His­tory of Château Élan

Don­ald and Nancy Panoz are the vision­ar­ies and founders of Château Élan in Brasel­ton, Ga., USA. The lux­u­ri­ous resort is the first win­ery of its kind in the region since Pro­hi­bi­tion. With numer­ous expan­sions over the past 14 years, Château Élan is now an award-​winning win­ery and resort with an inn, con­fer­ence cen­ter, four golf courses, eight restau­rants, European-​style health spa, res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity, wine mar­ket, eques­trian show cen­ter and ten­nis center.

The cou­ple met in West Vir­ginia when Don was attend­ing Green­brier Mil­i­tary Acad­emy. They both served their coun­try in Japan, Don as an Army Intel­li­gence Offi­cer, and Nancy as a Counter Intel­li­gence Sec­re­tary, but nei­ther of them let the rig­or­ous details of the Army, or the demands of rais­ing chil­dren, dampen their entre­pre­neur­ial spir­its. A love of busi­ness and cre­ative spirit would lead the Panoz’s into things many thought impossible.

After their return to the U.S., Nancy worked and raised their five chil­dren while Don stud­ied busi­ness at Duquesne Uni­ver­sity, and oper­ated two drug stores in Pittsburgh.

Don then formed Mylan Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Cor­po­ra­tion, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pack­ag­ing com­pany now known as Mylan Lab­o­ra­to­ries. As the youngest pres­i­dent of a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany in the United States, Don took on indus­try giants Eli Lilly and Parke Davis in the dif­fi­cult but lucra­tive, pro­duc­tion of gelatin cap­sules. In doing so, Don estab­lished Mylan Lab­o­ra­to­ries as an inno­v­a­tive leader in the field of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal delivery.

In 1969, the Panoz fam­ily moved to Ire­land where they formed Elan Cor­po­ra­tion, which has become an indus­try leader in drug deliv­ery prod­ucts and tech­nol­ogy. Elan was the first Irish com­pany to have a pub­lic offer­ing in the U.S. mar­ket. Today, Elan is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has devel­oped four of the top 100 prod­ucts in the indus­try. The com­pany holds more than 100 world-​wide patents with one of the most rec­og­niz­able being the nico­tine patch which has helped mil­lions of Amer­i­cans stop smoking.

The Panoz’s decided to bring the same dis­ci­pline and high stan­dards that cre­ated Elan Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals to the wine indus­try. The cou­ple vis­ited Geor­gia fre­quently since Elan had a research lab­o­ra­tory in Gainesville. Dur­ing one of their trips, Don and Nancy tasted Mus­ca­dine wine, made from indige­nous Mus­ca­dine grapes. When they asked why no one had ever grown vinifera grapes in the region, they were told, “It can’t be done.”

Now, Château Élan is a 3,500 acre win­ery and resort in the hills of north Geor­gia, thirty min­utes north of Atlanta. The wines of Château Élan have won hun­dreds of national and inter­na­tional awards.

Dr. Panoz has recently turned his inter­est to the world of pro­fes­sional car rac­ing. As owner of Panoz Motor Sports and the Amer­i­can Le Mans Series, he is on the way to cre­at­ing a new rac­ing dynasty.

Mrs. Panoz is a direc­tor of Foun­tain­head Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, The Leg­ends, and Château Élan. She serves on the board of direc­tors for Wes­ley Woods, Inc.

Dr. Panoz was a mem­ber of the AMEX Inter­na­tional Com­mit­tee, a Direc­tor of Por­tun­cula Hos­pi­tal in Bal­li­nasloe, Ire­land, a Patron of the Irish America’s Cup and a Man­ag­ing Trustee Board mem­ber of the Uni­ver­sity of Geor­gia. Don also trav­els between the Élan oper­a­tions in Ire­land, Europe, the Pacific Rim, and in his spare time, he can be found on one of his cur­rent race tracks, Road Atlanta, Mosport in Canada, or Sebring, Florida.

Even though the cou­ple has achieved more suc­cess in the busi­ness world than most peo­ple could ever imag­ine, the Panoz find that their ulti­mate reward is the five chil­dren and ten grand­chil­dren they cherish.

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