EASTBAYTIMES.COM: September 2, 2022
Oscar Wilde once said “I have the simplest of taste. I only want the best.” For travelers to Yosemite National Park, the five-star Château du Sureau is, quite simply, the best.
The castle-like inn sits stately on a knoll above Yosemite’s southern entrance, Oakhurst. The architecture is enchanting — a 9-acre hideaway with beautifully-manicured grounds and appointments that transport you to the French countryside. In every sense, it’s a true chateau. The living room is seductive, inviting guests to enjoy a glass of wine in front of a crackling fire. The kitchen is open 24/7 for those who want a snack or a cup of tea. And in the tradition of French chateaus, there’s a place of reverence on-site, a small chapel.
“Historically, chateaus were more of a city. You had people that lived on the property so they had to have a church,” says Château du Sureau hotel director Rani Grub
She explains that chateaus were also built on high ground and secluded.
“The history of old chateaus … they had to be on top of a hill so you could oversee the town. They were the heart of a protected village.”
The woman who had Château du Sureau built in 1983 (when Oakhurst was just a small town) was Erna Kubin-Clanin, an Austrian chef, restaurateur and hotelier with a passion for sharing European charm and hospitality. Each room in the chateau isn’t just decorated; it’s curated with her favorite treasures.
“Everything she found herself, from the furniture to the tile in the breakfast room which she bought from an old castle in France,” says Grube. Erna even found a piano in a chateau in Vienna and had it shipped to Oakhurst.
“It’s the same type of piano that Chopin played,” says Grube. “That’s how old it is.
There’s also a separate Villa Sureau on the property, inspired by Barbra Streisand.
“Erna was very good friends with Barbra,” says Grube, “and when Barbra used to come here she told her ‘You know, I need something more private with my entourage.’ ” That’s how they got the idea. The villa has its own gate and Tesla charger. It’s very secluded.”
When Erna retired in 2017, she sold the chateau to the Rosenson family, owners of some other extraordinary inns — the Mansion on Sutter in San Francisco and Coquelicot Estate Vineyards and The Mirabelle Inn in the Santa Ynez Valley.
On the Château du Sureau property is a dining destination in its own right — the Elderberry House Restaurant. The philosophy there is that food is a culinary art meant to be served with gracious hospitality. Even the uniquely European Cellar Bar celebrates the romance of fine food. The warmth of stone and wood make this an intimate venue with creative dishes like free-range duck chili and, on Thursdays through September, Tiki-inspired dishes and drinks.
It would be understandable if Château du Sureau guests chose to stay close to the inn, exploring the beauty of the Sierra National Forest just outside Yosemite National Park. Only minutes from Oakhurst is Bass Lake, heralded as one of the West’s best destinations for swimming, fishing and boating. There’s a scenic circle drive around the 4-mile-long lake that takes in its emerald green waters framed by forested pines. There are also a variety of picnic spots, some with beach access and some on tree-lined bluffs overlooking the water. Nearby, Manzanita Lake is Bass Lake’s marshy little sister — a favorite for birders and butterfly spotters.
For train enthusiasts, the Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad is an authentic steam railroad that traverses the Sierra National Forest just outside the park and offers outdoor barbecues and theme trains throughout the year.
For folks who want to explore Yosemite National Park, just 14 miles from Oakhurst, the southern entrance is home to the beloved Mariposa Grove and more than 500 mature giant redwoods that were saved from this summer’s Washburn fire. The southern entrance also boasts the historic Wawona Hotel and the nearby Pioneer Yosemite History Center — a collection of storied buildings with interpretive signs that were relocated to Wawona in the 1950s and 1960s.
As many of us emerge from the pandemic with a yearning to travel, we may find ourselves more discerning about our destinations and where we choose to stay. Life seems more precious to many travelers these days, and true hospitality can be difficult to find. Château du Sureau offers a unique opportunity to experience French luxury and tradition near Yosemite National Park.
A reservation is required to drive into or through Yosemite National Park for those driving into the park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. through Sept. 30. Château du Sureau is a Relais & Châteaux property with 10 guest suites and a private two-bedroom villa, the award-winning Elderberry House Restaurant and Spa du Sureau. For more information, visit chateausureau.com online.