Pour on the Holiday Cheer with Biltmore Wines!

From traditional feasts and fireside gatherings to heartfelt toasts that mark the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, holiday celebrations bring out the best in us.

Whether you’re visiting friends or welcoming family during this special time of year, we are delighted to share the warmth and cheer of Biltmore Wines with you. We’ve even created a gift-giving guide to help you select the best Biltmore Wines to give based on the person receiving it.

“This guide is based on lifestyles and situations to help guests make decisions on wines they want to give this season,” said Jill Whitfield, Senior Marketing Manager, Biltmore Wines. “We offer recommendations for wine enthusiasts and culinary adventurers, hosts and surprise guests, and even suggestions for perfect wines to complement your Thanksgiving feast.”

Friends toasting with Biltmore wineWine enthusiasts

“For the true wine lover on your list, consider our Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted from North Carolina’s finest locally grown grapes,” Jill said. “The recipient will appreciate the chance to taste a local varietal and compare it to their Californian or French favorites.” Wine enthusiasts will also appreciate our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc for its food-friendliness. Bonus: it happens to be Biltmore winemaker Bernard Delille’s favorite varietal!

Take a breath: Enthusiasts will appreciate a thoughtful gift such as a Host Wine Aerator that enhances the aroma and taste of wine by allowing it to breathe properly with just the tilt of the bottle.

Biltmore Wassail mix

Culinary adventurers

For those who seek culinary adventures, the dynamic duo of food and wine come together to elevate any dining experience! Our Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio is a versatile wine that is great with lighter fare such as shellfish and salads, while our earthy Biltmore Estate Sangiovese—a guest favorite at the Winery—is perfect with heartier, fare such as Italian cuisine and herb-driven dishes.

Spice it up: Add Biltmore Wassail Spice Blend to any of our red wines to create a delightful seasonal treat for your next gathering.

Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir sparkling wine

Add some sparkle

Sparkling wines are always welcome, and our Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir is carefully aged to produce a delightful light pink hue and flavors of cherries and strawberries. It makes a pretty partner for a romantic toast—and it’s hearty enough to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey!

Tip: Preserve the endless effervescence of our sparkling wines with the gift of a Biltmore Winery Bottle Stopper—once you twist it on, it provides an airtight seal.

The Hunt in an Adirondack chair

Sporting life

The Hunt, a robust, Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, includes a striking label of an unusual firearm in Biltmore’s collection. “This elegant, complex wine is perfect for anyone who enjoys the sporting life—or fine wines in general,” said Jill. In addition, consider any of the wines from our distinguished Antler Hill collection. The label, drawn from a classic sporting print in the Billiard Room of Biltmore House, makes this wine a special gift for those who appreciate the natural world.

Add-on: Include our handsome Antler Wine Stopper with The Hunt or any Antler Hill wines.

Thanksgiving dinner with Biltmore Wines

Giving thanks

Whether you’ve gathered family and friends around your table or you’re heading across town (or across country) to celebrate the holiday, Thanksgiving is a special time for sharing with those you love. Make the most of the year’s most memorable meal with our Thanksgiving Trio—a thoughtful selection of Biltmore Wines, carefully chosen to pair with everything from traditional fare to dishes with exotic flair!

Enjoy our Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Chardonnay crafted from North Carolina’s finest locally grown grapes (and excellent with creamy mashed potatoes!); Vanderbilt Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir featuring supple fruit flavors that complement your Thanksgiving turkey; and our Biltmore Estate Brut that is perfect with holiday fare or a special toast full of tiny refreshing bubbles.

Bonus: save 20% when you purchase these three wines together at the estate or online.

Christmas at Biltmore wine labelSurprise guests

“Last but not least,” Jill said, “if you’ve ever hosted a holiday gathering where someone arrived with an unexpected guest, then you know it’s always nice to have a little something extra on hand. Our Christmas at Biltmore Wine is a thoughtful gift  that is available as a white or red blend, and the unique label makes  it extra special.”

