Surrounded by verdant countryside just 40 minutes north of Atlanta, the four-diamond/four-star Château Elan is a hilltop winery that replicates a 16th-century-style French estate. Though its first wines were produced in 1985, the winery has already garnered more than 200 awards.
Guided tours are given Monday through Friday between 11am and 6pm, Saturday and Sunday between noon and 4pm. Self-guided tours are free, or $5 with wine tasting for those 21 and over, except on Saturdays when tours are $10 and include a souvenir glass. On view are the crushing and pressing machines, oak barrels used to age and flavor the wines, the cask room, and the bottling area. The tours conclude with a wine tasting. Grapes ripen in July and August, so if you're here during harvesting in August and September, you'll actually see the winemaking procedure. More than 300 tons of grapes are harvested and processed each year. Saturday cooking demonstrations in the winery's Culinary Studio are popular events, but limited to 20 people at $20 per pop.
The interior of the château, a stage-set version of a Paris street, has a quarry-stone floor, wrought-iron fences, and street lamps. The building houses a gallery with monthly exhibits by regional and national artists, displays of antique European winemaking equipment, and a wine market.
There are also some on-premises restaurants, so plan to eat lunch or dinner here. Café Elan, open daily from 11am to 10pm, serves sandwiches, salads, and light entrees. It's a charming setting, with seating under a green awning. Paddy's Irish Pub, open Friday through Sunday at noon, the rest of the week at 2pm (closing hours vary), serves traditional Irish fare and spirits. Seating just 28 guests, the fancier Le Clos, with pale-pink walls, lace-curtained French doors, and tables covered with crisp white linen, is open for dinner Thursday through Sunday evenings, with seatings from 6 to 9pm. A five-course prix-fixe meal features haute-cuisine entrees; appropriate Château Elan wines are served with each course. Reservations are imperative; men are required to wear a coat and tie.
You might also consider an overnight stay at the 277-room Inn at Château Elan, a luxurious resort where facilities include three golf courses (two 18-hole and one par-3, 9-hole) and seven tennis courts (offering pro shops and instruction), an equestrian center, a full-service European-style health spa and salon, an outdoor Olympic-size pool, an indoor heated pool, a fitness center, and a rock-climbing tower. Room rates begin at $180 double; call for details and to inquire about golf, tennis, spa, and other packages. If the lovely grounds beckon, you can order a gourmet picnic basket from the kitchen at the hotel.