Château Élan | Escape to The French Countryside in North Atlanta

Who doesn’t dream of jet-setting to Europe for a long, luxurious weekend getaway? Yet, for most of us that’s just a fantasy, given the cost and time involved. But what if a resort with all the charm and ambiance of the French countryside – as well as a hefty pinch of southern charm – were just a short hop from the DMV? Château Élan, a winery, golf and tennis resort and spa tucked away in the north-Georgia foothills, will have you saying “Ooh, La La!” the minute you see those vines – and it’s just a quick drive from Atlanta.

As you turn into Château Élan’s main entrance and pass through the gates, your worries and stress fall away. You leave the hustle and bustle of the world behind as the road curves over the rolling hills and through the vineyards, which flank each side. You suddenly feel as though you are thousands of miles away. The winery, designed to resemble a 16th century château, lies before you, stately and grand and elegant. No detail has been overlooked, and this is evident before you’ve even left the car.

The resort occupies a vast 3,500 acres and was founded and lovingly created through the vision of its original owners, Don & Nancy Panoz. The family sold Château Élan in January 2018 to Wheelock Street Capital, and the property subsequently underwent an extensive $25 million renovation, which was completed this past November. This renovation included a complete update of all 275 guest rooms and suites, the addition of four food and beverage establishments, and a complete redesign of the atrium, lobby, outdoor pool and immersive spa. With over 40,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference and banquet space as well, this property is not only perfect for a romantic getaway or girls’ weekend, but an idyllic venue for a wedding or corporate retreat.

Pivotal to the update was the incorporation of work by local artisans and craftspeople throughout the resort, which is visible in everything from the impressive artwork to the textiles. Guests will notice this attention to detail everywhere they look – in the photographs, paintings, and furnishings. The visual interest and craftsmanship are omnipresent, from the smallest to the grandest of details. Also worth noting is the magnificent chandelier “sculpted” from 1400 hand-blown glass bulbs created in the Czech Republic, which appear to roll across the ceiling in elegant waves, an homage to the lines and shadows of the vineyards.

With eight delectable dining options, guests will have a hard time deciding which to try first. Whether you crave the hip, trendy southern-infused Marc Bar & Restaurant, a chophouse which incorporates local farm-to-table fare and artisan cocktails, or Paddy’s Irish pub – whose furnishings and fixtures were relocated from a pub in Ireland and reassembled here in Georgia – there is something for everyone. The options span everything from the casual, such as at Le Petit Café, with their grab-andgo items and customizable coffee offerings (including fabulous oat milk cappuccinos); to the lively Louis’ House of Bourbon, offering not only a variety of bourbons, but also craft cocktails, beer and wine; to sporty casual, such as Sarazen’s Bar & Grille, an all-American sports tavern overlooking the 18th green of the Château Élan Golf Course. The sky is truly the limit. This is the south, after all, and southern hospitality always includes fabulous food, and lots of it.

This philosophy is ever-present throughout the resort. Marc Bar & Restaurant Executive Chef, Rodney Ashley, describes the inspiration behind the menus and cocktail selections in this way: “the quality of the food our guests are eating is important and feeling connected to the people who produce it is equally as important to us. Everything from our South Georgia cheeses to [the] seasonal vegetables harvested in our own backyard.” From the winery to the restaurants, each ingredient and menu offering is carefully selected to compliment the resort’s philosophy and promote local agriculture.

At Château Élan’s awardwinning winery, which offers an extensive – and impressive – portfolio of wine offerings, guests will not only experience quality wines, but service which is tied to a passion for what they do. Under the careful nurturing of Executive Winemaker, Simone Bergese, the winery produces some of the most respected wines in the country.

Bergese brings his expertise from Italy to Georgia to create everything from exquisite reds, to crisp, refreshing whites using both grapes grown on property as well as from carefully selected vineyards throughout California. Since Bergese’s arrival in 2013, Château Élan’s wines have won over 150 awards, and there is nothing he loves more than the opportunity to share his love of winemaking with the resort’s guests.

Not only can guests enjoy a wine tasting, but they can participate in activities such as food and wine pairings, cooking classes, and a “Winemaker Wannabe” class, all of which incorporate the vineyards wines along with the local fare and ingredients whenever possible. Bergese believes that food is an integral part of appreciating wine. “The connection with wine and food is almost primordial – 98% of the time, wine is consumed when eating,” says Bergese, “An already great experience can be elevated by matching very different elements with the same quality concept in mind. Everything is crafted with passion and everybody at Château Élan takes pride in that.”

When you need a little break from the “stress” of all that wine-ing and dining, have the resort set you up for a day of pampering at the spa. The setting is relaxing and peaceful, decorated in a very cozy, urban-chic elegance. When you first enter you will be drawn to the crackling fire in the main room, surrounded by plenty of overstuffed chairs and reading nooks. The lighting is sublime. Towards the back is the Fleur-de-Lis restaurant, which overlooks the duck pond. While I did mention taking a break from food and drink, the menu here is focused on healthy, nutritious breakfast and lunch options if you plan to spend an extended amount of time at the spa – or wish to come specifically for brunch. The spa also boasts 14 luxury suites on site for those who wish to fully decompress throughout their stay.

The spa itself is downstairs. The waiting room faces the pond, so you can sip your cucumber water, or a glass of the resort’s signature Tahitian sparkling Pineapple wine, and relax under a warm, fuzzy blanket between treatments. The spa’s service options are extensive – everything from massages and wellness treatments to facials and nails. You may also choose to participate in a yoga class, often held in the winery’s candle-lit cask room or grand foyer. A trip to Château Élan’s spa is a must-do for visitors, male and female alike.

For those of you who love golf, Château Élan’s 45 holes of championship golf are truly unmatched. Managed by Troon Golf, the highly rated courses take advantage of the rolling Georgia hills and winding lakes and creeks to offer a top-notch experience for guests of all levels. The Chateau Course is particularly challenging, with 87 bunkers and water incorporated into the majority of the course’s 18 holes. If you prefer to split your day between activities, a par 3 course is also available, which is equally challenging.

It would do a tremendous disservice to this wonderfully creative resort to just say that it “has something for everyone”. It is so much more. With a bursting schedule of events each month, and a fully customizable list of guest activities available – whether arranging a cooking class for your corporate event, a game of tennis or pickle ball, or a day of pampering at the spa – the staff at Château Élan will go above and beyond to ensure your visit exceeds expectations. So, the next time you have the urge to jet-set off to the French countryside for a weekend, hop on down to Atlanta and escape to Château Élan. And bon appetit!