What would you need for an amazing evening? A great ambiance, good company, delicious food and wines?
That was exactly the case at the last Park Hyatt culinary event “a trip to the Provence.” The Masters of Food & Wine in Zurich honored the French Relais & Chateaux, the Domaine de la Coquillade and its wine label Aureto.
The estate, located in the Vaucluse in the Luberon mountain range, is a hamlet of six bastides with 28 elegant suites and rooms.
Just the words “Coquillade” and “Aureto” make you think of traveling and put you at ease. “Aureto” means light breeze in provencal and “Couquihado”, crested lark, due to the migration of birds travelling by.
After an aperitif with Pommery Champagne and a speech in the beautiful Park Hyatt wine library from the general manager of the estate, Mr. Werner Wunderli, people sat down for the five course dinner.
And what the head chef, Frank Widmer, had prepared for the evening was absolutely delicious. The food was refined and so well presented. Every once and a while he came to our table to talk about the dishes. We started with a scallop served with a piece of watermelon covered with ginger and bit of lemon grass. Then, came an oyster gratin with spices and a vegetable side dish, called ratatouille.
But why a ratatouille?
Was it because it goes well with the 2012 Cuvée Tramontane it was served with? This was not the only reason. The chef explained how he was inspired for this dish. He remembered the time he spent last Spring at the Domaine de la Coquillade and the garden he went to. He loved looking at the vegetables and spices. One could imagine him walking through it and smelling the thyme and rosemary !
Frank Widmer may have been at la Coquillade one year ago, he describes it as if he had just returned.
Hearing him talk about the place, you almost feel you had joined him on his journey. I could picture the lavenders so vividly and smell them. But as Frank said memories of good places are anchored in you for ever.
The third course was a velouté of chicken served with a piece of glazed pigeon. For the next course Frank had out done himself with a very tender medallion of beef angus and on the other side a lobster cut in two, all surrounded with a hollandaise sauce. Absolutely perfect!
As if it was not enough Tilo Herber, the pastry chef, had prepared a succulent dessert with backed cheese, a pear compote and a chocolate biscuit.
Mr. Wunderli went around the tables during the evening to talk about the Aureto wines and why each went well with each dish. Just like his name, he really did a little miracle with his wines. The vineyards are made of 28 hectares of AOC Ventoux and 8 hectares Luberon. The winery produces 3 white, 2 rosé and 5 red wines. The Aureto wines can be found in Switzerland at Riegger wine cellar in Birrhard and Wallisellen.
For the Masters of Food and Wine we tried 1 white, 1 rosé and 4 red wines: a 2012 Cuvée Tramontane, blanc IGP, Vaucluse, Magnum, a 2012 Cuvée Tramontane, rosé IGP, a 2011 Cuvée Maestrale, rouge AOC, Ventoux, Magnum, a 2011 Cuvée Autan, rouge AOC, Ventoux, a 2011 Cuvée Petit Miracle, rouge AOC, Luberon, Magnum and a 2011 Cuvée Tramontane, rouge IGP, Vaucluse, Magnum.
The white Viognier (Rousanne/ Marsanne) had an amazing color. It was served at the perfect temperature and went really well with the seafood. The rosé with its saumon colour brought instantly pictures of the Provence. My favourite was the 2011 red cuvée Autan made of Grenache and Syrah grapes. This wine, with an unforgettable ruby colour, got the first medal in Carpentras at the 2012 competition of the Ventoux wines.
During the dinner I gazed at the bottles of wines, all very unique and so heavy you would think there are still full. They are furnished by Saverglass and are replicas from high quality Bordeaux wines (1855) and Burgundy (1859).
The evening was even more interesting with the presence of Mr. Andy Rihs. The Swiss entrepreneur, co-founder of Sonova and co-owner of BMC bikes, owns the Domaine de la Coquillade. In between meals he explained in the French language how he bought the estate in 2006.
At the time he was looking for a place in the South of France, but not too touristy like the Côte d’Azur. One day his architect, Rudy Flament, called him to tell him he found the right place, in the Luberon. Mr. Rihs continued saying that at first he was skeptical, as the hamlet came with a vineyard and that was something new for him. As soon as he saw the property with the 360 degree views, he fell in love. The views were too stunning.
You could hear in the sound of his voice and see in his gestures, that it would be the place for him.
The hamlet said Mr. Rihs proudly, even has walls from the 13th century. It was owned for the last decade by the German brothers Plück. After many months of renovation it became a luxurious Relais & Chateaux and opened in October 2008. A few years later the Magazine Geo Saison awarded La Coquillade as the best country home in Europe. A large extension has started to be finished for next Spring. Then it will have 60 suites and rooms and a spa, which is perfect for the cooler months in Provence. In addition the estate will next year have two outdoor swimming pools, four restaurants, one tennis court, a playground and a heliport.
Mr. and Mrs. Wunderli, both Swiss and lovers of the Provence, take care of the Relais & Chateaux. The couple had moved to France in 2000 to build a hotel in the Provence. In 2006 they heard about the sale of the Domaine de la Coquillade at the same time of Mr. Rihs and they were invited them to check it out. Quickly the Wunderli agreed to work with Mr. Rihs, who would finance the property and the winery and Mr. Wunderli would realise the project.
At the estate, guests can rent BMC bikes at the shop. The Luberon and the region is a perfect place for cycling. Andy Rihs himself loves riding his bike. He lives in the Zurich canton, where he also owns a hotel, Marina Gastro in Lachen.
Aren’t there good enough reasons to plan a visit to the Luberon and the Domaine de la Coquillade? During the dinner many of us were already discussing it!
The next Masters of Food and Wine will be on September 26th and 27th. It is not too early to put the dates on your calendar as these evenings are very popular.