Staying in Oakhurst at Chateau du Sureau

We don’t usually stay at such nice hotels, but it’s my wife’s birthday weekend, and we’re picking up the kid from camp, and the next-nicest hotel in town is the Best Western, so we thought we’d splurge. Just so you don’t think we’re crazy, we did spend the first night at the Best Western Yosemite Gateway for a quarter the price – and it was totally fine.

But this place is really pretty wonderful. It’s called Chateau du Sureau and also Erna’s Elderberry House. Erna has developed this hillside into, first, a restaurant, then hotel, then added a private villa, then a spa. It’s so different from anything else up here – just worlds apart.

The resort (maybe a strong word for a ten room hotel) started to be developed in 1984 – probably there was little in Oakhurst at the time, and it certainly wasn’t the strip-mall mountain community it was today. I picture this place having once been a mountain hideaway. Then the town grew closer and closer . . . but the hillside is private and gorgeous.

Breakfast table set for us outsideour breakfast table

We have a wonderful room, comfortable, well-appointed, with amazing beds, and, maybe best of all, no TV. There is a stereo, even with an iPod/iPhone doc, but that’s it in terms of entertainment. There’s a nice pool, although it actually got a bit crowded since it has only four lounge chairs. But the real key is the service.

From the moment you pull up, the staff is there to assist, and not in a stuffy way, but in a friendly way. For me, someone who isn’t really accustomed to fancy service, they made me feel comfortable from the first minute. They knew our names, offered us drinks and snacks, took care of the car and the luggage, etc. 

The restaurant was pretty extraordinary. For Los Angeles, this would be a high-end restaurant. For this area, this is a gem. The restaurant is in the style of something like Chez Panisse. There’s really no selecting what you get, except in the cases of dietary restrictions and kids. Many dishes actually contain elderberry reductions. Turns out, elderberries are actually native to the area, so that’s why Erna chose them to be the theme of the restaurant and hotel. They taste good too.

In trying to figure out why I found the Chateau du Sureau to be so comfortable, I think part of it is the great attitude – friendly, there to help, but not over-formal – and part is the all-inclusiveness. I’ll never forget another splurge-trip to Bacara above Santa Barbara, where every step I took entailed some extra charge, and the bill was itemized like from the grocery store. Not the case here. Pretty much everything is included, even the gratuities.

So, in the end, if you’re in this part of the state, and you’re looking for a nice break, I highly recommend the Chateau. Or if you’re looking for a nice getaway, it’s about the right distance from LA or San Francisco also.

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