A luxury resort and working winery, Chateau Elan is located in Braselton, about forty-five miles northeast of Atlanta. Established in 1981, the winery was the first to be established in the region after prohibition and has since grown into an expansive complex that includes an inn, a health spa, eight restaurants, and a wine market. The resort also offers four golf courses, a tennis center, and an equestrian center, as well as a residential community.
Chateau Elan is fashioned after a sixteenth-century chateau in the Loire Valley of France. The central building includes the winery, a wine market, and a bistro and is surrounded by 3,500 acres of vineyards and golf courses. Adjacent to the central building is Paddy’s Irish Pub, whose furnishings and fixings were built in Ireland and reassembled in Braselton for the restaurant’s opening in 1997. The spa, housed in a separate 33,000-square-foot building, includes treatment rooms, private guest suites, and a restaurant. The inn comprises 275 guest rooms and suites and features an indoor garden atrium and a French restaurant. The Equestrian Show Center, built in 1994, hosts a variety of equestrian competitions, as well as dog shows.
Chateau Elan is the creation of Donald and Nancy Panoz. The couple began spending time in Georgia after 1969, when they founded their Elan Corporation, a biotechnology company with a research center in Gainesville. After sampling locally produced muscadine wine, which is made from a grape native to Georgia, the Panozes were inspired to attempt the cultivation of vinifera grapes, a European species, in the area. Although locals were initially skeptical, the vinifera grapes proved a good match for the state’s climate and soil, which is similar to those of France.
In response to Georgia’s humid climate, Chateau Elan’s grape growers developed unique cultivation techniques that raise the vines above ground and keep them well ventilated. Aged in French and American oak barrels, the wines produced at Chateau Elan include a wide selection of white and red wines, blush wines, and Georgia specialties, as well as fortified wines like port and sherry. The Georgia specialties are all made with muscadine grapes native only to the Southeast, including the award-winning semisweet Summer Wine. Other award-winning wines are Founder’s Reserve Viognier, Founder’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and the American Port. Winery tours and wine tastings are offered daily.
Chateau Elan is now part of a hotel group that includes properties in Saint Andrews, Scotland; Patterson, California; and Sebring, Florida.