By: Scott Morris
No trip to Asheville, NC is complete without a visit to the historic Biltmore Estate, and no trip to the Biltmore Estate is complete without a visit to the House, Gardens, and of course the Biltmore Winery. George W. Vanderbilt commissioned and built the house, which sits on 8,000 acres of beautiful land, and officially opened on Christmas Eve, 1895. After personally witnessing modern time construction projects, it is unbelievable that the magnitude of design and construction of the Biltmore House only took 6 years to complete.
If ever in the area, be sure to tour the house and walk the gardens, but be sure to take the 5 mile route to Antler Hill to visit the winery. In the early 1970s George Vanderbilt’s grandson William A.V. Cecil decided that a French Chateau should have a vineyard and winery. The first French-American hybrid vines were planted below the Biltmore House and later moved to the current location at Antler Hill in the late 1970s. The first wines bottled were1983 vintages of Chateau Biltmore Merlot and Chateau Biltmore Cabernet Sauvignon from the North Carolina grapes. The Biltmore Winery opened to the public in 1985. Biltmore has grown and tested numerous varietals incuding; Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, which have proven to be particularly well-suited for the western North Carolina region. Today the winery produces 150,000 cases of wine annually and is the most visited winery in the country, using grapes sourced from its own vineyard as well as from other select growers in North Carolina, Washington State, and throughout California, including Sonoma and Napa.
The Winery has a tasting room that is massive, compared to any others I have visited. There are several well-staffed counters that can accommodate a large number of visitors. There is an adjoining shop where you can purchase gifts, souvenirs, or wines to go. You can also purchase and have wines shipped home, which is what I did.
I was very excited when I was escorted to a counter and shown a list for the complimentary tasting, which includes over 20 wines. Needless to say, I tried several. I will not describe all of them I tasted, but will say there was not one that I did not enjoy.
The ones I tried but did not purchase include:
- Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio
- Biltmore Estate Reisling
- Biltmore Estate Limited Release Gewurztraminer
- Biltmore Estate Limited Release Muscat Canelli
- Biltmore Estate Reserve Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon
- Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir
- Biltmore Estate Sangiovese
- Biltmore Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec
The following I tried in either the tasting room or wine bar and purchased:
- Biltmore Estae Reserve Vionier (was not on tasting menu, but purchased in the shop)
- Biltmore Estate Chardonnay
- Biltmore Estate Vitrus Red (Blend of Petit Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel)
- Biltmore Estate LImited Release Petit Sirah
- Biltmore Estate Limited Release Tempranillo
- Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
- Antler Hill Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
I was very impressed with the wines, as well as the staff in the winery and the adjacent indoor/outdoor wine bar. Maddy was my server in the tasting room. She was extremely friendly, engaging, and knowledgeable about the wines. She also had her own opinions based upon what she likes. I find that honesty to be fun and it makes the experience more personal.
After leaving the tasting room, I went to the wine bar where I was able to have a glass of the Biltmore Estate Pinot Noir sourced from Russian River Valley. There I was served by Emily, who was equally as engaging. Her knowledge of the wines, wine process, and discussion of the training the staff go through was very interesting. She also provided me with a sampling of the Antler Hill Pinot Noir Russian River Valley that was not available in the tasting room, which was great. I was told that this would be even better stored for a few years, which I plan to do. I also realized I failed to try the Vitrus Red blend while in the tasting room. Emily provided that as well, and it was added to my shopping list.
I returned home with a few bottles and had the rest shipped. The Winery also has the Vanderbilt Wine Club, as well as events such as Red Wine & Chocolate Tastings, Premium Wine Tastings, Behind the Scenes Winery Tour & Tasting, Wine & Cheese Hour, Celebration of Sparkling Wine, and Vine to Wine Tour & Tasting Experience.
Find out more about the Biltmore experience at the following links:
Be sure to plan a visit or stop by if you are in Asheville, NC.