Better together: Our Italian marble coasters featuring hand-printed Biltmore Wine labels are backed with cork to help protect surfaces.

Vanderbilt Wine Club members enjoy their seasonal shipment

Vanderbilt Wine Club membership
Give a year of wine to someone special with a gift membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club. Members receive three hand-selected Biltmore wines each season, shipped direct to their door and their first club shipment ships free. In addition, members save up to 25% on all wine purchases online or at the estate plus complimentary premium wine tastings and a Behind-the-Scenes Winery Tour & Tasting.

Harvesting Four Decades of Memories

It is increasingly rare to spend four decades in the same business, but when it comes to winemaking, Bernard Delille is outstanding in his field—literally and figuratively!

Although Bernard plans to retire in July 2018, his legacy of handcrafting fine wines will continue under the direction of Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak. Here are some exciting highlights from Bernard’s career:

Bernard Delille in Biltmore's vineyard

Bernard talks to guests in the estate vineyard

A memorable milestone

The year 2017 represented a special milestone for Bernard as he celebrated his 40th harvest in the wine industry. A native of France, Bernard joined the Biltmore Wine Company as assistant winemaker in 1986, rising to the position of winemaker in 1991. His background included a master’s degree in Microbiology and Science of the Vines from the Faculty of Sciences in Lyon, France, and a French Winemaker Diploma from the Faculty of Dijon in Burgundy, France. Prior to Biltmore, Bernard was a winemaker in the Pyrenees Atlantiques region.

Bernard Delille in the Barrel Room at Biltmore's Winery

Bernard in the Barrel Room, ca. 2008

“When I first arrived at Biltmore, I thought the estate was breathtaking,” said Bernard, “and I was very excited in the sense that there was no real history of growing and making wine with vinifera grapes in North Carolina—no rigid and dated rules like in France—plus the opportunity to experiment and to play with grapes from different origins.”

Biltmore winemaker Bernard Delille with a glass of wine

Bernard at a wine release event at the Winery

Harvest of memories

For the past 32 years, Bernard has played an integral role in the production of Biltmore Wines—not just as winemaker, but also as an expert in growing and harvesting grapes here in Western North Carolina and with our distinguished west coast partner vineyards.

“Harvest for us winemakers is the most exciting time of the year, and also the most stressful,” Bernard said. “You try to deal with Mother Nature, which is not always very nice and can spoil the hard work of the vineyard crew for an entire year, but you learn to deal with it. Winemaking has for me been the best school of patience and humility.”

Biltmore winemakers Bernard Delille and Sharon Fenchak crafting wine
Biltmore winemakers Bernard Delille and Sharon Fenchak

Today’s philosophy (and favorites)
Together with winemaker Sharon Fenchak, Bernard has been committed to handcrafting Biltmore Wines with the philosophy of keeping each one true to varietal character and consistent from vintage to vintage. Bernard is especially fond of sparkling wines and enjoyed crafting them according to the traditional méthode champenoise, making Biltmore’s Winery one of very few that produce both still and sparkling wines.

“Sparkling wines aren’t just for celebrations–they’re surprisingly food-friendly as well,” said Bernard.

Though his favorite varietal is Sauvignon Blanc, when asked to name his favorite Biltmore Wine, Bernard always tells us, “The one I’m drinking right now!”

Featured blog image: Bernard Delille harvesting grapes in Biltmore’s vineyard

My Fair Biltmore

As the weather cools and the leaves begin to change color, it’s obvious that fall is on its way to Biltmore. It’s the perfect time to celebrate the bounty of the harvest season at state and local fairs, just like the ones that were once held at Biltmore.*

Planting seeds for success
The first fair, known as the Biltmore Estate Exhibition, was held in 1905, and preparation began early in the summer when Edith Vanderbilt provided free flower seeds to Biltmore tenants. Even five-year-old Cornelia Vanderbilt planted her own little flower garden before departing for an extended stay in Paris with her parents. Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle judged the results of everyone’s efforts and prizes were awarded.

