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Here’s a look behind the scenes of Chateau Elan’s $25 million makeover
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Scaffolding surrounds the exterior of the Chateau Elan lodge Thursday, June 20, 2019, a $25 million in renovation work is underway inside and outside. - photo by Scott Rogers

Like a cocktail in one of its posh restaurants, sounds of construction are mixing these days with the everyday details of maintaining a major resort.

The $25 million makeover of Chateau Elan Winery & Resort at 100 Rue Charlemagne Drive, Braselton, just a couple miles outside South Hall, is well underway and still on target for a November completion.

The project, announced in April, is vast, involving the winery, 251 guest rooms and 24 suites, restaurants, as well as the resort lobby, pool terrace and spa.

Overall, it’s a modernization, combining classic features with new, trendy looks.

“It’s country chic, if you will,” said General Manager Ed Walls, giving The Times a tour of the renovation project on June 20. 

And there’s plenty of attention to detail, such as the custom-made, hand-blown glass chandelier made in the Czech Republic, shaped to mimic shifting grape vines along Northeast Georgia’s rolling hills. The light fixture will be draped across the ceiling of The Inn’s atrium.

“We can dim it, and we can turn it up real bright,” Walls said.

Also, the Inn isn’t just getting a new paint and windows. Workers are adding stacked stone to the exterior.

Guest rooms will feature new custom-designed carpeting and bathrooms featuring freestanding vanity areas made of wood and stone.

Corridors also are being redone, including carpeting and wall coverings “layered by local art and iron sconces to help tell the resort’s rich, modernized story,” states an earlier press release about the project.

Color schemes are “going from a lot of taupes and browns to these metallics and grays, and more modern light,” Marketing Manager Emily Truax said during the tour.

Also planned is a fully refurbished lobby, featuring a custom-carved limestone fireplace and hand-tufted rugs. The atrium will feature white marble, polished bronze and gold accents, as well as a library and 2,000-piece crystal chandelier.

The renovation, led by Atlanta-based interior and architectural design firm BLUR Workshop, also will include revamped and new eateries, as well as a coffee and wine bar in the lobby that will deliver “a modern take on a Paris cafe,” according to the resort.

The front of the resort, facing Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 near Interstate 85, is getting a new monument sign that will be something of a departure in style from the longtime sign, “but I think people will like it because it really brands us as a resort,” Truax said.

Overall, the project is expected to “introduce a fresh, yet timeless, modernized design while delivering a unique, distinctly southern concept dressed in French undertones, honoring the existing estate’s 16th century-style charm.”

“Embarking on a renovation of this magnitude for a resort destination with such a well-respected reputation requires a committed responsibility to honor the property’s legacy, while still delivering upon the modernized expectation to mirror our ever-growing wine, epicurean and experiential programs,” Walls has said.

The renovation was started a little more than one year after Wheelock Street Capital of Greenwich, Conn., bought the property from Don Panoz, a pharmaceuticals entrepreneur who died in September 2018. Panoz and his wife, Nancy, founded the resort in Braselton more than three decades ago.

Wheelock executive Keith Manning spoke early on to The Times about the project soon after the acquisition, describing the 3,500-acre tourist destination as “tired.”

“It needs some TLC,” he said. “It needs getting the product up to a level we’re proud of as an owner and, most importantly, what our guests and the local community can be proud of.”

The resort, which hopes to have a “grand reveal” to the public in November, is rolling out finished parts of the overall project.

Marc Bar & Restaurant, a Southern-inspired restaurant and bar, reopened Friday, June 28. The Inn’s lobby could reopen in mid-July and the wine/coffee bar in mid-August.

All the enhancements could increase prices, “but you get what you pay for,” Walls said.

The makeover “is repositioning us and making us more competitive with the hotels we compete with,” he added. “While we’re not going to jack rates through the roof, there is an expectation that you want to get a return on your investment.”

Nightly room rates vary from $199 to $500, Walls said.

Other events and pricing can be found at

“The one strength that can’t be replicated is we have so many amazing associates that have been here a long time … and really enjoy this place,” Walls said. “They can get passionate about what they do for a living and make our customers feel special.”

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