Be our guest
“We saw a few properties but this one was perfect because it’s what the French call caché – it’s kind of hidden”
Hitch-hiking through Ireland in the 70s, American couple Dennis Sherman and Eleanor Garvin stood on a Galway roadside with a sign that simply read ‘ Tunisia’. They didn’t quite make it all the way to Africa but they did get a free ride to Burgundy, and as wine and food enthusiasts, it instantly struck a chord. “As soon as we arrived, Dennis and I loved it and always said that we’d come back,” Ellie, as she is known, explains.
True to their word, the pair returned to Burgundy, where they ran a luxury hotelbarge called Le Papillon. Once that venture had ended, the couple set their sights on running food and wine tours in the area and looked for suitable properties that would accommodate such groups.
“We found the property online and bought it three years ago,” Ellie explains. “We saw a few properties but this one was perfect because it’s what the French call caché – it’s kind of hidden.”
Sitting among sun-dappled vineyards in a tranquil vale south of Beaune, Domaine de Cromey dates from the 1600s. Locals have always referred to Domaine de Cromey as ‘the château’, bestowing it with an illustrious reputation that Dennis and Ellie are clearly keeping alive and well, having transformed it into a luxury manor house. It’s here that the couple welcome people from all over the world to taste the best of Burgundy’s food, cooked by Ellie and taste the best Burgundy wine expertly selected by Dennis. It may be tucked away in one of France’s most idyllic corners, but those who find it will be made to feel right at home...
Don’t hide fruit and veg away in the fridge. Sun-ripened tomatoes, bulbs of garlic and sprouting basil plants add a burst of colour
At Domaine de Cromey, dinner is enjoyed in true French fashion; regarded as a chance to take your time enjoying food, drink and conversation with those around the table. Dennis and Ellie set the table for the occasion with candles, traditional silverware, flowers from the garden and a few bottles of wine that have been already opened. Ellie is most at home in her kitchen where she gives cookery demonstrations and prepares home-cooked meals for her guests. Creamy risotto topped with escargots, tomato and basil tartine or a heart-warming coq au vin are among her favourites. The open-plan design means that Ellie is never short of people to talk to while cooking over a hot stove. “The thing about my kitchen is people walk by all the time and say, ‘What’re you doing there?’ I love it.” Though dinner is a more formal affair, lunch is kept sweet and simple. Fresh bread, cheese and Burgundy wine make for an idyllic picnic to be enjoyed outside in the grounds of the property.
The walled-in parkland that surrounds Domaine de Cromey is perfect for going on long walks with the family dog, Haggis. Ellie particularly loves the wild flower meadow where she gathers up bundles of whatever is in season to display around the house. True to foodie form, the couple also like to forage in the grounds. “There’s an elderberry tree down there and Dennis’s grandmother always made him an elderberry pie every summer, and so now I do the same. It’s absolutely delicious – it’s proper pie.” An outdoor stone-built bread oven is a fun feature of Domaine de Cromey; ideal for summertime dining. Having mastered the art of making pizza, perfecting homemade bread is next on Dennis’s list.
“Part of the cookery and wine business is based on generosity,” says Dennis. “We like to give people more than they’re expecting.” The large salon area allows for ‘the more the merrier’ approach.
High ceilings and exposed stone walls imbue the salon with a light, airy feel, making it cool in summer and warm in winter. But it is the 18th-century wine pressoir that steals the show. “I love my kitchen,” Ellie says before adding, “But just walking in and seeing that pressoir… it’s pretty stunning. Keeping it was a challenge. The first thing we thought when we walked in was ‘we’re going to make sure we keep that and make it a focal point’.” The view from the heated swimming pool captures the essence of the Burgundy countryside. Views of rolling green valleys dotted with Charolais cattle and country tractors stretch for miles. “All you need is a little monk coming down the hill,” remarks one guest.
“The garden’s kicking right now!” says Dennis of his vegetable plot where everything from pumpkins and potatoes to beetroot and courgettes grow. For Ellie, having her own organic potager is one of the best things about life in the French countryside. “I think the thing that thrills me the most about cooking here is having quality ingredients,” she smiles. Dennis and Ellie have let the building’s plants do their own thing to give the old outbuildings country charm. “The whole front of the house is left like that and I love it,” says Ellie. “Because the Virginia creeper is deciduous and drops, in the winter it makes it very charming.” domainedecromey.com
Plump sofas and Persian-style rugs add an element of luxurious warmth to the living room, while low-beamed ceilings and parquet floors offer cosy comfort. The open fire dates back to 1716 while a restored baby grand piano calls out to be played from the corner.
Glass jars filled with dried beans, lentils and spices add interest to a set of plain kitchen shelves.