Biltmore farm produce and crafts display at the NC State Fair, October 1921Excellent results

“I anticipate the event this year will surpass the initial results,” Chauncey Beadle informed Edith Vanderbilt in 1906. Beadle once again judged the results in July, recognizing first through fourth place winners for both flower and vegetable gardens grown by families at cottages in the Farm Village, Dairy Farm foremen’s cottages, and the farms along the east side and west side of the French Broad River.

“Without doubt, the flower garden of Mrs. Matthias Smith excels in extent and brilliancy any of the flower gardens we visited,” Beadle noted of one winner’s efforts.

For the Biltmore Estate Exhibition that would occur that fall, Edith Vanderbilt instructed Beadle to give out gardening books as prizes for the winners in July. Beadle kept a list of the books he acquired as prizes for the gardens and to whom they were given, and he had ribbons and cards prepared for the Exhibition.

Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt at the 1921 opening of the NC State FairAwarding prizes

In early September, Beadle distributed a flyer advertising the exhibition to all employees. An impressive list of first and second place winners to whom prizes were awarded in the various classes includes Class “A” (40 categories of vegetables and herbs) and Class “B” (13 categories of field crops). Class “D” covered domestic products such as pickles, preserved fruits, jelly, wine, cakes, loaves of bread, and biscuits. Various types of needlework such as Hungarian embroidery, Russian drawnwork, shadow embroidery, sewing school models were in Class “F” and a basket class included straw baskets, oak baskets, and rush seats. Estate records indicate that Mrs. Halyburton was top prizewinner in 1906 with 12 first place ribbons and six second place ribbons.

In 1907, James Charles Berry, the estate’s orchards manager and beekeeper, won a book entitled The American Fruit Culturalist. Its inscription reads, “Mr. J. C. Berry by Mrs. Geo. Vanderbilt as a special prize for a well kept garden and house grounds at the bee farm. Special prize Sept, 1907.”

Growing interest
Interest in the event continued to grow year by year. Beadle wrote to Mrs. Vanderbilt in September 1908, “I can but repeat the strong interest that is manifest among the tenants and their families regarding the forthcoming exhibition.”

By 1911, Mrs. Vanderbilt extended invitations to the tenants in the farthest boundaries of Pisgah Forest in Henderson and Transylvania counties to participate in the “Annual Estate Fair” as it came to be known. From oral histories, we know the fairs continued into the 1930s and 1940s, and those who remembered attending them as children and adults have given glowing accounts of the fun and festivities and the camaraderie of the Biltmore farm families.

Edith Vanderbilt at the 1921 NC State FairPresident of the NC State Fair
In 1921, Edith Vanderbilt was the first woman to be elected president of the North Carolina State Fair. She eradicated gambling to promote educational, family-friendly atmosphere, and it was said of her that “Mrs. Vanderbilt’s record of accomplishment is of such an outstanding character that it points the way to definite service open to other women who are similarly actuated by a desire to aid in community betterment.”

Our farm story continues

Although we no longer hold a fall fair, this is still a wonderful time to visit Biltmore and enjoy learning more about our agricultural heritage with a stroll through Antler Hill Village & Winery to Antler Hill Barn and Farm—followed by delicious field-to-table dining options at any of our estate restaurants!

*All images are from the 1921 North Carolina State Fair
— Featured: Edith Vanderbilt (left) and Cornelia Vanderbilt at the North Carolina State Fair, October 1921
— First image: 
Archival photo of Biltmore farm produce and crafts display at the NC State Fair, October 1921
— Second image: Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt at the opening of the NC State Fair. They are in standing the right section at the center, with Governor Cameron Morrison between them. There is a uniformed band in the stands to the left and a group of people to the right, October 18, 1921
— Third image: Archival photo of Governor Cameron Morrison (center) and Edith Vanderbilt (right) inspecting troops at the NC State Fair, October 1921

Biltmore Wines Have Big Personalities

From flavor to food-friendliness, we’ve always believed that Biltmore wines have big personalities.

