OAKHURST — Set on a secluded, lushly landscaped 9-acre hillside, the Estate by the Elderberries is an elegant oasis of “aah,” bringing the old-world charm and classic beauty of the Provencal region of France to central California.
Carina Stephens, the general manager of the world-renowned property, says the Estate is a gem “to be enjoyed by all.”
“It’s surprising but a lot of folks who live here have never been inside the restaurant or walked the Estate grounds,” Stephens says. “People are so surprised when they visit for the first time. They say they had no idea such an amazing place was right in their own backyard.”
Built from the ground up more than 35 years ago by Austrian-born Erna Kubin-Clanin, today, the Estate by the Elderberries includes the ten-bedroom Château du Sureau Hotel, The Elderberry House Restaurant, Spa du Sureau and the private two-bedroom Villa Sureau.
Kubin-Clanin, who the staff still lovingly refer to as “Miz Erna,” spent more than three decades creating her masterpiece in Oakhurst, assembling valuable works of art and one-of-a-kind custom furnishings that make the Estate feel like a private museum or baronial manse.
“Ms. Erna and her husband have retired to her home country, Austria,” Stephens says. “They are now close to their three grandchildren and enjoying a new season of life.”
Stephens, a 2008 Mariposa High grad, took over as general manager last year. She has worked at the property for seven years, first as a reservationist and then as special events coordinator along side Executive Chef Robert Snyder III, Dining Room Manager Holli Shipp and Wine Director and Sommelier Brandon Weseman.
Stephens says owner Dr. Rosenson has “a strong passion to continue the Estate by the Elderberries’ legacy.”
The luxurious Chateau du Sureau, where rooms run from $350 to $700 a night, has garnered Forbes’ five-star award for 25 years in a row. Both the Chateau and Elderberry House are part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux collection, which includes just 550 independently owned boutique luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants worldwide.
The Elderberry House Restaurant also has a world-class reputation, the only restaurant in the Central Valley to garner Forbes Travel Guides “four-star” award.
Patrons at the restaurant are treated to an epic dining experience. Stephens calls it “culinary poetry — a feast for the eyes, palate and soul.”
The Elderberry House Restaurant is open nightly for dinner from 5:30 to 8:30 and features a 7-course “prix fixe” menu.
“Every Tuesday, we invite our local guests to join us for a special 3-course dinner,” Stephens says. The Tuesday locals’ special runs $52 per person.
After dinner, restaurant guests are “invited outside to enjoy the Garden Terrace for dessert and Viennese-style coffee service, illuminated with romantically lit fountain, with classical music playing in the background — the perfect ending to an evening of elegant dining,” Stephens says.
”As we approach the busy summer season, reservations for the restaurant are highly recommended,” she adds.
The Estate’s Cellar Bar is now open every night from 5 to 9, offering signature cocktails and a seasonal “bar bites” menu, with no reservations necessary, Stephens says.
She also encourages local community members to enjoy the soothing services provided at the Spa du Sureau, which is open daily and offers a 15 percent “locals” discount Monday through Thursday.
“Our Spa Director Way Ettner has been with the Estate for over 12 years and truly has a passion when it comes to providing every guest with a unique and customized spa experience,” Stephens says. Among the many personalized options at the spa: a European-style facial or a “Classique” full body massage.
“Our menu of spa services is available online and offers seasonal treatments throughout the year,” Stephens says.
This spring, the Estate’s master gardener, Margarito Rosales, has teamed up with Executive Chef Robert Snyder to produce a quaint herb garden at the Estate.
Stephens says the chef and his culinary team also visit the Central Valley Farmer’s Market twice a week to purchase fresh produce for the Estate. “The dishes Chef Robert and his team are creating are truly works of art,” she says. “They cultivate the best ingredients and transform them into culinary masterpieces.”
A sense of opulence and picture-perfect perfection seem to permeate every nook and cranny of the Estate. “We want to offer a warm welcome and the classic traditions of old European charm to all,” says Stephens. “We’ve all fallen in love with Ms. Erna’s dream and the true sense of place the Estate provides. It’s really like a home to many of our guests.”
“Our mission today,” she adds, “is to continue all that Ms. Erna has created — and honor Dr. Bernard in his vision to share the beautiful Estate by the Elderberries with the world.”