Uncorked in 1985, Chateau Elan winery began its journey from a remote spot off Interstate 85 to a sprawling North Georgia resort.
More than just grapes, it has lush hotel rooms, fine dining, golf and spas.
But the upscale destination is due for a makeover, said Keith Manning, vice president of asset management with new owner Wheelock Street Capital of Greenwich, Conn.
Where: 100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton
More info: chateauelan.com or call 678-425-0900
“It’s tired,” Manning said of the 3,500-acre Winery & Resort in Braselton. “It needs some TLC. 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.”
Wheelock is planning to pump $20 million into the property off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211, about 3 miles from the Hall County line.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in Braselton and to add the Chateau Elan piece to that exciting puzzle is very important,” Manning said. “It takes a big renovation budget to get it to where it needs to be.”
The golf course clubhouse “is the first project right out of the gate,” he said.
“We are planning a fully renovated and transformed golf clubhouse that’s going to elevate the golf experience out there,” Manning said.
That project could be finished by the end of July.
Wheelock also is planning a renovation of the guestrooms at The Inn, a resort hotel that opened in the early 1990s.
That work includes improvements to common areas, such as the large atrium, and to the L’Auberge Lounge, a sports-bar atmosphere with large screen TVs and pool tables.
Also planned is a “reconcepting” of the Versaille restaurant, which features a gourmet American cuisine buffet and menu that includes regional favorites and chargrilled steaks.
Common areas at the Spa and small renovations at marc, a restaurant inside the winery.
“When I start to walk through the resort, there’s not too many areas we’re not going to touch,” Manning said.
“The winery is what I would consider in the best shape of the resort right now,” he said.
One restaurant Wheelock will be especially careful with is Paddy’s Irish Pub.
“Completely authentic, all of Paddy’s furnishings and fixtures were created in Ireland,” Chateau Elan’s website states. “The pub was then shipped to Chateau Elan ... reassembled here and opened in July of 1997.”
Said Manning: “We don’t want to do too much there or else you risk losing its character.”
Overall, resort renovations could be finished by the middle of 2019, but that’s going at an “aggressive” clip, Manning said.
“There’s not going to be any delays,” he added.
“My expectation is get it renovated, get it right on the front end and then we can reap the rewards of that and allow our guests to reap the awards,” he said.
Wheelock was drawn to Chateau Elan in the first place because of its potential investment benefits.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for us,” Manning said. “We’re always out hunting for good real estate and hospitality-specific opportunities.”
“Why we decided to move forward (on buying it) is ... it’s an irreplaceable piece of real estate in the northern Atlanta area,” said Manning, who lives in Suwanee. “Braselton, Barrow County and Dr. (Donald) Panoz have really created a very unique Atlanta getaway that the community is proud of.”
A Jan. 12 press release announced Wheelock was buying the resort from Panoz, the resort’s original owner, for an undisclosed amount.
Panoz, also an owner of a Braselton-based motorsports and electric vehicle company and Road Atlanta, couldn’t be reached for comment.
In the press release, Panoz said he was pleased to hand the resort over to “capable national operators” who would “carry on our tradition of the subtle difference of excellence.”
Chateau Elan also is getting a change of management: HEI Hotels & Resorts, another Connecticut firm, will handle day-to-day operations. The resort’s golf club will be handled by Troon Golf, an Arizona-based golf management company.
Over the years, the area around Chateau Elan also has seen significant growth, stretching to Friendship Road in South Hall, where Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton is located.
The hospital “also is helping drive development in that area,” Manning said.
Frank Norton Jr., a Gainesville Realtor and real estate observer, has called the Braselton area, which includes Hall, Gwinnett, Jackson and Barrow, “an emerging new city.”