To highlight North Carolina Wine Month in May, we’re pairing five of the estate’s historic VIPs with a distinctive Biltmore wine that best matches their own larger-than-life personalities!

~ George Washington Vanderbilt ~
Antler Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

George Vanderbilt as a thoughtful collector of wine
George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful collector of wines

Mr. Vanderbilt was known as a thoughtful collector of wine, often bringing back cases of his favorite discoveries from his world travels to share with friends and family at Biltmore.

Handcrafted from exceptional grapes grown by phenomenal vineyard partners in California’s Napa Valley, our full-bodied Antler Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is as refined and elegant as George Vanderbilt himself.

~ Edith Dresser Vanderbilt ~
Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina

Edith Vanderbilt paired with Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay
Our Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay is an elegant match for this glorious Boldini portrait of Edith Vanderbilt

Handcrafted from North Carolina’s finest locally grown Chardonnay grapes, this wine is full-bodied with good acidity highlighted by citrus and tropical fruit flavors.

Only vintage wines worthy of the Biltmore Reserve name earn this select honor, and the excellence of this Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina reflects the gracious character of Edith Vanderbilt who, in turn, symbolizes the heart of Biltmore and all that the estate represents.

~ Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil ~
Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Biltmore wines have big personalities, like Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil
Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil exemplifies the Roaring Twenties spirit of our Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Born in 1900, Cornelia Vanderbilt would come of age in the Roaring Twenties, a time characterized by the effervescent enthusiasm of the American Jazz Age.

Our Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir sparkling wine captures the joie de vivre of this exciting era in a crisp, sparkling wine with a delightful light pink hue and flavors of cherries and strawberries.

~ Richard Morris Hunt ~
The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County

Richard Morris Hunt and The Hunt wine
The Hunt Red Blend is named in honor of Biltmore architect Richard Morris Hunt

The name of our richly-layered and refined Bordeaux-style red blend already honors Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of America’s Largest Home®, so it’s no surprise that it also represents his dynamic personality!

Aging for 18 months in French and American oak barrels gives The Hunt great structure, just like Biltmore—the magnificent estate that Hunt designed for George Vanderbilt.

~ Frederick Law Olmsted ~
Biltmore Estate Limited Release
Sauvignon Blanc

Frederick Law Olmsted and Biltmore wine
Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc reminds us of Biltmore landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted

Known as the father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted planned the breathtaking gardens and grounds that surround Biltmore.

With classic grassy and herbal varietal characteristics, Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect partner for such an accomplished horticulturalist, and our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc—refreshing and unexpectedly creamy with hints of toasted coconut, key lime, and oak—is no exception.

Find our award-winning wines online

Bucket full of Biltmore Wines
Put Biltmore wines on your “bucket list” for summer sipping!

Stock up on your favorites Biltmore wines now and discover new varietals at estate shops, local retailers, and online.

Featured image: Photograph of Edith Vanderbilt paired with Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina

Get Hooked on Fly-Fishing at Biltmore

With a practiced flick of his wrist, Dustin Stanberry can send a hand-tied fly spinning out above the water to strike precisely where he thinks his targets are waiting.

Fish can be tricky, however, and as a Biltmore Outdoor Adventure Center Instructor since 2011, Dustin knows he has to hone his skills constantly in order to help both beginners and accomplished anglers make the most of their experience.

A form of art

“Fly-fishing really is an art,” said Dustin, “and it takes time and patience to get a feel for the equipment—especially the flex or loading of the rod—and to allow it to do the work for you.”

Dustin has been an avid fisherman since childhood, receiving his first fly-fishing rod when he was about 12.  He began tying his own flies in his 20s, and realized that added a whole new element to the sport.

“Most fish can differentiate colors,” Dustin said, “and trout can tell the difference between light and dark as well as olive, yellow, and cream tones, so you have to have flies that mimic the insects that a species of fish would naturally choose to feed on at any given time of year. These are the type of things that an angler will build on and continuously improve throughout their fishing career.”

