By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Visit a French countryside in the Georgia Foothills
Gentle rolling hills with lush green vineyards surrounding a 16th century French style château create images of the French countryside. Perched atop a hill, the Château Elan Winery & Resort gently welcomes travelers to experience the warmth of southern hospitality and the richness of a French countryside in the Georgia foothills. Whether stopping for a wine tour and tasting, a casual lunch, an elegant dinner, a romantic retreat or a conference, Château Elan assures each visitor enjoys a special experience. A unique treat for the car enthusiast is to take a “Hot Lap” at the Road Atlanta a 2.54 mile Grand Prix track for Le Mans series racecars just 10 minutes away.
Chateau Elan began on an impromptu visit of Dr. Donald and Nancy Panoz, entrepreneurs and ardent wine lovers. Initially intrigued by the plump Muscadine, a grape indigenous to Georgia, they were curious if the Vitas Vinifera grape, which produces premium wines such as Chardonnays, Cabernets, Merlots, and Viognier could be grown in the Georgia foothills. As owners of a large pharmaceutical company that pioneered development of the nicotine patch, they were looking for a distribution site in the area. With the expertise of viticulturalist from California it was determined the soil and humidity were similar to California. Thus, Chateau Elan Wines were born with the first wines released in 1985 the Chateau Elan Winery opening its doors in July.
About 40 minutes outside of Atlanta on I-85, we spy Château Élan and its vineyards in the north Georgia foothills. Driving up the main entrance through the 75 acres of vineyards with the Château directly in front, we feel we have entered a new dimension, a French countryside yet we are really in Georgia. At the Château Élan Inn the staff of experienced professionals has us quickly settled into our luxurious deluxe guest room. The staff is always welcoming, friendly and alert to every detail of our visit.
Our spacious king suite is a corner room giving extra windows adding to the warmth to the room’s French Estate décor with a fresher more stylish touch. The king bed is a free standing focal point with residential style headboard and footboard and elegant circular, dark walnut tables on each side. An L-shaped leather sofa with a chaise creates an inviting place to relax with a glass of wine or to watch a show on the 32” Flat Screen television. An added subtle French touch is the antique Eglomise mirror of gilded glass as a full-length wall leaning mirror. The lavish bathroom has an oversized tub, a separate marble shower and large vanity. Additional features are the silver gilded work desk, the double closets, in-room laptop safe, mini-fridge, and coffee maker. The room is huge giving a wide open feel with plenty of space to spread out.
Having been in the car for several hours we are ready to stretch our legs and see more of the resort. Roaming through the Inn, we locate the fitness center, a beautiful large outdoor pool, and extensive conference center. The resort features eight specialty restaurants ranging from bistro to fine dining. Recreation and leisure options are plentiful with four pools including two resistance pools, tennis courts, four golf courses, several nature trails, and picnic areas, all in addition to the Château Winery Tours and Tastings. We take one of the shorter nature trails enjoying a walk in the woods and then wander to the Château admiring the huge fountain and bronze statue of a lady in a wine barrel stomping grapes. The countryside from the Château creates a special charm and elegance, as we look out over vineyards on the rolling hills.
Our dinner choice is Paddy’s which is a “real” Irish Pub! All the furnishings and fixtures were created in Ireland then shipped to Château Élan where it was reassembled and opened in July, 1997. Of course Paddy’s serves a traditional Irish menu. I seek the lighter meal of a tasty and cool Watercress Salad with smoked salmon and lemon-caper vinaigrette. While Richard sticks with the traditional pub favorite of scrumptious Shepherd’s pie. Now we are off to take advantage of our luxurious room for a relaxing evening.
The Nature Trails beckon Richard for a morning run along the foothills, and I opt to do some cardio and weights at the Fitness Center. After a continental breakfast in our room, we grab a few clubs to walk the beautiful 1,100 yard nine-hole Executive Walking Course. We enjoy playing this course and find it is definitely more than just a Par-3. Several holes require long shots of over 160 yards, which for ladies is a driver or wood. It is especially good for honing your short game but still offers significant elevation changes, water hazards, nasty bunkers and undulating greens. The Dave Pelz Golf School is being held on the last few holes so we are only able to play six of the holes.
At the 16th century French style Château we browse the expansive wine shop with its wide assortment of unique and special items for wine buffs and connoisseurs. Gathering for the 11:00 AM Wine Tour and Tasting, our guide Graeme gives us an extensive tour of the winery while explaining the differences of wine making in the southern appellation. Standing in the chilly room with massive stainless steel tanks and equipment, Graeme points out each step of the wine process. The Château is the largest producer of premium varietal wines in the state of Georgia, The 75 acres of vineyards surrounding the 16th century style French Chateau are planted in Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Pinot, Sangiovese, and Merlot Venifera grapes. We even have a few minutes to chat with the winemaker, who shares more insight into some of the challenges of growing grapes in the South compared California.
