There are fine hotels and then there are the sublime, the pinnacle, the virtually unreproachable. Just outside of Reims (pronounced Rance), on 7 acres that used to belong to the Pommery champagne brand, is the impeccable Chateau Les Crayeres, a bastion of elegance if ever there was one. The Devil Dog is a man with few qualms about rolling in decadence, and for that purpose Chateau Les Crayeres fits the bill. Recently voted one of the finest hotels in the world, it more than lives up to its reputation not only as a hotel and an amazingly cool property, but as a restaurant as well.
The Castle, as the main building is known, was built at the turn of the 20th century as a home for the owners of Pommery Champagne. Occupied by the Germans during and then by the Americans after WWII, it was sold to the Gardinier family and in 1983 Chateau Les Crayeres was opened to the public. It has enthralled ever since. We arrive in the late morning for a sumptuous multi course meal. We begin in the solarium with an appertif of Champagne Ruffin, a fabulous rose that opens our eyes to the extent to which there are incredible champagnes that we have never heard of. This excites the Devil Dog, who has always viewed wine (and champagne) drinking as sport, a search for the new, the fabulous, the unknown star, the undiscovered beauty of the lesser known champagne houses whose greatness is apparent in the glass on the voyage of discovery. The Devil Dog feels like Lewis and Clark in the champagne region, seeking out the unknown and being amazed at the result. Champagne Ruffin rose is one for the ages, if you can find it.
Lunch follows in the grand dining room, a mirror image of the solarium. Foie Gras de Canard is incredible, as is the Agneau de Lait (lamb), paired with a series of great wines, including a Chateau Olivier 2001 white. Desert is extravagant and the hours pass in sheer delight. We then tour the Chateau, taking in remarkable guest rooms that are as meticulously decorated as they are ridiculously beautiful. It is like staying at a castle.....yes that is exactly what its like. We leave reluctantly, having blissfully experienced an afternoon in sheer paradise.