If you’re looking for an epicurean escape from the winter doldrums, take an hour-long drive to Braselton, home of Chateau Élan Winery and Resort. With its restaurants, winery, spa, hotel and golf courses, Chateau Élan is ripe with distractions.
From the moment my wife Deanna and I arrived there to spend a weekend celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, we were in heaven. It also happened to be the weekend after Georgia’s so-called snowpocalypse, and we were also glad to be away from Atlanta.
Even though we had viewed the pictures of the hotel rooms on the Internet, we were still in awe of the wide open spaces when we entered the 408-square-foot suite with a king-sized bed. We opted for the romantic upgrade complete with rose petals on the bed and around the garden tub. Also waiting for us was a bottle of champagne and half-dozen jumbo chocolate-covered strawberries.
We enjoyed donning the plush, white Chateau Élan-embroidered bathrobes and lounging on the sofa and watching the 32-inch flat screen television. There was also a desk for working, but we didn’t touch that.
Chateau Élan can be pricey: a king room will run you $438 for two nights. But if you check out the inn’s website you can find deals such as the $434 Bed & Breakfast Escape package in the same room which includes breakfast for two in the Versailles Restaurant.
Although we were at Chateau Élan to escape our daily tasks, we stumbled upon a difficult chore: deciding which of the seven restaurants to try:
• Cafe Élan, with its Mediterranean dishes.
• Fleur-De-Lis, a dining room overlooking the lake and gazebo at the Château Élan Spa, where the chef prepares gourmet breakfasts and lunch dishes, and serves afternoon tea.
• Golf Grille, located at the Château and Woodlands courses inside the Château Élan Golf Club. This restaurant features an all-American menu, a stocked bar and big-screen TV.
• L’Auberge Lounge, a sports bar that overlooks the atrium at the inn. The lounge has large-screen televisions and pool tables, and serves a range of light snacks and dinner items.
• Le Clos, an intimate eatery located in the winery, with seating for only 28.
• Paddy’s Irish Pub, which serves traditional Irish food, beverages and live music in a pub made in Ireland and shipped to Braselton.
We decided on the elegant open-air Versailles Restaurant, located in the atrium of the Chateau Élan Inn under a 45-foot glass ceiling. Its dinner menu features such entrees as lamb wellington with roasted winter vegetables, seared salmon with grits cake, and wild mushroom and rosemary tortellini sautéed asparagus. Diners can also choose filet mignon, ribeye and N.Y. strip from the grill.
Versailles also has a $39 dinner buffet with braised short ribs, broiled grouper, Smokey Mountain chicken.
At just $10 per person (or $5 per person on weekdays), the 45-minute tour of the winery is one of the best values at Chateau Élan for the budget-conscious. You don’t have to stay at the inn or have reservations for the tour.
During the tour, a guide takes visitors into the production area of the winery, filled with barrels. Here the guide explains Chateau Élan’s history along with a detailed summary of the wine-making process, including the types of grapes grown by Chateau Élan, the difference between white and red wines, and how wines are aged.
Chateau Élan’s vineyards grow several varieties of grapes including chambourcin, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay and muscadine. From these the winery produces Georgia chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, merlot, American cabernet and muscadine wines. The winery also produces “Belle 211,” a blend of white grapes, and “Scarlet 211,” a blend of red grapes.
Our 20-person tour had the opportunity to sample several wines with crackers in the winery’s store, filled with scores of wines and wine paraphernalia for sale. The samples were served in wine glasses, engraved with the Chateau Élan logo, which are included in the price as souvenirs.
Of the six ample servings of red, white and dessert wines we tried, my wife and I really enjoyed a sweet, muscadine wine with citrus aromas by Duncan Creek.
While at Chateau Élan, we didn’t try the spa or four golf courses, or six other restaurants. We didn’t design our own wine label. We didn’t bike or hike the trails throughout the 3,500 acres of the resort. We didn’t take a cooking class with one of the chefs. And we didn’t even know about the equestrian center.
But we enjoyed our time so much that we decided that make another trip to Chateau Élan. And maybe next time we can stay in the 1,832-square-foot presidential suite.