CHÂTEAU ÉLAN WINERY & RESORT
On The Outskirts of Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia

Story by: Larry Mayran
(all images courtesy of Chateau Elan Winery & Resort)

Chateau Elan
A 16th century style Chateau overlooks the lush vineyards.

It’s been seven-eight years since I last visited Chateau Elan, albeit many times before that. Some memories are  indelible. Like the oft used saying about Paris… “Plus ça change, plus ç'est la même chose’ “The more Paris changes, the more it stays the same,” And so it is with Chateau Elan. Many changes over the years, many millions spent in enhancements, new guest facilities and services. Then again no matter how many changes, Chateau Elan always reveals itself to the visitor like a great painting or monumental sculpture...timeless.

Exiting highway 85N in Braselton, Georgia your eyes do a double take as the scene looks like a mirage rising in the early morning light, lush vineyards, heavy with ripening grapes surround a magnificent looking chateau. Here on 3,500 acres, Chateau Élan Winery & Resort lies seemingly suspended in its own world between the bustling city of Atlanta, 40 minutes to the south and the rolling land of the Georgia foothills to the north.

The Inn at Chateau Elan.

At its heart is a 16th century style French Chateau and full-production winery, the largest producer of estate bottled premium and varietal wines in Georgia. Inside the winery, visitors may enjoy wine tours and tastings, discover two restaurants, a wine market, and a wine cellar for gala receptions. In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Winery, Château Élan has just invested $2.5 million in renovating the 42,000 sq ft building.   This two-year revitalization of the winery includes a complete facelift of the restaurant, tasting room, gift shop and the addition of a fifty seat dining veranda overlooking the vineyards, a 40 seat wine tasting terrace, an outdoor vineyard fire pit and a 3 acre Rose Vineyard. Taking advantage of the architecture of the original building, the new design will have an industrial chic feel with hints of vintage charm and rustic winery influences.   The enhancement was completed at the end of July 2016.

Tranquil scene of #11 green on the Chateau golf links.

Chateau Élan is also a colorful tapestry of manicured lawns, tall stands of hardwood and pine trees, scented flowers and a AAA Four Diamond, 275 room Inn, 10 two and three bedroom golf villas, a European Spa, 63 holes of championship golf, Stan Smith tennis center, equestrian show center, seven restaurants for serious and casual dining and a 40,000 square foot conference center.

When I checked in at the front desk and was warmly greeted by name, correctly pronounced, I was  immediately caught up early with a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. My room captured the French County architectural flair and was tastefully furnished with color schemes incorporating the French blue with muted shades of soft gold, creams and dark rich walnut woods.  My bed was luminously comfortable, the sheets cool to the touch and soft on the skin, key ingredients for a good night’s rest. There was a  large work desk, modem accessible telephones,  refrigerator, a  lavish bathroom with separate shower & garden tub, and terry-cloth robes.

Paddy's Pub at Chateau Elan
Paddy’s an authentic Irish pub built in Ireland and transported to Chateau Elan.

Time for a quick lunch and  Paddy’s Irish Pub just across the street from The Inn seemed a good choice to start. Ordering a cold frothy mug of Irish stout with fish and chips  always puts me in a good mood. Especially when the fish (haddock) is served hot, firm and flaky, and the chips (potatoes), crispy and cooked right through. The bartender offered me Slainte (slahn cha) an Irish “cheers” and told me that Paddy’s  is completely authentic. All of the furnishings and fixtures were created in Ireland. The pub was then shipped to Château Élan in 1997 and reassembled here. Paddy’s is open to the public so even if you are not staying at Chateau Elan you can still soak in the atmosphere and fun of an authentic Irish pub.

Next stop. A nostalgic visit to the Chateau Elan golf club  to rendezvous with a couple of PGA friends on staff, Elizabeth Clarkson, and  John Lott. Unhappily I was not taking my clubs  to challenge the  7,030 yard, par 71 Chateau course or the Woodlands,  a 6,735 yard, par 72  layout.  I had pulled a muscle in my back a few days prior to my visit and swinging a golf club was just not in the cards.

