The gal had been to Les Sources de Caudalie, half an hour from Bordeaux, a few years ago, but how it has grown, and marvellously. Conceived by former champion sportspeople Daniel and Florence Cathiard and now guided by their daughter Alice and her husband Jerôme Tourbier – new President of Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s advisory board – this is now the ideal all-encompassing wellness resort, anchored on wine. Arrive and you are greeted by manicured vineyards, and such sculptures as Barry Flanagan’s Hospitality hare, above. The grounds around the buildings are exquisite, too. Look left at the calming view, with swans on the lake, from one of the 61 bedrooms.
All the rooms are decorated by the women of the family – some of them have incredibly lifelike ‘real’ log fires, and all have French rural-antique furniture and old paintings. My favourite, which others especially like, too, is #14, named for Thomas Jefferson: for a premium suite, choose the Ile aux Oiseaux villa, on stilts over the lake. Redecorated every two years or so, the current look is by top wedding designer, Delphine Manivet. Of course I had to look at the spa, which is overseen by Alice Tourbier’s sister, Mathilde Cathiard-Thomas. It has an indoor pool, and 20 treatment rooms built around Montpellier-based Professor Joseph Vercauteren’s grape theories, which include: pips fight the free radicals that cause 80% of the human ageing process; go for grapeseed oil, high in Omega-6 and vitamin E.
Many stay here for days, doing spa programmes which include facials, baths or wraps, and massages. There are vineyards to visit, and the Smith Haut Lafitte wine rooms, and bicycles to take for long, no-hills explorations. There is another indoor pool, and an outdoor pool, too. Check out Rogue wine bar, which is also a gourmet food shop. And of course, being France, so much other eating. Nicolas Masse, author of Retour au Sources, has two Michelin stars for his cooking in La Grand’Vigne, closed Mondays and Tuesdays (take a class, plus final lunch, with him on Saturday mornings, which cause decision-making as the personal trainers also offer complimentaries, in a range of disciplines). I ate at the more casual restaurant, Table du Lavoir, in an old wine shed that has original 18th century roof beams from Médoc wineries.
What an exquisite way to spend a really hot Sunday – if only more luxury hotels could offer, as this does, lunch in a characterful restaurant with, on three sides, a peripheral outdoor terrace just wide enough for tables for four, looking straight down at a four-foot-wide decorative pool with hyper-active goldfish. It was delightfully laid back, with a simple menu on a wood board. I started with a mound of finely-cut vegetables, as shown, and went on to sea bream with arugula source, and because I was driving I could not taste even one glass of of Les Hauts de Smith Pessac-Léogran 2012. But I will be back, if only to hear what the Tourbiers have in mind as they expand their wine tourism hospitality group: they already have Le Thil, an 11-room retreat just over a mile from here, plus Les Etangs de Corot, in Versailles, and they are renovating the historic Le Royal Champagne, between Epernay and Reims. NOW SEE THE VIDEO BELOW