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A rural setting with sophisticated services and amenities ... and a winery
With its winery, championship golf courses, full spa, private residential community, equestrian show center, tennis center, restaurants and conference center ... gasp ... Château Élan Winery & Resort is the kind of place that will take your breath away. Although it's less than an hour from downtown Atlanta, it feels as if it belongs in another world: the pastoral, Impressionists' world of Southern France, to be precise.
The self-styled French Provincial resort was founded by pharmaceutical tycoons, Donald and Nancy Panoz, who became fascinated by Georgia's indigenous Muscadine grapes on a visit to their research lab in Gainesville. The result of their interest is this 3,500-acre estate that is now the flagship of the Château Élan hotel group.
The majority of accommodations are located in the Inn at Château Élan. It houses 275 deluxe guest rooms that include 22 suites, one hospitality suite, a 1,333-square-foot Governor’s suite and the 1,832-square-foot presidential suite. Château Élan is designed to provide guests with a timeless feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. Experience an overnight stay in a deluxe room capturing an architectural and interior style that emulates elements of a French Country estate. All guest rooms feature an exquisite bedding package with embroidered white linens on top of a cushy pillow top mattress, a lavish bathroom with separate shower and garden tub as well as a large work desk, terry-cloth robes, high-speed Internet access and a 36” flat screen TV. Guests can also stay in the two- and three-bedroom Château Golf Villas on the 15th fairway of The Château Course or in one of the 14 spa suites located in the Spa Mansion.
While all of the facilities here are notable, it's The Château Élan Winery that stands out. Modeled after a 16th-century French castle, the winery's French provincial scheme really works. The 200 gorgeous acres of vineyards make it easy to forget that you're in the land of cotton. They are planted with Vitis Vinifera varieties and French-American hybrids, which are harvested with methods adapted to suit the local climate.
The winery ages, bottles and labels its own wines — for fun, have them customize a label for holiday gifts or your next party — and tours and tastings are offered daily, except on Christmas.
Another big draw, along with the grapes, are two 18-hole, championship golf courses. The contoured Château Course winds along three lakes and two creeks, and The Woodlands Course takes advantage of natural features such as forest, pastures and waterways. Located behind the Inn, the 9-hole, par-3 Executive Walking Course offers a fun experience for groups — night golfing with glow in the dark golf balls and flagsticks by the light of tiki torches. As if this isn't enough for the tee set, there is The Dave Pelz Golf School and The Legends Golf Club, a private membership club whose course was designed by legends Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Kathy Whitworth (six holes each).
The Spa at Château Élan offers 36 treatment rooms and 14 overnight spa suites as well as two couples treatment suites. The Fleur-de-Lis dining room serves a unique variety of spa cuisine for the health conscious. For recreation you can pedal or hike your way throughout the property. Enjoy the private roads of the estate or off-the-beaten path trails and quiet nature trails. Enjoy a game of tennis at The Château Élan Tennis Center (designed by Stan Smith) which boasts three clay courts and four hard courts lighted for play. A fitness center is also available with a jet-powered resistance pool. And lest you're under the impression that business takes a back seat to pleasure, let us expound on the 25,000-square-foot Conference Center with two grand ballrooms, 19 meeting rooms, two boardrooms and a stepped auditorium.
It comes as no surprise — at a resort this size — that there are more than half a dozen commendable dining venues to choose from. Among them, the massive Versailles restaurant offers American dishes with a French influence in an atrium setting and Café Élan (in the winery) provides Mediterranean bistro-style meals. Most interesting, though, is the non-Franco-inspired restaurant, Paddy's Irish Pub. The Panoz family once lived in Ireland, and their love of the Emerald Isle is evidenced at Paddy's, the product of a Dublin-based architectural and interior design firm. All of the furnishings and fixtures were created in Ireland, after which the pub was shipped to Georgia and reassembled.
Château Élan Winery & Resort was built as a labor of love, and the Panoz's unique passion for each aspect of it is evidenced throughout. While large in scale, it is intimate in attitude, making it a welcome alternative to the traditional resort holiday.
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