Do you know your chablis from your chardonnay? Yes or no, you’ll be seduced by Château de la Resle, an intimate Burgundy-set, Dutch-owned boutique hotel with modern interiors, with expansive vineyards close by. Its charms run far beyond the bottled, as the château’s 19th-century façade hides a surprise: a gallery’s worth of hyper-modern Dutch paintings, sculptures and objets d’art displayed against navy and white walls. Spend long, lazy days stretching out in the spa’s hammam, playing pétanque on the lawns and dipping a toe in the saltwater pool – all with a glass of the famous local chablis in hand (after all, it’d be churlish not to).
Double rooms from £230.13 (€275), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include a wholly organic buffet breakfast of homemade bread and pastries, cereal, fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, cheese, Nespresso coffee and Kusmi tea.
If you fall in love with the hotel’s Dutch minimalism, nose around the design shop; treasures include Carolina Wilcke’s porcelain vases and Reinier Bosch’s fluid, steel candlesticks. Smith guests get 15 per cent off.
The château stoppers its barrels from 12 November to 8 February, but pops a few corks over the festive season when they reopen for Christmas and New Year's Eve.
At the hotel
Spa, hammam, sauna, gym, free WiFi throughout, electric bikes for rent and free parking on-site. In rooms: iPod dock, tea- and Nespresso coffee-making facilities, minibar, and Être organic bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Some of the nine rooms are based in the main château, others in the adjacent farmhouse or gardener’s cottage. If we had to choose (trust us, this isn’t easy), we’d have to go for the Fontenay suite in the farmhouse, overlooking the pool. It’s on two floors, connected by a spiral, Venetian-made staircase; wooden beams criss-cross the whitewashed bedroom, purple velvet chairs are grouped together in the high-ceilinged living room, and the tiled, open bathroom is kitted out with designs by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola.
The outdoor saltwater pool (open from 1 May to 1 October) is heated and long enough to swim laps. Its wooden deck is topped with parasol-shaded sunloungers and is surrounded by neat lawns.
The petite spa is well-appointed with a black-tiled hammam; a sauna; and a relaxation area decorated with modern art. Offerings include a revitalising massage, private yoga lessons and personal training. You can also do a 'bootcamp' day (€350 a person) which includes a personal training session, a vegetarian lunch, Kundalini yoga in the afternoon and a sports masssage to finish. The modern gym has sleek white-and-grey equipment (an exercise bike, rowing machine and weights) set against black walls; there are paintings and light installations to gaze at when the going gets tough.
As well as the obligatory Breton tee and bikini (you are in France, after all), pack sturdy walking shoes for tramping through the vineyards – flimsy sandals and flip flops won’t cut it.
Idle away an afternoon knocking a few balls around on the hotel’s apple tree-shaded pétanque court.
Leave your tiny tots, tweens and teens at home: this château's over-16s only.
In warm weather sit outside by the pool; otherwise, the indoor dining room’s table – signed by noted designer Roderick Vos – carries a certain cachet.
Don monochrome outfits to match Château de la Resle’s modern interiors.
Supper here is, quite literally, a moveable feast: From June 1 to September 31, host Johan will don his apron and whip up dinner, but only on Saturdays and on request. During the week, you'll need to give the hotel 24 hours' notice if you'd like lunch or dinner at the hotel – it's €50 a person, or the hosts will rustle up a platter of homemade delicacies. The menu is organic and locally sourced, internationally inspired, and Johan certainly knows his way around a kitchen. When you're not eating at the hotel, you'll need a set of wheels to reach the restaurants in Chablis and Auxerre.
There’s an honesty bar in the sitting room and by the pool, where guests can help themselves to soft drinks, beer, wine, champagne and snacks at all hours of the day.
Breakfast is served from 8.30am to 10am in the dining room; dinner times vary – check with the concierge when you book.
You'll have to DIY, but the owners can show you where to assemble a cheese plate and accompanying vin for an in-room picnic.
Château de la Resle is situated in the Burgundy region’s countryside, a two-hour drive south of Paris and a few miles north of Auxerre in central France.
The closest airport is Paris Orly, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from the hotel (www.airport-orly.com). British Airways run frequent direct flights from most international airports.
Auxerre-St Gervais Railway Station is the closest to the hotel, a 15-minute drive away. Regular SNCF trains arrive from Auxerre, Paris, Lyon and more (www.sncf.com). The hotel can arrange transfers from €45 each way. Alternatively, ride the Eurostar to Paris’ Gare du Nord, hire a car and drive to the hotel from there (www.eurostar.com).
