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Apr 12, 2011 08:41 AM

Gourmet excursion in Gascony staying at a lovely château - would it interest you?

I have recently been offered an opportunity to run a conference center that has been created out of the old distillery that sits on the property of a lovely château in the South West of France in the heart of the Gers. This is the land of fois gras, Armagnac, and the Three Muscateers not to mention a "famous" town called Condom where (for those of you who speak French) the river Baïse runs through (chuckle, chuckle).

The owner wants me to organize conferences for exclusive executive retreats on the property which also breeds race horses, has a swimming pool, tennis court, racquetball, pètanque, small gym and roaming grounds to explore. Dinners will be organized in the stunning dining room of the château or in the Orangerie.

In addition to the executive retreats (which they currently run) he is also willing to allow me to run cooking classes and gourmet excursions (visit the top Armagnac producers, trips to the farms producing fois gras, excursions to the local markets, outings to his second château that also has wonderful vineyards and hunting grounds). Both the Distillery and the Orangerie have professional kitchens that the cooking classes could take place in. He knew this would be the hook for me.

I am in the process of putting together the business plan to see if I will take the leap and accept this challenge but it is a tough call. I currently have a job with a sports rights holder that is not only exciting but also pays the bills. This opportunity would financially be - well a bad decision. BUT it is a dream job in a beautiful part of the world. A beautiful part of the world that is not extremely well known - one of the key risks that I have pointed out.

So - now to why I have posted this topic. I know a lot of Americans who travel to France read this board and you would be one of my key target markets. How many of you would consider a detour to the South West France - easy TGV ride or Easy Jet flight to Toulouse for an outing like this? My current pricing strategy for 4 days / 3 nights which would include breakfast each morning, 3 lunches and 3 dinners as well as excursions would cost around $900 - $1000 per person (depending on double or single occupancy). The distillery has 16 double rooms but I would try to keep the groups to 20 - 25 people.

This is market research folks. I work in marketing and one thing I have learned over the years is that marketers don't know much - the market knows it all.

If you read the wiki entry for the Gers - you will see why it is a must stop for foodies in France:

Thank you all in advance for your insights. I hope this post is allowed to stay as it is not promoting a business - it is researching a maybe future endeavor!

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  1. It sounds viable to me. My wife and I have enjoyed group excursions with the Toulouse organ festival, combining church organ recitals and gastronomy. Many posts here ask for advice about what wineries to visit; I imagine people would be interested in Armagnac, too. The price seems OK if the food and accommodations are top-notch (no hard beds, thank you). If you're sure the Gers is not very well-known, put the "unspoiled, authentic" spin on it... And don't let spelling errors make a bad impression! MusKEteers (named for the musket rifles, as much as Athos probably liked to drink his Muscat), foiE gras, pÉtanque. I don't know if there are a lot of other organizations with similar offerings. That job offer sounds mighty tempting--if you take it, I hope it works out!

    1. French castles and vineyards in the countryside? Goose Foie gras?
      Sounds wonderful.
      You might want to consider a slightly shorter time period since many people may only be spending just a week in France. Perhaps a longer program with cooking classes and a shorter program that focuses on the eating/drinking tour. Good luck!