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Sound Bath Of Luxurious Silence At Château Du Sureau

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California’s “Gold Country” towns are known for mid-19th century architecture, historic parks (many of which are former mines), and proximity to Yosemite National Park. But luxury hotels are not exactly on every corner in this neck of the woods. It’s more common to find moderately priced hotels geared toward weekend skiers, hikers and mountain bikers than luxurious lodgings that are destinations unto themselves. And restaurants in the area lean toward diners at the low end and steakhouses at the high end. Enter Château du Sureau, a glorious European-style retreat with the best restaurant for miles, a fabulous spa, and a secluded pool — all of which combined with top-notch service creates the epitome of a hidden gem.

This property was the dream of Erna Kubin-Clanin, an Austrian chef, restaurateur and hotelier who founded the retreat as The Estate by the Elderberries, which included the 10-room château, The Elderberry House restaurant, Spa du Sureau, and the private two-bedroom Villa Sureau. Though she sold the property to Bernard Rosenson a few years ago, this Relais & Châteaux hotel has retained its elegance and charm, as well as its world-class hospitality.

I recently stayed in the Rosemary Room, a large, graciously appointed room overlooking the back gardens with both a deep soaking tub and a walk-in shower. What I noticed the moment I entered the space was its tranquil serenity — its profound quiet, in fact — which is not something I expected at a hotel less than a half-mile from Oakhurst’s busy main drag. And it was a most welcome discovery given how quickly it enabled me to switch gears from freeway driving to deep relaxation mode. The 10 year-old bottle of Coquelicot (Rosenson’s winery) Santa Santa Ynez Valley Syrah waiting for me also aided and abetted the transition.

Though Château du Sureau is a mere hour’s drive from iconic Yosemite National Park — meaning its easy to make the Château a base for your explorations there (and staff will even pack a picnic lunch for you) — it’s also a fine idea to never leave the property and do a deep dive into your own meditation practice, slipping out for swims, walks in the woods, and marvelous dinners.

Be sure to reserve ahead a table at the château’s fine-dining restaurant, The Elderberry House, which is formal but not stuffy or pretentious. Chef Robert Snyder’s seasonal menus utilize as many local ingredients as possible, combining European style and technique with the bounty of California’s many farms.

The spa is another experience not to be missed. In a separate building adjacent to the main château building, the spa has an entirely different interior aesthetic, with a more Art Deco slant and darker color tones throughout the space. Huge treatment rooms invite you to relax in the expanse, and therapists are well-trained veterans in both body and facial treatments.

The final area of the property that you should spend as much time in as possible is the exquisite common area on the ground floor, complete with a grand piano and library. The light streaming in changes throughout the day, and guests are welcome to lounge here with a book and a glass of wine.

There’s also a mysterious little chapel on the ground floor whose full story I didn’t get, but I was drawn in by its simplicity. It doesn’t seem to have a specific use, but it was easy to peek in briefly and muse upon its origins.

The service here is just as you would hope to find it — unobtrusive, anticipatory, friendly and helpful — which is no small feat during a global pandemic.

Whether you have a big plan to hike the 7.2-mile round-trip Yosemite Falls Trail or relax by the pool, Château du Sureau is a prime destination for serene comfort in California’s Gold Country — not to mention a healing sound bath of luxurious silence.

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