Gérard Bertrand is an enigma. He’s a former professional rugby player turned winemaker and is considered the global godfather of biodynamic farming. His hotel/vineyard/winery Château L'Hospitalet feels like an extension of his entire being. The property, set beneath steep sprawling cliffs, is isolated between the Mediterranean and the city of Narbonne where brisk sea winds give glistening grape vines a chance to dry out in the most ideal environment. The spiritualism of biodynamics is everywhere, from the way the vintners plant and harvest their crops, to the yoga sessions on the manicured green lawns, to the ethereal quality of the rolling hills surrounding the property. But Bertrand’s alter-ego is also exposed as Château L'Hospitalet provides its guests with a tennis court, lap pool, putting green, gourmet restaurant, and fully equipped gym. The duality of the man matches the dichotomy of the hotel and for any true wine lover, the pilgrimage here is like finding your own personal Xanadu.
If you get the chance, visit the Château during the annual Jazz à l'Hospitalet, a five-day jazz festival with a thousand of your closest friends.
Rooms are simply designed with wooden headboards, uber-comfy memory foam beds, flat-screen TVs, and terra cotta floors. Ask for rooms with views of the vineyard for some of the most epic sunrises of your life. All accommodations come with complimentary Gris Blanc bottles of wine in the mini-fridge and there’s ample coffee and tea to boot.
If you want to try before you buy, the Château offers free tastings in their wine boutique. Just don’t abuse the system and buy a bottle to take home with you.
Like the rooms, the bathrooms are simplistic in design and feature shower/tub combos, towel heaters and L’Occitane bath products.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Products are great but a bit on the thin side. There’s no lotion or hair conditioner and no amenity kits either, though additional toiletries can be requested at the front desk.
The lobby is more of a weigh-station for checking in or passing through to the hotel’s breakfast area. Tile floors, comfy loungers and vintage posters of past jazz festivals adorn the room.
The heated swimming pool is a little oasis surrounded by beige tile, sleek black loungers, and a perfect perch for looking out over the vineyard. The pool is open from 9 am to 8 pm from April to October.
A well-appointed fitness room has weight and cardio machines in case you’re looking to work off all that wine. The hotel also offers yoga sessions by request.
The main restaurant of the hotel is a Michelin-rated spot named L’Art de Vivre, which offers very reasonably priced prix-fixe menus with equally reasonable wine pairings. Chef Laurent Chabert mixes art with cuisine in a wide range of seafood, steaks, well-seasoned veggies, and delectable chocolate desserts. Depending on your hotel package, breakfast is sometimes included and features fresh pastries, fruits, meats, cheeses, and other continental items. It’s 16 €/person if not a part of your room rate.
From April to November there is a daily guided tour of the property that includes learning about biodynamic wine and a tasting. Prices are 13 €/person and 7 € for children (if you want to get your kids tipsy).
One of the more fun and unique offerings at the hotel is their blending lab. They need to be organized in advance and cost 60 €/per person (min 10 people), but guests get to play vintner for the day, mixing and matching different varietals to make the perfect blend for themselves.
Off to the side of the vineyard is both a tennis court and a putting green that are available free of charge to guests. Make sure you request ahead for the court and the hotel will provide all the equipment.
It would be worth it to rent a car if you're staying at the Château. Parking here is free and the relative isolation makes it difficult to walk to anything nearby.
If you're looking for more French Michelin fare, check out one-starred La Table Saint-Crescent (15-minute drive) in Narbonne, which offers a wide variety of fish, meat, and poultry. For straight seafood, head over to Le Salin de Gruissan (19-minute drive), which sits on a giant salt marsh and offers up massive platters of oysters, clams, mussels, and lots of Bertrand's impressive wines.
If you need to wet your whistle outside of straight wine (but why bother?), you can head into Narbonne and find Irish Pub O'brians for some pints or Le Don Quichotte for Spanish tapas and wine.
WHY WE LIKE IT
If you're looking to indulge in Southern French living, there's nothing quite like Gérard Bertrand's Château L'Hospitalet. The hotel/vineyard/winery charms its guests with its savory biodynamic wines, gourmet cuisine, and relaxed atmosphere. The rooms aren't anything fancy (you'll be spending little time there) but the amenities are ample from wine tastings and vineyard tours to pool side sips. Guests might find it surprising to be a stone's throw from the Mediterranean yet feel completely isolated on the property at the same time.