.

But the biggest draw to the property is spending an afternoon wandering through the trails of sculptures and small-scale pavilions created by a stellar squad of architects (including Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Oscar Neimeyer and Norman Foster) and contemporary artists (such as Louise Bourgeoise, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Serra, Jean-Michel Othoniel, Lee Ufan, Sean Scully), all scattered across forests of green oaks and Aleppo pines.

Related: Classic Provence Itinerary

From afar, Villa La Coste—a low-slung assemblage of stacked rectangles in beige stone built into the flank of a hill—blends so harmoniously with its natural surroundings that you might not suspect the presence a luxury hotel. This is no coincidence. Paddy McKillen and his team have been planning every exquisite detail ever since he acquired and rebooted the vineyard in 2003. The narrow, paved road winds up from the vineyards to the entrance of Villa La Coste, which is essentially a shaded cobblestone ‘street’ with a reception and lobby area at the end. Even from the very first moments of arrival, the villa’s original touches stand out: for instance, the friendly, ultra-professional staff members load bags onto small old-fashioned wagons made of braided branches.

Located side by side, each of the villa’s suites has a small walled-in private courtyard that leads to a second wooden door. This is when the wow factor kicks in: the luminous, airy spaces (some are as large as 3,000 square feet) opens onto a living space that is both uncluttered minimalist and deeply comfortable. Perhaps the rooms’ most striking feature is the artful mix of Asian influence (tall marble tubs from Vietnam, high-tech Japanese toilets), modern design (a highlight is the pretty green Jean Prouvé desk lamp) and romantic, gauzy white four poster beds. The floor-to-ceiling windows open to a vast dining terrace (some suites have slate decks and splash pools as well) and a panoramic vista of greenery as well as the grey and blue peaks of the Alpilles.

There’s no forgetting that you’re in Provence: the villa’s bespoke organic toiletries are packed with olive oil, citrus, honey and almond, and there’s a little bottle of lavender essential oil for guests to use in the bath (even the air conditioning vents are crafted in the form of lavender stalks).

Related: Bordeaux Wine Country: A Tale of Two Banks

Unsurprisingly, McKillen has loaned some of his stunning private collection of museum-quality art to walls throughout the villa. Pieces are placed in every nook and cranny, from the suites and the lobby to the art book–filled library and stylish salons (think a Charlotte Perriand bookcase, a Damien Hirst painting, a Picasso mosaic, a Leger tapestry).

Though it’s still a work-in-progress, Villa La Coste’s spectacular glassed-in gastronomic restaurant (headed by consultant three Michelin-starred chef Gérald Passadat) is slated to open by November; by 2017, all of the rooms will be fully operational. With a lovely, cypress-lined pool for guests, an all-day open-air dining area, a private wine-tasting room and the forthcoming year-round spa, the quietly glamorous range of art-de-vivre options abound.

Paul Cézanne said: ‘Art is a harmony that runs parallel to nature.’ Like the artwork that surrounds it, Villa La Coste looks like it may have just sprung out of the earth and offers a unique perspective on the nature of luxury.

Related: Provence Destination Report

Published onSeptember 27, 2016

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