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Nikita Panasenko is a winemaker and owner of an award-winning winery in Yadkin Valley, NC.
Nikita Panasenko currently works as the owner and operator of an award-winning vineyard and winery in Yadkin Valley, NC. He works with his head winemaker, Tim Shell, to produce high-quality wines that are difficult to find in the Southeast region of the United States. As an avid lover of food and wine, Panasenko greatly enjoys pairing his award-winning wines with his culinary creations.
With many established relationships with local farmers and artisans, Panasenko sources as many local ingredients to cook for himself and his family as he can, as well as for stocking his small grocery store that he offers to visitors of his tasting room. Panasenko is married and has two small children, Madeline, who is five years old, and Steven, who just turned 10 years old. During his free time, Nikita Panasenko greatly enjoys taking his family on trips to California and abroad to explore wine country. So far, the family has travelled together to Spain, France, California and Long Island, New York.
Panasenko opens his winery to the public daily. His head winemaker, Tim Shell, offers tours of the facility and also explains the wine making process. In addition, Shell offers winemaking courses for interested individuals that are over the age of 21. Currently, the winery makes four different varieties of wine. One of which, the Ravishing Rose, has won several state, regional and international awards.
As a family man himself, Panasenko is dedicated to providing a family-friend facility for wine enthusiasts to visit. Thus, he offers children’s amenities for kids to enjoy on site, including grape juice tastings and a petting zoo.
Nikita Panasenko was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Growing up, he was accustomed to award-winning beaches and a moderate climate year round. But along with those positive Floridian qualities, Panasenko lived through multiple hurricanes and unbearable humidity. Panasenko grew up on a horse farm and learned to ride and care for horses at a very young age.
Nikita Panasenko’s mother was a world-class equestrian who travelled all around the world, competing in prestigious competitions and training many talented young people to ride. Some of her students went on to compete in international competitions, and two even qualified for the Junior Olympics. His father, on the other hand, worked in the food industry. Noka Panasenko worked as the beverage director at a fine dining restaurant in Miami for a number of years. This position required him to work incredibly long hours and left him very little time to take family vacations with his wife and son.
He was a very dedicated father, however, and provided Nikita Panasenko with a wealth of information regarding the food industry. From a young age, Nikita learned how to cook and was especially drawn to Italian cuisine. By the time he was just 12 years old, Panasenko was making his father’s traditional marinara sauce and was a professional at making pizzas. From a young age, Panasenko possessed a strong knowledge and natural passion for food.
Nikita Panasenko purchased a piece of property in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina in 2007. A year later, he left the Sunshine State and relocated to his new home in order to escape the hurricanes and unbearable summers he had experienced living in South Florida. Originally, Panasenko was going to use the 100-acre property to open up a thoroughbred breeding and training facility. Until, that is, he realized he had purchased a profitable piece of land that would make for a great vineyard.
After having multiple land surveyors come out and test the soil, climate and elevation of the property, Nikita Panasenko was sure that he had a great property for growing grapes. With that understood, he hired a winemaker from Virginia who was recommended to him by a friend. The winemaker, Tim Shell, and Panasenko immediately hit it off and shared multiple similar interests, including Italian food, cooking and horse racing. Shell moved to North Carolina to help Panasenko start the vineyard, offering a lifetime of experience, as he grew up on a vineyard and knew everything there was to known about producing wine.
Shell prepped the land for two years prior to planting vines. He wanted the vines to produce as effectively as possible and decided to put in a lot of time in the beginning so he would not have problems later on. During that time, Nikita Panasenko spent his days learning as much as he could about the process of growing grapes and producing wine. He read many books recommended to him by Shell and would spend hours tucked away in his library, studying different varieties of grapes.
In the meantime, the vines were producing beautiful grapes, and were waiting for their harvesting. In 2010, the pair had rows of successful vines that were ready for their transition to become high-quality wine producers. Nikita Panasenko had worked with a distributor out of France to purchase top-notch wine machinery to make the best possible wine from the grapes they were growing. Shell worked long hours for several months to finally produce the quality wine they had hoped for.
As expected, four different kinds of wine turned out perfectly, including the Cat’s Cradle Chardonnay, Morning Star Merlot, Collective Cabernet and Ravishing Rose. Below is a description of each of the wines they were able to create:
• Cat’s Cradle Chardonnay: A chardonnay characterized by apple and butter notes, finishing with a refreshing soft vanilla taste. Known as a very sweet and easy drinking wine.
• Morning Star Merlot: A flavorful, hearty wine characterized by blueberries and perfect for pairing with cheese and chocolate.
• Collective Cabernet: A cabernet accented by blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Makes a great pair for pork dishes.
• Ravishing Rose: An award-winning blend that is popular amongst a variety of tasters.
Originally wanting to simply start a vineyard that he and his family could enjoy, Panasenko wasn’t open to the idea of opening the vineyard to the public. But it wasn’t long before his partner, Shell, encouraged him to do so. After convincing Panasenko, the two guys worked together with a contractor to build a beautiful tasting room and small grocery store that the public could come to and experience Yadkin Valley wines.
The tasting room took around eight months to build, as Panasenko wanted to create a beautiful space that his visitors could relax in. In addition, he partnered with local artisans and farmers in the community to open up a small grocery store inside the tasting room. Multiple accounts accepted the offer, allowing him to bring local cheeses, artisanal breads, salami, all-natural BBQ sauces and butters to the store.
Because he wanted the tasting room to serve as a family-friendly venue, he created multiple children’s amenities, including a tasting area for children to try homemade grape juice as well as an outdoor petting zoo, where they could interact with horses, goats and chickens. Understanding that many people may want to learn more after visiting the winery, he and Shell began offering vineyard tours and winemaking classes to individuals over the age of 21.
During the process of opening a vineyard, Panasenko fell in love with the craft of winemaking. He continued reading books about wine and kept studying with Shell. He never knew just how much he would come to appreciate the subject when he first started growing grapes. Since opening the vineyard, Panasenko has maintained a balance to provide his wife and children with the quality time they deserve while operating a successful vineyard in the Yadkin Valley region. Nikita Panasenko feels fortunate that he is able to wake up every day and enjoy what he does, surrounded by the people he loves and appreciates.
Nikita Panasenko hopes to continue advancing his wine knowledge by working alongside winemaker Tim Shell. He is planning a winery tour and educational classes in Napa Valley for next summer, where he will have the opportunity to take courses from multiple winemakers there. While he’s home, Panasenko will work with Shell to grow more grape varieties and experience with different varietals they have not grown in the past. He is hoping to add at least four more wines to his tasting room by next year.
In addition, Panasenko is planning a trip to Europe with his family. Because he tends to get busy at the vineyard, he likes to find time for the family to get away and spend quality time together. Oftentimes, the vineyard can get a bit hectic as it is consistently hosting numerous special events, including wine dinners, birthday parties and weddings. The vineyard is a particularly popular wedding venue, as its beautiful grounds provide the perfect backdrop for couples to say their vows. Typically, the vineyard hosts about 50 special events per year, about 75 percent of which are weddings.
In addition to hosting special events, Nikita Panasenko will continue to provide educational wine tours and classes for interested individuals who are 21 years of age or older. He greatly enjoys giving others in the community a sense of knowledge on the subject he loves so dearly. If the vineyard happens to expand exponentially, Panasenko already has winemakers in mind that he would like to add to his team.
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