One day, some friends and I decided to get out of the city of Nice! We decided to have lunch in the vicinity of a nearby castle, where we had planned on doing a guided visit and dégustation (wine tasting). I drove into the heart of the Bellet vineyards, which took about 25 minutes, as my ten year-old car meandered its way up into the hills behind Nice. Stopping in Colomars, we meandered, as well, and discovered a hotel/restaurant nestled into a hillside and its magnificent gardens – L’Auberge du Redier. Although we had arrived about ten minutes before lunch service, the staff was very welcoming, suggesting that we linger in the beautiful gardens while they prepared a table for us. We were quickly seated at a table in front of one of the large windows in the luminous and spacious dining room.The three-course menu provided a nice choice of entrée, plat principale, and dessert. We ate, and chatted, the restaurant started to welcome other customers. Everything was excellent and the service was top rate – combined with the lovely surroundings and warm ambience, this lunch was special, affordable, and a great find!
In keeping with our planned itinerary, we drove to the Chateau de Cremat, noting that we could have taken bus #62 from Nice (read: no designated driver needed). During the guided tour, we heard and saw how the wine is produced there, still some in oak barrels, and that it is AOC (appellation d’origine controllée) – an official label, which identifies a product’s geographical origin, standardized method of production and know-how, and authentic quality and characteristics. We were getting thirsty and ready for the wine tasting that followed the tour – another point for taking a bus, to avoid missing out on the best part!
The castle, built in 1906, was strikingly beautiful, with panoramic and breathtaking pastoral views. The doors and stained glass windows were impressive and etched with the castle’s symbol, an intertwining pair of C’s. We also learned that the castle has had several owners in its history – in particular, an American woman, who hosted many high-society parties. As it turned out, one of the guests that the owner be-friended was none other than Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, who visited the castle many times and to whom the owner had bequeathed the right to use the official symbol of the castle’s name: the two intertwining C’s – notably seen in the castle’s doors and windows that has become the famous logo of the Chanel brand.
During her brief career as a singer, Gabrielle Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins where she was called “Coco.” Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for ‘kept woman,” according to an article in The Atlantic.
She opened her first clothes shop in 1910. In the 1920′s, she launched her first perfume and introduced the Chanel suit and the little black dress and revolutionized fashion. In the 1920s, Chanel took her thriving business to new heights. She launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, which was the first to feature a designer’s name. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained. In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Her designs were revolutionary for the time—borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort over the constraints of then-popular fashions. She helped women say good-bye to the days of corsets and other confining garments.
In 2001, the castle was bought by Cornelius Kamerbeek as his private residence. He rehabilitated the abandoned vineyards, a total of about 25 hectares/62 acres, modernized the wine caves, and added a boutique/wine tasting area on the grounds. The original symbolic two C’s of the castle remains there, but the official symbol is the current owner’s initials: the intertwining letters a backward C and a K, which is on each label affixed to the produced wines at there.
For my personal wine tasting, I bought a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil, as souvenirs of a castle with a truly fashionable and iconic style.
by Kim inFrance blogger Kim Defforge.
Kim is a lifelong Francophile, and former French teacher. Having moved from the U.S. to the French Riviera, she enjoys writing about France and French culture on her blog, 24/7 in France. From the simple beauty of a Mediterranean sunset to her passion for all things French, Kim shows us that dreams can come true!
Kim Defforge is the author of "Solitary Desire: One Woman's Journey to France" and "Sun, Sea & Savoir-Faire: Travel Focus on the French Riviera".
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