Who said you need to board a plane and check a bag to experience the French countryside? If you’ve ever driven down 85, you might have seen the Provence-inspired roofs peeking through the treeline just off of the Braselton exit. Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of driving down the winding path, glimpsing the lush vineyards, or dawning upon the fountain that sits at the front entrance. Chateau Elan Winery and Resort brings that undeniably charming ‘je nai sais quio’ feeling to all who experience it. It transports you to a place beyond what you can describe. The destination combines a relaxing escape with tasteful opulence, saving you that airplane ticket cost and offering Gwinnett’s own little slice of French countryside.

And what is a winery without its titular drink? Chateau Elan Winery & Resort has grown to be an iconic site in Braselton, producing half a million bottles each year!

Vintage Vineyards: History of Chateau Elan

It began with a grape, as most wines do. In the Georgia countryside, where the air smells sweet and the grass grows thick, an idea came to fruition. The vision for a winery in the heart of Georgia was inspired by a few sips of sweet southern wine made from native muscadine grapes. It would be the first of its kind in the region since prohibition. The vineyard planting began in 1981, more than forty years ago, and Chateau Elan Winery & Resort was brought to life!

At first, the more classic wine grapes were planted. Merlot. Chardonnay. Pinot Noir. (Did you know that those are the names of the grapes themselves, not just the wines?) They attempted cultivating all types of Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, which was difficult to do in the sticky southern heat. The foreign grapes didn’t grow well and were quickly overshadowed by the local Vitis rotundifolia, aka the muscadine.

Georgia locals have long loved the muscadine, whether for snacking, making jams, or fermenting wines! The muscadine is different from the common standard grape, it’s far rounder with a thick skin and a sweet punch of tangy flavor. The thick skin of the southern native makes it resistant to the bugs, the heat, and the diseases – which were the issues the foreign-planted grapes were facing. It became clear that there was no better grape to grow than the one born to thrive in the area!

Bottling Brilliance: Modern Approach To Wine

When winemaker Simone Bergese arrived at Chateau Elan in 2013, he knew that there was still work to be done! Bergese, originally from Ceresole d’Alba, Italy, was not familiar with the muscadine upon his arrival. His background was in Oenology and Viticulture from the Turin University in Northern Italy, and he had previously worked with several wineries across Italy and Australia, but never the rounded southern grape. All it took was a healthy introduction and Bergese fell in love with its flavor! By embracing the native muscadine and expanding the wine program, Bergese elevated the winery to its current status as the largest wine producer in Georgia.

Now, the muscadine grape is grown throughout the Braselton vineyards and beyond, in several locations throughout north and south Georgia. It makes up 70% of the Chateau’s current production, with the rest of the wines created from grapes grown in California. The Chateau Elan Winery now has barrels in abundance, offering a portfolio that features more than 30 delicious wines.

Bergese knows the value of focusing on grape caliber and quality. He works hard to make sure that the Chateau Elan Wines are low to absent in sulfites, the preservative used to keep wines fresh. Instead, he lets the antioxidant-rich grapes lead the way. Chateau Elan wines are never filtered or stabilized, making them just as healthy as they are delicious. There’s no need for extra components, keeping the juice-to-wine process as straightforward as possible. It truly is all about the grape!

See, Sip and Savor: Tasting and Tours at the Chateau

For every bottle and blend, it’s a balancing act. Is this wine too sweet or too dry? Is this wine too astringent or does it resonate the way it should? Muscadine, merlot, red, white… if you’re new to wine, all of the terminology can be a little drowsy. That’s where wine tastings come in! If you’ve ever struggled to pick a bottle, wine tastings are created to help you navigate the world of reds and whites. It’s like dipping a toe in without taking a full swim, you can sip and see what you love the most.

Chateau Elan’s Bordeaux Tasting Room sets out to tell a tale of vineyards and history. There are a variety of tasting experiences, one fit for every palate. If you prefer sweet wines, they’ve got the Sweet Samples tasting, which includes sips of dessert blends (and chocolates!). Like a bit of bubbles? The Sparkling Flight will be for you. If you’re completely new to the game of vino, try the Sommelier Choice tasting (this one comes with tapas!). If you’ve yet to pick a favorite, then a general tasting will allow you to sip, sample, and savor, until you find the wine that makes you smile.

Bonus! Wine tastes even better when you know the work and passion that goes into each glass. Chateau Elan offers guided tours of its winery, vineyards, and production facilities. You can learn all about how a grape gets to glass.

Venture Beyond The Vineyard

There’s no reason to limit your experience to the wine. Chateau Elan Winery & Resort is fully committed to a well-rounded experience, whatever flavor is for you. The resort has accommodated couples, families, professional golfers, and wedding guests alike. That’s a task that is easy to do across 3,500 acres.

The Chateau offers a wide selection of lodging across the property. Choices range from sweeping villas to spa suites, to the nearby Hampton Inn and Suites. The resort is a popular choice for common choice for couples looking to get away for a romantic weekend and families who want a vacation experience.

If you’re looking for relaxation, rejuvenation is quintessential at Chateau Elan’s spa. The Chateau works hard to put Paris to shame, offering treatments, group fitness classes, and serene spa experiences. Wellness means different things to everyone, but there are plenty of selections to fit your health bill (and of course, most can come with a glass of wine!).

Speaking of things that go well with wine, nothing suits it quite as much as a mouthwatering meal. There’s no shortage of dining options at the Chateau. The culinary destination has five chef-led restaurants, a speakeasy, a bourbon bar, tea services, a cafe, and a coffee spot. The Versailles Restaurant and Bar is within a glass-top atrium, serving new takes on classics, as well as an afternoon tea or two. Don’t worry, if French foodie picks aren’t your thing, there’s a whole spread of options. There’s the Southern-inspired steakhouse, Marc Restaurant, serving up the chophouse classics. Get a hearty or healthy brunch at Fleur de Lis, or lunch on the golf course facing porch at Sarazen’s Bar & Grille. From elegant fine dining experiences to casual al fresco lunches, you’ll never go hungry. As always, if you want to venture beyond the basics, you can indulge in gourmet cooking classes, wine-pairing dinners, and seasonal culinary events!

There is nothing as picturesque as vineyards, and there are few sports as relaxing as golf. Chateau Elan offers forty-five holes of championship golf. It’s an experience like no other, and it’s made for all levels of players. There are two 18-hole courses and an Executive Par 3 course, all on the property.

Chateau Elan is a beauty in Braselton. Luxury doesn’t require a plane or a passport, not when a French-themed escape is right around the corner. Whether you want to savor award-winning wines, indulge in gourmet cuisine, or partake in outdoor adventures, know that you can do it all without traveling far.