I discovered Chateau Dumas through the grapevine so to say. Anna Corba, owner of Found Cat Studio, whom we carry at Chateau Sonoma, came to me with information about a chateau in the southwestern part of France. This Chateau, called Chateau Dumas was in a part of France that I had never been before, so it was completely uncharted territory. I was drawn to the area because it is known to be the epicenter of culinary greatness in France, especially for its frois gras and truffles – two mainstays in French cuisine.
It wasn’t until my next trip to France that I was able to visit Chateau Dumas. Terry and I rented a car and drove to the chateau, which is located in the town of Auty. We passed Cahors, Toulouse, and Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, it was quite a road trip!
If you saw the movie, The 100 Foot Journey, starring Helen Mirren, you might remember seeing scenes of the beautiful Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, which is where the movie was filmed. Rich in history with an incredible farmer’s market, it is, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in France. If you cannot visit, you must watch the movie to see how beautiful it is for yourself!
When we arrived at Chateau Dumas, we met the chateau proprietress, Lizzie Hulme. I immediately took a liking to the 18th century chateau, which featured the most perfect French greys and blues (and if you know me, you know how much I appreciate ‘The Perfect French Grey’).
Lizzie purchased the chateau just over ten years ago and has since completely restored it to exceed its original splendor. When she first purchased the property, it was in need of updating and furnishings, but slowly, Lizzie turned the empty chateau into what stands today. Now completely renovated, Chateau Dumas is available for rent for family gatherings, weddings, and of course, creative workshops. As you step foot onto the property you can sense the labor of love that goes into maintaining it.
Lizzie and I spent the two days of my visit discussing details of what is now our yearly trip to Chateau Dumas! Lizzie had never done anything like it, but we decided it would be perfect to develop an itinerary for visitors to experience the flea markets and farmer’s markets in the surrounding villages of Auty. Since nothing is within walking distance of the 22-acre estate, we came up with a schedule of daily excursions so that guests would be immersed in the local culture.
As I mentioned, the area is known as the epicenter of culinary delights in France, so we felt it only natural to base the trip around food and wine. This worked out especially well because of Chateau Duma's chef: Charlotte Clement, a Cordon Bleu trained chef who is more entertaining than Julia Childs. I describe her as funny and incredibly charming, on top of that, she knows her history like nobody's business. We are very lucky in the fact that she goes on the daily exclusions, instructs cooking classes, and assists in bartering at the local
I particularly like her dry sense of humor and am amazed that she has been able to make her way into the underground society of French chefs. The chefs hide away in their basements and experiment with food, producing some of the best cuisine in the world. It is the real deal in the culinary world, and they hardly ever allow a woman into their circle, let alone a woman who is not French.
Together, Lizzie, Charlotte, Terry, and I create a week full of fabulous hands-on meal preparation and learning. Between the daily excursions, culinary delights, and antique shopping, the trip to Chateau Dumas is what dreams are made of!
If you are interested in learning more about Chateau Dumas, Lizzie maintains a wonderful blog with all sorts of fabulous details. For more information about Chateau Sonoma’s trip to Chateau Dumas, click here, or click to see a sample itinerary!