Head for the Hills
An hour’s drive transports Atlantans to Château Élan’s tranquil grounds.
Driving through the gates of Château Élan, a beautiful orange-pink sunset as our backdrop, my husband and I prepared for two teenager-free nights filled with warm Southern hospitality, gourmet food and wine in seven restaurants, and world-class amenities.
With sweeping views of the North Georgia foothills and 3,500 acres of gorgeous property—including a full-production winery—it was like we were in the French countryside, just an hour away from the city. But that’s the point, right?
After settling into our room, we headed to Café Élan for wine tasting and dinner. A distinguished gentleman who introduced himself as Hank Evers, CEO and president of Château Élan, cheerfully greeted us. He escorted us to the Wine Market to sample the winery’s new Muscadry and Pink Muscadry, along with two reds, Pinot Noir 2011 Reserve and Barbera D’Asti D.O.C.G. 2011, explaining the origins of each.
Afterward, we dined in the bustling Café Élan. Our server, Crystal, attended to every need without being obtrusive—her wine suggestion (Justin Cabernet) with our Chermoula Spiced Ahi Tuna and Swordfish Catch of the Day was superb. One of our favorite dishes was the appetizer, a selection of local charcuterie and fromage, featuring Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses, housemade pickled vegetables and assorted jams.
The first night, we slept blissfully in our comfy bed outfitted in a Richloom Home Fashions duvet cover and Harbor Linen “Opulence” sheets, dreaming of next-day spa treatments. We were so anxious to get the pampering started, we didn’t make it to breakfast. Instead, we opted for an early lunch at Fleur-de-Lis, the lovely, sunlit dining room overlooking the lake and gazebo at Château Élan’s Spa. Our treatments included a Men’s Hot Towel Facial and Château Essential Massage (for him) and Château Essential Facial and Deep Tissue Massage (for me) as well as his and hers pedicures. The Spa uses d’vine products featuring all natural ingredients from wine, grapes and potent botanicals. The mild, fruity scent of grape seed oil lingered on our skin throughout the weekend, serving as a constant reminder to relax.
Although the spa was dreamy, our weekend highlight was dinner at Le Clos, which seats just 28 people in its intimate setting within the Winery. The five-course, prix-fixe menu features seasonal flavors and local harvest— all fruits and vegetables on the menu are Georgia-grown.
I opted for the chef’s seasonal salad, monkfish, lemon sorbet and bison tenderloin, and house-made coconut pistachio sorbet. My husband chose smoked tuna, “Bacon & Eggs,” lemon sorbet and venison osso buco, and the charcuterie tray for dessert. Perfectly portioned and served leisurely over two-and-a-half hours, dinner was satisfying, and the chef’s presentation very impressive. He visited our table personally after dinner to get our thoughts about the new seasonal menu, which debuted that evening. We complimented the artistic and colorful presentation of each dish, which showcased the freshness of the local ingredients.
The next afternoon, we reminisced about every moment of our French Château “staycation.” We drove home with the top down, sun shining on our faces. Short, meaningful trips go a long way in staying connected as a couple, and we’ve vowed that Château Élan will be a more regular one for us.
The Château Élan Inn
100 Rue Charlemagne,
Braselton, Ga. 30517
STORY: Joanne Hayes