I first met Elizabeth Clarkson years ago when she was assistant professional. There is something uncanny about taking lessons from a lady PGA member. Always less intimidating relying on technique rather than brute force in ball striking. And the raves Elizabeth received for her golf instructions and friendly demeanor propelled her to be named head PGA professional when the opportunity presented itself.   John Lott who has been teaching at Chateau Elan seemingly forever remains one of my favorite all time  golf instructor after more than 50 years of playing golf around the world.. He has the patience of a saint. Further he took whatever skills I brought to the links and developed mechanics for me that suited and enhanced my long and short game within my comfort zone rather than radically changing my whole swing structure. Just as the shuttle pulled up in front of golf club I spotted John as he was finishing up a lesson with a senior player. A quick wave and John held up ten fingers signaling “give me 10 minutes and I’ll be right with you.” Meanwhile Elizabeth was in her office huddled with a couple of corporate types roughing out plans for an upcoming golf tournament I guess and no chance for a friendly chit chat. But John picked me up in a golf cart for a nostalgic drive around the golf links with its views of undulating fairways, cool lakes, tree lined holes, and putting surfaces of tightly woven carpets of greenery. John and I did a lot of reminiscing about the  changes in my golf game which unfortunately like Paris and Chateau Elan the more my game changes, the more it stays the same. Golf rates vary but are around $70 weekday and $85 weekend but to be sure visit www.chateauelan.com. Regarding my aching back, John suggested I make an appointment at the Spa for a treatment they call golfers massage which might help.

Chateau Elan Spa
The Spa at Chateau Élan

The Spa at Chateau Élan celebrated as Metro Atlanta’s only spa destination experience for both women and men, has 14 luxury guest suites for overnight stays or extended spa vacations. In a French country mansion by a sparkling lake, surrounded by a canopied forest of trees, emerald green lawns and flowering shrubs is nature at her most beguiling. The fragrant aroma of lavender, the luscious scent of herbal soap and indulgent and sensory treatments are designed to refresh and rejuvenate one’s body, and soul. With a staff of more than 90 and 35 treatment rooms the Spa also has its own kitchen where the chef develops gourmet menus based on superb ingredients, creating healthy appetizing fare, beautifully prepared and served in the lovely Fleur de Lis dining room.

Cooking class at Chateau Elan’s Culinary Studio above the Winery

Also on my to do list was signing up for a class at the resorts 1,600 sq. ft. Culinary Studio above the Winery. Each student has his or her own cooking station which features the latest equipment furnished by Viking Range Corporation. Attending cooking classes around the world at distinguished restaurants, hotels and private homes on my travels throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim and South America  is one of my favorite past times. I’ve always had a passion for learning cooking techniques and using ingredients of other cultures and the special dishes that accompany each region.   The Culinary Studio cooking classes headed by executive chef Chad Guay cost $125 per person which includes wine while cooking (who said cooking can’t be fun) and dining and  run for three hours, generally  from 7PM-10PM. I found the classes very personal, informal and well worth the price. There were 11 in my cooking class besides me. We cooked three courses. caramelized salmon deviled eggs, followed by seared scallops and bacon with  dessert of mini cheesecakes. (Recipe for seared scallops at bottom of page).

Amazing things can happen and usually do at Château Élan. The only requirement is you have to drive through the main gate and make a reservation to experience it all.

Recipe and Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ¾ -inch pieces
  • 1 lb. large sea scallops (about 16),
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced shallot (about 2 shallots)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Directions:  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add bacon. Cook slowly, stirring frequently, until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.   Drain excess fat, leaving a thin coat on bottom of pan. Increase heat to  medium high. When pan is hot add scallops  and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until golden brown on top, bottom and opaque, about 2- 2 1/2 minutes per side.  Transfer scallops to a serving dish, and add shallots to pan. When shallots are translucent, add white wine; scrape browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in butter, pour over scallops and top with reserved bacon.

Serve immediately.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CHÂTEAU ÉLAN WINERY & RESORT
100 Rue Charlemagne Drive
Braselton, GA 30517
Phone: (678) 425-0900
Website: www.chateauelan.com