The vibe: A French château with an Old-World vibe surrounded by nature
Location: 48688 Victoria Lane, Oakhurst, California | View on Google Maps
Loyalty program: Relais & Châteaux
Book now: Website
The AFAR take
One of the most enchanting elements of Château du Sureau is its location. First of all, this beloved European-style retreat feels secluded: The castle-like hotel is set on nine acres of towering sugar pine, Douglas fir, and ponderosa trees, and Oakhurst, the nearest town, is a 15-minute walk away. Secondly, it’s just a 20-minute drive from Yosemite National Park, which sees more than 4 million annual visitors.
Château du Sureau is also part of Relais & Châteaux, a collection of luxury boutique hotels and fine dining restaurants, often with unique stories. And now, with the appointment of a new culinary director, the hotel’s former European-leaning menu is getting a seasonal, California-focused twist.
Inside the Château, you’ll find a grand salon containing a floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace, leather-bound books, antique couches, and a grand piano that Yo-Yo Ma once played in a fresco-painted alcove.
Interestingly, a hotel wasn’t part of the property’s original plan. The first owner, an Austrian woman named Erna Kubin-Clanin, envisioned a fine-dining restaurant hidden in the trees. In 1984, Elderberry House, which remains the on-site restaurant today, opened with $5 tasting menus. The restaurant quickly gained acclaim, and in 1989, Kubin-Clanin opened a hotel, scouring the antique stores and auctions of Europe for unique pieces to design each of the 10 individually designed rooms. One of the suites features a wooden bedroom set that current owner, Jonathan Rosenson, says was originally owned by a German princess.
Who’s it for?
For couples seeking intimate hotels that pay homage to the past. National park enthusiasts who want easy access to outdoor adventures and a quiet place to unwind (perhaps in the art nouveau on-site spa or with a book in the parlor). Gourmands who plan their vacations around notable meals.
Rolling hills blanketed in poppies and lupine line the single-lane highway from Fresno Yosemite International Airport to the Château, an hour’s drive away. In the foothills of the Sierra Mountains, there are trees from the same genus: scrub oak, live oak, white oak, black oak, and red oak. It’s not until you get into the park that you see the famous giant sequoias, like the Grizzly Giant, a tree estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 years old.
The property grounds feature an expansive network of gardens connected by roughly cut pathways, where you might come across a wooden swing set overlooking a pond, a giant chessboard, a gazebo, or a bocce ball court—all hidden among ferns, daffodils, and tulips. There’s also an outdoor pool and a full-service spa, located in a separate building behind the main house.
There are 10 guest rooms, each with decor inspired by different flowers and herbs found in the south of France, as well as the private two-bedroom Villa du Sureau. The plant your abode is based on is carved into a heavy, rectangular metal keychain attached to your room key.
I stayed in the Lavender room (there were loads of purple touches), which had a king-size sleigh bed topped with marshmallow-soft duvets and a mass of pillows. The suite has a wood-burning fireplace, antique oil paintings depicting the countryside, wood-beamed ceilings, a metal chandelier, vases of fresh cut flowers, and a Juliette balcony that overlooks the garden, which was a lovely spot to sip my morning coffee. The bathroom is stocked with L’Occitane amenities and includes a deep soaking tub lined with jars of bath salts.
Gugelhupf, a type of buttery Austrian bundt cake, and a bottle of certified organic, natural red blend are waiting in each guest room upon check-in. The wine comes from the owner’s own vineyard, Coquelicot, which is also the name for the red poppies that blanket the French countryside. During turn-down, the staff leaves treats (cookies on one night, chocolate the next) and a handwritten note wishing sweet dreams.
The food and drink
At the end of 2022, Chris Flint joined the hotel as the culinary director. Flint previously served as executive chef at the Michelin-starred Maude in Beverly Hills, executive chef at NoMad Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and chef de cuisine at the three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park.
In spring 2023, Flint rolled out his first tasting menu (it changes quarterly), which he says is an effort to “bring Yosemite into the table.” All of the ingredients are seasonal and sourced from nearby Central Valley farms. Some of the six courses include marinated ahi tuna with radish and sorrel, black truffle tortellini with Parmesan, asparagus, and pickled mushroom, and smoked duck breast with strawberry and spring onion. With dinner, guests can choose a wine pairing selected by sommelier Erica Ruiz or opt for one of the more than 800 bottles on offer.
Tucked into the back of Elderberry House is the Cellar, a stone-walled and wood-beamed bar with more casual fare, like raclette burgers and butternut squash pappardelle pasta. Here too, the cocktails rotate seasonally.
In the morning, breakfast is served on the main building’s patio. It includes fresh juices, warm croissants with a library of jam options, and one entrée a day, which might consist of vegetable quiche or eggs Benedict.
Staff and service
Château du Sureau’s charming and enthusiastic staff can help with anything from scheduling a spa appointment to arranging for private tours of Yosemite National Park with its partners, Discover Yosemite (for which it will pack a picnic).
Château du Sureau has one accessible room (the “Thyme Room”) and ADA-compliant pathways to the entrance of the Elderberry House and the spa. Rooms elsewhere may pose a challenge for those with mobility issues.
Walking through the property, you might notice a logo embroidered on the robes, chiseled into a wall, and painted onto tiles bearing a wine chalice, a redwood tree, and a fleur-de-lis. That’s Château du Sureau’s official crest (the original owner was European and liked the idea of the hotel having one)—and it’s tilted to the side because only royals can have a perfectly straight crest.