The Tour is extremely informative and fun as Graeme adds his personal hints during our tour and tasting. Showing how to “swirl the wine looking for its legs,” Graeme suggests swirling be done with the glass on the table. Our tasting includes Georgia Muscadine Wines, which produce a semi-sweet wine with aromas of honey, citrus and peach. Red wines and white wines are also featured. We even get to sample the American Port, a fortified wine, a perfect dessert wine with strong flavors of dried fruits, caramel and chocolate. Explaining that wines should be served at the proper temperature, Graeme suggests chilling reds about 10 minutes before serving to achieve the proper temperature of 60-65 degrees and taking white wines out of a refrigerator before serving so they are served at the 50-55 degree temperature. Popping out his “Nuvo Vino,” a wine temperature tester, Graeme, holds it above the wine in the glass to check its temperature. A great gift idea for our wine lover friends!
Some of the guests stay at the Culinary Studio in the Winery to participate in the Cooking Classes. Later they share what a terrific time they had preparing their meals. The Culinary Studio has cooking classes, cooking parties, demonstrations, private culinary events and even team building. Our friends explain the classes are personal, informal and lots of fun. Definitely something for us to consider on our next visit.
Opting to indulge in Spa Treatments rather than golf, we begin with a casual yet elegant lunch at the Fleur-de-Lis, a lovely sunny dining room at the Château Elan Spa overlooking a quiet lake surrounded by a canopied forest of trees, emerald green lawns and flowering shrubs. Using the choicest ingredients the Spa Chef prepares “healthy” gourmet breakfasts and lunches creating a balance between good taste and good sense. The Spa Menu gives the calories plus the fat, carbohydrate and protein content for each item. Sharing the Artisan Mix Green Salad with mission figs, shaved carrots, Sweet Grass Dairy Goat Cheese and a balsamic glaze, we both agree the salad is excellent and especially find the goat cheese extra flavorful. My Seared Sea Diver Scallops are absolutely delicious served on a bed of blood red orange, baby heirloom tomatoes and avocado with a Balsamic Gastric. Hurrah, this is only 146 calories! The Seared Gulf Flounder definitely satisfies Richard’s appetite with the Sweet Pea Risotto and Baby Malibu Carrots with a Paprika Oil, which is still just 313 calories. The Spa Chef truly incorporates seasonal ingredients of vegetables, fruits and citrus sauces to bring out the natural taste of foods still reducing calories and increasing nutritional benefit.
After lunch, we check in at the Spa at Château Élanwhere we begin our immersion into the quiet, serene, romantic ambiance of the Spa facilities. Escorted to the ladies and men’s locker rooms, we transition to an afternoon of relaxation and rejuvenation. Initially the steam bath begins to soothe away the worries of the world. We meet in the waiting area in our comfortable bath robes and slippers as we sip the refreshing lemon water. Towanda and Lorrie greet us and lead us to the Couples Massage Room to begin our Château Ultimate Couples Massage. The room is warm and inviting with soothing music, soft candlelight and sensuous rose petals gently scattered on the floor. Starting with salt scrubs, Towanda and Lorrie gently rub this over our bodies to cleanse our pores and skin. Towanda works her magic on Richard as she kneads all of his tight spots, while Lorrie expertly soothes the tension from my tight muscles. Wow! Absolutely fantastic! The kinks, knots, tension, and stress have been carefully removed from out bodies. Glad we have a quiet evening planned, to enjoy this peaceful, serene state. We emerge feeling renewed, empowered, energized and revitalized!
We have succumbed to ultra-relaxation at Chateau Elan! What a terrific escape from the stress and grind of everyday life. Within the sweeping panorama of the north Georgia foothills and just 40 minutes away from Atlanta, visitors will find a Château Élan a wonderful get-a-way or hide-away. This 3,500 acre resort centers on leisure, romance, relaxation, wine, golf, distinctive dining and the fine amenities of life. Choices are terrific from sports activities, to spa treatments to just kicking back. Everything is here and you don’t have to even leave the resort.
If you go:
Chateau Elan Inn, 100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton, GA 30517
Chateau Elan Winery, 100 Tour De France, Braselton, GA 30517
Chateau Elan Spa, Haven Harbour Drive, Braselton, GA 30517
Chateau Elan Golf Club, 6060 Golf Club Drive, Braselton, GA 3051