Enjoy the moment

Whether he’s providing guided fly-fishing lessons from the bank of the Lagoon or on the water in Biltmore’s classic wooden drift boat, Dustin stresses the importance of relaxing and having fun as you learn.

“It’s great to try out a new skill or improve your technique, but it should also be a time to connect with nature and enjoy your surroundings,” he said. “That’s especially important when you look at what we are trying to do with a fly rod—we’re trying to interest a fish in something that we’ve tied on a hook and then we want the fish to take it. It’s like going to a restaurant and having the chef place something in front of you that you didn’t order, but you decide you want to eat it anyway. It seems a little crazy until you actually catch your fish!”

For love of the sport

In addition to fly-fishing, Dustin is also an instructor for Biltmore’s Sporting Clays course on the west side of the estate. “It’s exciting that both our Fly-Fishing and Wingshooting Schools have earned an official Orvis endorsement,” said Dustin. “Orvis is a classic brand that fits well with Biltmore in terms of expertise and customer service.

Although he enjoys fly-fishing in a wide variety of settings—from calm lakes and rippling streams to rushing rivers and pounding waves along the seashore—Dustin is a catch-and-release advocate who hopes that others share his passion for skillfully landing a fish and letting it go.

“There’s always more to learn,” Dustin said. “Every fish is different, and you never feel like you’ve got it all covered!”

Explore the possibilities

Treat yourself to a Biltmore fly-fishing adventure with a two-hour introductory course or a half-day lesson. For more experienced anglers, we offer guided float trips on the estate or the nearby French Broad River and wading trips to well-stocked local streams and lakes.

Featured image: Dustin Stanberry with Biltmore’s drift boat
— First image: One of Dustin’s hand-tied “frog pattern” flies
— Second image: Drift boat at the Lagoon
— Third image: Guests enjoying a guided fly-fishing lesson at Biltmore

Like Father, Like Son

William Henry Vanderbilt, born in 1821, was one of three sons and eight daughters of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt. Although he was destined to follow the Commodore into the shipping and railroad business, William Henry would eventually share his passion for collecting art with his youngest son George Vanderbilt.

As a young man, William Henry studied accounting at Harvard University. After graduation, his first job as an accounting clerk was with his father’s biggest competitor. Eventually William Henry went to work with his father and the family business continued to prosper. The Commodore passed away in 1877, leaving the majority of his fortune and his business interests to his trusted son and associate William Henry Vanderbilt.

Portrait of William Henry Vanderbilt by Jared B. Flagg, c. 1877

William H. Vanderbilt portrait by Jared B. Flagg, c. 1877; Breakfast Room  at Biltmore

A passionate collector of art

Due to his own business success and the assets he inherited, William Henry was able to pursue a passion for art collecting that he had developed in earlier years but had not been able to fully realize until later. Like most other wealthy gentlemen of the time who were amassing art collections, William Henry tended to purchase what was fashionable, and in the early 1880s, French paintings in the realist or academic style were most desirable.

By the time William Henry’s youngest child George Washington Vanderbilt was born in 1862, the Vanderbilt family fortunes had expanded even further. Wealth and luxury were a way of life. George Vanderbilt was growing up in a world of that his parents and even his older brothers and sisters had not experienced. The family traveled extensively throughout Europe, and by the time George was 12, he began to accompany his father on art collecting trips overseas, setting a precedent for traveling abroad at least once a year for the rest of his life.

Like father, like son

George Vanderbilt inherited his father’s passion for admiring and collecting art. As a 16-year-old, one of his travel journals recorded some of the sites he and his father visited, such as Versailles, the Louvre, and the National Gallery in London. The journal also reveals that George was a serious student of the arts and of history, spending many hours strolling through museums and libraries, visiting art studios with his father, and studying art and history in his hotel room. Among other things, he commented on his admiration of classical antiquities, medieval French architecture, and English country houses. Thus the seeds of the future–and what would eventually transpire at Biltmore–were already planted in his mind.

