“Vie, vin, velo” (life, wine, bike) was Andy Rihs’s motto. And, arriving at Coquillade Provence on a crisp, sunny afternoon in October, it’s easy to see why the cycling enthusiast and oenophile fell in love with this picturesque village in the heart of the Luberon hills.
The Swiss billionaire bought the hamlet back in 2006 and set about transforming it into his dream hotel and winery. This was his first and only foray into the world of hospitality – Rihs made his fortune in the hearing-aid industry and owned the bicycle company BMC – but he was determined to make Coquillade the place to stay in Provence.
Since then, the resort has collected a slew of awards, including Travel + Leisure’s coveted Best Resort in France title in 2022. Rihs died in 2018 but his sons took over running the hotel, ensuring their father’s legacy lives on.
Most visitors flock to the tranquil resort over summer when the lavender fields start to bloom, and the valleys are tinged with violet. But the resort also welcomes guests through the winter, and, for the first time this year, has shortened its annual closing period (it will shutter its doors for just six weeks from January to mid-Feb).
Could Coquillade Provence live up to the buzz? Rolling up the cypress tree-lined drive past the immaculately tended vineyards and olive groves, the setting alone is majestic. It’s not until you step inside the elegant lobby, however, that it becomes clear just how special this resort really is.
This isn’t your typical showy hotel; Coquillade Provence eschews glitz and glamour for pared-back sophistication that lets the location take center stage.
The hotel has just 63 rooms, split across the beautifully renovated bastides that date back to the 11th century, and a collection of cottages added in 2015.
Most of the accommodations feature spacious outdoor areas so you can soak up the views from the comfort of your room. We stayed in a gorgeous suite with French windows and a private terrace looking out over the vineyards. In keeping with the rest of the resort, the rooms feel rustic yet luxurious; we loved the heavenly rose soaps and shampoos made locally in Provence.
The most exclusive abode is the Pool Suite which has a shady garden, pool, and Jacuzzi (ideal for a romantic break for two) or, for bigger groups, there’s a sprawling country house around a 20-minute drive from the hotel which can comfortably sleep up to 14 guests.
Coquillade Provence is home to three restaurants helmed by Alain Ducasse’s protégé, Pierre Marty. The ambitious chef took over the hotel’s culinary offering last November and has his sights firmly on winning a Michelin star (he cut his teeth at the legendary three-star Le Louis XV in Monaco).
For the wow-factor fine dining experience, book a table at Avelan. Expect all the trappings of a fancy restaurant – white tablecloths, chandeliers, impeccable service – and some thoughtful extra touches too, like the warm lavender-scented hand towels and heavily-laden bread trolley.
Marty has crafted an ever-changing four- and five-course tasting menu that you can design yourself. Dishes are skillful and inventive; the wild mushroom and lovage risotto was the best I’ve ever tasted, while the indulgent chicken tart was encased in perfectly flaky pastry and drizzled with a rich coffee jus (an unexpected delight).
Make sure you save room for a sweet treat from pastry chef Aurelien Trousse. The prickly pear ice cream dusted with licorice crumble was a refreshing and memorable end to the meal. There’s also an excellent selection of wines, including several bottles made at Coquillade Provence’s winery.
For something a bit more laid-back, Les Vignes is a lovely dining option. The menu has been thoughtfully built around the flavors of Provence, with many of the ingredients hand-picked mere steps from the restaurant in the vegetable garden.
There’s also an Italian eatery – Cipressa – for dining al fresco over the summer months and a cozy bar with a terrace where you can enjoy light bites and live music (a jazz pianist comes in every Saturday evening).
One of the best spots to unwind at Coquillade Provence is the heated outdoor pool. Despite visiting in late October, it was gloriously sunny during our stay and just warm enough to take a dip before retiring to one of the shady loungers for a cocktail from the poolside bar.
The hotel’s 21,000-sq-ft spa facilities are one of its biggest draws; alongside the outdoor hot tubs set among the vineyards, inside you’ll find experience showers, plunge pools, a hammam, and a steam room.
Expert therapists are on hand to carry out an array of treatments; opt for one of the personally tailored massages if you’re struggling to choose. There’s even a private spa suite complete with a Jazucci, sauna, and twin beds for couples.
What really makes Coquillade Provence stand out from other resorts in the area is its cycling center; we headed out on electric bikes with knowledgeable local guide Francois through Roussillon – a historic province known for its striking ochre cliffs – and on to Gordes (voted France’s most beautiful village and well worth the 15km cycle).
Back at the resort, there is plenty to do from taking a guided tour of the wine cellars and vineyards (those visiting in September can see the harvest first-hand with a team of grape-pickers) to heading out on an expedition searching for the elusive black diamond truffle with an expert hunter.
It would be easy never to leave the 40-acre resort, but if you do not want to venture further afield, consider renting a car to visit Mathieu Lustrerie’s factory in Gargas where the artisan handcrafts dazzling chandeliers and light displays, or drive to the medieval village of Lacoste to stroll in the cobblestoned streets and explore the castle ruins.
Coquillade Provence rooms start from €750 (approx. $820) per night.