If you’re driving from Paris (be warned – the Périphérique can be overwhelming for first-timers), hire a car at one of the airport or station booths, then take the A6 to get to the hotel. If you’re arriving from Auxerre, follow the N77; there are car-hire booths opposite the station.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s plenty to do at the hotel; take a self-guided tour of the artwork, then laze by the pool and in the spa's hammam. The surrounding area is most famous for its wine, particularly pinot noir and chardonnay: take a tour of the vineyards at Chablis, book in for a wine-tasting session at Irancy and see the underground cellars at Saint-Bris-les-Vineux. Nearby Abbaye de Fontenay is regarded to be the best-preserved Cistercian Abbey in the world. Historic châteaux almost outnumber the region’s vineyards, too; Ancy-le-Franc, Bazoches and Ratilly are all within designated-driving distance of the hotel. Load up a basket at the markets in both Auxerre and Noyers-Sur-Serein – a little mediaeval village about 15 minutes’ drive from Château de la Resle – where locals peddle fresh produce, handmade soaps and (what did you expect?) more wine. For active Smiths, there’s a golf course at Roncemay, hot-air-balloon rides, cycling along the Canal du Nivernais (rent one of the hotel's electric bikes for€50 a day)and a clutch of local museums.
Burgundy may be famed for its liquid assets, but its cuisine runs a close second: head to Au Fil du Zinc in Chablis for a classic French menu of olive-roasted cod and chocolate pudding with pear and gingerbread. At l’Asperule in Auxerre, menus are swayed by the seasons: lamb cutlets, rare roast beef and almond thins are an idea of what you can expect. Le Jardin Gourmand is true to its name – decadent dishes of wild boar, roasted scallops and foie gras are served on the flower-bedecked terrace.
When the macho Mr Smith in my life decided to be less than macho and put work ahead of a weekend away in Chablis, I realised this was the perfect opportunity to enjoy some well-earned downtime.
Back in my younger days I wouldn’t have flinched at the thought of jumping in a hire car and heading down a French motorway to find a château in the heart of Chablis. Now, as an older and more cautious adult, I was somewhat apprehensive about the drive. I channelled my ‘independent woman’ spirit and braved the motorways and tolls. (Note to self: next time drive closer to the machine, to avoid getting out to pay, as less-than-patient drivers hoot and swear at you.) Arriving at Château de la Resle, all stress quickly dissipated.
Johan Bouman, the Dutch co-owner of the Château, was extremely welcoming, despite my endless date changes and post-booking queries: Is there a restaurant? Could he book me into the spa? Should I get a taxi from Paris? Where should I eat locally? And what should I do in Chablis? He was informative, polite and efficient throughout all correspondence. I was tempted to ask him who I should bring with me…
After cruising down the A5, with only one speed-camera flashing at me, I turned off and started to pass the surrounding vineyards – a sure sign I was headed for Chablis. Turning into the Château de la Resle, perfectly manicured hedges and gardens guide you down the drive.
On entering the hotel, the minimal, design-led interiors impress immediately – a beautiful hall, then perfectly-turned-out living and dining rooms. Over the weekend, I admired the finer details and clever design touches at leisure and wished I had such an eye for style. If Johan ever penned an interior-design book, I’d be the first to buy it.
Then Johan showed me to my room; it’s always a relief to find one that’s beautifully designed and spacious. ‘Excited’ is an understatement for what I felt on seeing a bathroom and shower the size of my London flat. Relieved that I had arrived (and how…) in one piece, I threw my bag on the floor and flopped onto the bed; I was ready for ‘a well done me for driving’ bottle – a whole bottle – of wine.
As a wine lover, I knew what my first adventure would be… Shortly after arriving, I headed off to watch the sun set over a vineyard that Johan had recommended. Watching the breathtaking view while sipping Chablis was a moment to savour.
When travelling, my favourite thing to do is eat locally and Johan’s recommended restaurants did not disappoint – on both nights. On the first night we visited a local restaurant called Au Fil du Zinc in a gorgeous little village with a picturesque river running through the cobbled streets. I enjoyed a five-course tasting menu which really was incredible: well-cooked, stylishly presented with great service and, at €45, very affordable, too. The second night was just as good: great food and brilliant wine.
After a lazy wake up and great shower I ventured down to breakfast. Actually, let me rephrase that: the most stylish breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen. The croissants, cheeses, meats, granola and all the toppings were presented under glass domes. I boiled myself an egg, chose from four types of breads and smothered butter all over a perfectly fresh croissant whilst Johan made me tea. Chateau de la Resle proving that breakfast buffets can be cool.
If all the local eateries, vineyards and views are not enough, the château is perfectly teamed with a spa where you can enjoy a swim, sauna and a host of treatments in total luxury. I whiled away an afternoon with a massage before heading out for dinner.
The friendly, yet non-intrusive, service that Johan (and co-host Peter) provided throughout my stay really was fantastic. Not only had they organised all my reservations and trips but were also on hand to provide guidance and information when needed. They were passionate about Chablis and genuinely excited for me to see the best parts of it. I felt honoured to be a guest at their home and their love and passion for what they do is clear to see.
The tranquillity, the views over the misty fields, the soft-boiled egg at breakfast, the glass of wine at lunch – if only I could wake up here every day.