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The aroma of celery and onions sautéing greeted us as we walked through the door of the Hôtel Villa Alexandre. The chef de cuisine was at the stove, preparing sauces for the evening’s meal. My wife Patty and I lingered by the desk, surveilling the ancient map of Paris in the reception area of the 18th– century manor house.
We were eager to see the menu as we absorbed the sweet, piercing smell of what would become part of our dinner that evening. When the young directrice appeared to welcome us, she broke our trance with a cheery ‘bonjour monsieur-dame’.
Before even dropping our luggage, my wife and I sensed an exceptional experience was about to begin.
A Family’s Beaujolais Villa Transformed
Nestled on a crest overlooking the plain sloping toward the Soane River, the village of Régnié-Durette serves as host to the Hôtel Villa Alexandre. The expansive view of the valley to the east was once enjoyed by Romans who cultivated its surrounding fields. Abandoned coins, tiles, and pottery, unearthed when enlarging the Villa’s gardens in the 19th-century give testament to the Roman Empire’s reach into this area of France centuries long before our visit.
Ownership passed through seven generations of the Aigueperse family for over 200 years. The main building dates from 1794 when Alexandre d ’Aigueperse, a prosecutor from Lyon, constructed his country home. Buildings once used in the production of wine and serving as a home to vintners have been restored and repurposed for the property to be enjoyed by its 21st-century visitors.
The land was transferred from the Aigueperse family’s hands to a new owner who completely renovated the grounds and buildings of the estate. The doors to Monsieur Aigueperse’s picturesque country house opened anew as a boutique hotel in July 2021.
The Rooms of the Historic Beaujolais Villa Turned Hotel
No expense was spared when renovating this magnificent villa. Fabric covers the walls throughout the main floor of the former manor house, exuding an absolute elegant air. The fireplaces trimmed in marble stand out against the polished parquet floors.
Each of the Villa’s fourteen rooms is uniquely decorated and furnished. We opted for the Chambre Pommard, one of the villa’s “Chambres Elegance.” There are roomier options that we passed on as we favored the comforts of the villa’s common areas to read and relax after a day rambling along the backroads of Beaujolais rather than stretching out in our room.
For those seeking more spacious accommodations and private space, the Alexandre offers the Maison Antoinette. Travelers taking temporary residence here have the entire run of this two-story house located across the garden from the main building.
Another property structure, Maison Antoine, the estate’s orangery has been converted into a well-lit workspace. Those lugging a laptop to Beaujolais will find the tall windows here provide a perfect bright spot to get some work done. The downside is the distraction brought on by the view of the garden and the lure of what lies outside the front gate. However, the Villa’s cocktail bar just off the co-working space awaits at the end of a workday.
Dining at the Chef’s Table
We were the first patrons to enjoy the chef’s table experience. What a treat to be in the kitchen with other guests and watch Chef Giles Pascal put together our meal. For a reasonable 28 euro per person ($30 USD) we were treated to a squash velouté, tender free-range chicken, and more fresh pasta than we could possibly eat. There was little room left for the Cassis sorbets.
Meals here are prepared using local, seasonal produce. A copious array of wines, local and from further afield, are located in the cellar. There are plenty of interesting labels to choose from as an accompaniment to dinner.
Following our meal, the well stuffed leather chairs in the sitting room provided a comfy corner. Under the watchful gazing eyes from portraits of the Aigueperse family who once idled in this room, we took our coffee and after-dinner digestif.
Our visit was in November, a bit chilly to enjoy the outdoor terrace. But the solarium provided a bright and airy place to linger over a cup of tea and fresh pastries in the morning.
Total Relaxation Abounds
Having no need to scurry about, we took advantage of the lovely glass-walled solarium. Late mornings, it was transformed from a breakfast room to a cozy, sunlit space. Lingering with a book in the late afternoon was a daily affair. When the appropriate hour arrived, we toasted the day with a glass of a Régniè, Brouilly, or another of the celebrated local wines.
It would have been easy to laze about the property all day. It was a bit too cold for the pool – though the staff offered that it was heated and were prepared to open it if we wished. There’s also a sauna set among the trees within the Villa’s Garden.
Get Pampered at this Beajolais Villa
The word villa and stuffy often find their way into the same sentence. Not so at the Villa Alexandre. The cadre here could not have been kinder or more attentive. Though professional in dress and manner, everyone was approachable and down to earth. Servers and staff happily shared details about the history of the building and took time to explain the extent of the renovations. Never was there a sense that someone was too busy to chat.
Staff ensuring our stay was enjoyable also exuded enthusiasm for their work and their loyalty to the historic property. We so appreciated their passion for making us feel at home in these most sumptuous of surroundings.
Byways of Beaujolais
The Alps stand out across the expanse looking westward from the Beaujolais region of France. Stretching about 140 km north to south, Beaujolais boasts 12 wine appellations, most made from Gamay grapes. Casual wine drinkers have no doubt sampled Beaujolais-Villages and Moulin-á-Vent as the Brouilly, Fleurie, Chiroubles, and Régniè are Beaujolais’ appellations well-known to the American wine drinker’s palate.
With one of France’s celebrated wine-producing regions outside the Villa’s gate, everything associated with the wine trade is here to enjoy. You cannot drive far without passing a tasting room or coming upon a sign inviting you to a degustation or tasting. The Villa’s staff was helpful in guiding us to close-by vintners.
Among these wine-dominated hills lie the wine villages of Beaujolais. These towns bear familiar names given to the wines produced from their hillsides and shipped throughout the world. We passed our short stay wandering the small roads close to the Villa with no destination in mind. We were rewarded by scenic vistas along with interesting tastings and visits to out-of-the-way villages.
Stunning Stops to Consider
During our brief stay at the Hôtel Villa Alexandre, we discovered some interesting places.
For wine tasting with a view, climb the winding road to the Terrasse de Chiroubles. Located at the edge of the Beaujolais mountains, enjoy a degustation looking south across the vineyards from one of the highest points in the region.
Route ambitious cyclists pedaling up Mont Brouilly are rewarded with incredibly picturesque views of vines and forests across the valley. A colorful statue celebrating riders that conquer the 484-meter (1588 foot) climb awaits at the summit.
High among the vines near Regine-Durette sits the Tour Bourdon, a pile of sandstone rocks that has puzzled geologists for 150 years.
Gabriel Chevallier’s satirical novel Clochemerle has taken on a life of its own in the village of Vaux-en-Beaujolais. Bright colored characters of personalities from the author’s book adorn the buildings of the town, now also known as Clochemerle.
Getting to the Alexandre
The French city of Lyon lies just to the south – a quick 45-minute drive, 60 km (37 miles) to Beaujolais. Traveling in the other direction, Paris can be reached in about 4 ½ hours via the A6 highway though it’s faster by train – only one hour and 35 minutes.
But no matter how you reach Beaujolais, it’s definitely a visit worth taking. And Hôtel Villa Alexandre is the ideal place to stay.
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