Chateau Elan Winery and Inn -
Château Élan began 28 years ago as a result of an impromptu visit to a roadside fruit stand just north of Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia by entrepreneurs and wine lovers, Dr. Donald and Nancy Panoz. The Panoz,’ then owners of a large pharmaceutical company that pioneered development of the nicotine patch were looking for a distribution site in the area. On their way to a reception hosted by a friend, they stopped at a roadside stand to pick up a fruit basket which included plump Muscadine’s, a grape indigenous to Georgia. When they presented the basket they asked their host if the Vitas Vinifera grape, which produces premium wines such as Chardonnay’s, Cabernets, Merlots and Viognier were grown in the north Georgia foothills, the friend responded “Don, are you daft? This is cotton country, red clay soil, and humidity! None of the farmers believe the conditions in this area could sustain Vinifera grape growth.”
But Don and Nancy who had traveled extensively in Europe enjoying the wines from the various regions loved challenges and they subsequently brought in two viticulturalists from California. After extensive soil testing and climate analysis the winemakers indicated the soil and humidity was not unlike some areas of California and France. They devised an ingenious method of planting techniques and distinctive trellising and pruning of the vines leaving plenty of space for circulation and growth. Some 3,500 acres were acquired for Château Élan of which approximately 200 acres were planted in Vinifera grapes. The first wines were released in 1985 (1984 vintage) and the Château Élan Winery was opened to the public in July. As visitors began flocking to Château Élan to see the vineyards it soon became apparent that amenities were needed to accommodate requests for a restaurant and overnight accommodations. Château Élan was on its way toward becoming a top-tier destination and conference center.
In 1988 a 42,000 square foot Château designed in the style of a 16th century French royal retreat was completed. Inside the Château were two restaurants, Le Clos and Café Elan, winery tours and tastings, a wine market, art gallery, meeting rooms, a fullproduction winery, aging cellars, and a temperature controlled warehouse.
Then 63 holes of championship golf on four courses were developed over the next
seven years beginning with the Château course in 1989, The Legends in 1993, The
Par 3 Executive Walking Course in 1994 and The Woodlands in 1996. From 1994-1998
The Sarazen World Open Golf Championship was held on the Legends Course. Winners
included Ernie Els, Mark Calcavecchia, Dudley Hart and Frank Nobilo who won it
twice. In 1992, a 33,000 sq. ft European style Spa mansion featuring 14 themed
guest suites and 35 treatment rooms opened. The Stan Smith Tennis Center was
added in 1994, as was the Equestrian Center. 1988 was the beginning of what is
now a Four Diamond, 276 room Inn, and 10 two and three bedroom Golf Villas plus
a 25,000 square foot conference center, two ballrooms and 19 meeting rooms. Henk
Evers who has been with Château Élan as General Manager for 15 years is also
President, CEO and Managing Partner of Château Élan.
Paddy’s Irish Pub originally commissioned in Dublin was shipped, reassembled and
opened here in 1997. Road Atlanta a 2.54 mile Gran Prix motor raceway located 10
minutes from Château Élan was acquired in 1977 and became the home of the Skip
Barber Driving and Racing School, and Petit Le Mans, a 10 hour or 1000 mile
endurance race of the American Le Mans Series.
In August 2007 a new purpose built 1,600 sq. ft. Culinary Studio and Cooking
School which features top tier kitchen appliances furnished by the Viking Range
Corporation, opened. Recreational and corporate interactive cooking classes are
scheduled year-round with Château Élan’s Executive Chef Marc Suennemann and his
team of eight chefs conducting classes on a variety of international cuisines.
Château Élan is the largest producer of wines in Georgia. Peter Kasprzak,
Château Élan’s very gifted Aussie winemaker, creates premium reds and whites,
blush and port wines plus a collection of Georgia Muscadine wines.
Along the way wine connoisseurs have honored Château Élan wines with more than
300 national and international awards. Wine Spectator magazine named Château
Élan’s Essence de Cabernet 2000, Nouveau Chambourcin 2001, Merlot Founders
Reserve and Viognier Founders Reserve 2000 as best buys under $40.
Château Élan’s annual Vineyard Fest now in its 13th year is celebrated during
the grape harvest, generally the last weekend of August. Wineries from the
United States and around world participate, pouring their best wines for guests’
wine tasting. Prominent chefs from the region also participate pairing food and
wine in cooking demonstrations. It is a “sold out” event with advance ticket
purchases limited to 2000 only to prevent crowding and provide comfortable and
enjoyable setting for guests and invited wineries. The Inn is generally sold out
also with special weekend Vineyard Fest packages. The prestigious Zagat Survey
selected Château Elan in the “Top Ten Wine Country Inns in America” for their
Chateau Elan Winery
100 Tour De France
Braselton, Georgia 30517