When George was around 19, his father built a new Italian Renaissance style mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue with living quarters in the Bachelors Wing for his youngest son. George’s rooms on the third floor included not only a bedroom and dressing areas, but also a private library to house his growing collection of books. Perhaps even more than art, book collecting had become one of George Vanderbilt’s main interests.

Going to the Opera by Seymour Guy, 1873

Going to the Opera by Seymour Guy, 1873; Second Floor Living Hall at Biltmore

George Vanderbilt’s inheritance

William Henry passed away in 1884, bringing George a sizeable inheritance from his father’s estate. In addition, George also inherited a number of pieces from his father’s art collection, including a painting by Seymour Guy commissioned by William Henry in 1873.

Entitled Going to the Opera, the work features William Henry, his wife Maria Louisa, and their eight children gathered together in the family residence at 459 Fifth Avenue where they lived when George Vanderbilt was a child. While most of the older siblings are grandly dressed to attend an evening at the opera, the younger children (including George, who is the boy seated at the table) and their parents wear more casual clothing suited to an evening at home.

A closer look at the piece reveals a member of the household staff standing in the back of the room holding coats–an interesting detail to have included in this family painting. The commission and future exhibition of Going to the Opera was a definite statement reflecting the Vanderbilt family’s rise in society. This painting remains in the Biltmore collection and is visible in the hallway outside of Mr Vanderbilt’s Bedroom as you leave Second Floor Living Hall.

Book cases for a book collector

Third Floor Living Hall in Biltmore HouseHerter Brothers bookcases; Third Floor Living Hall at Biltmore

Not surprisingly, a set of beautiful bookcases custom built by the Herter Brothers of New York also came to George Vanderbilt from his father’s house. The Herter Brothers firm was well known for their exquisite designs and furnishings for the finest homes of the day, including the White House and Jay Gould’s mansion. Look for these bookcases in the Third Floor Living Hall at Biltmore House.

Grand glass

La Farge stained glass windows displayed at Biltmore's Winery

La Farge stained glass window displayed at Biltmore’s Winery

In 1879, William Henry Vanderbilt commissioned a series of stained glass panels for his Fifth Avenue home. Created by John La Farge, a contemporary of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the panels express allegorical scenes related to hospitality, prosperity, and other classic themes. The set of panels entitled The Fruits of Commerce shown here form a triptych that is now on display at the Winery in Antler Hill Village.

Lighting the way

Deerpark Restaurant at BiltmoreDeerpark Restaurant at Biltmore

For sheer size, nothing George Vanderbilt inherited from his father compares to a pair of enormous decorative lanterns that once adorned the entrance of William Henry’s mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue. The massive lanterns once watched over crowds of curious onlookers; today they welcome guests who visit Deerpark Restaurant located on the grounds of Biltmore.

See Biltmore’s treasures for yourself
Plan your visit to Biltmore and learn more about the Vanderbilt family and the treasures collected and displayed in America’s Largest Home®.

Featured blog image: Photograph of William Henry Vanderbilt, c. 1882

Sip, Savor, and Share on Scholar’s Walk

More than three decades after opening, the timing was right to refresh Biltmore’s Winery, creating more spacious tasting rooms and a new wine bar in the area known as Scholar’s Walk.

Modern renovation

The first phase of the project was completed in April 2016. Plenty of wine enthusiasts were on hand for the special preview event and they added their names and their comments to pieces of lumber that would be used in the next stages of renovation. Our winemakers and hosts were overwhelmed by all the warm wishes that were incorporated into the construction and will now remain a permanent part of the Winery. The final phases of the project will be finished in Spring 2017, with a new space for specialty wine tasting experiences located where the original wine bar was, plus a new wine bar on Scholar’s Walk by the iconic clock tower.

Original displays on Scholar's Walk at Biltmore WineryHistory of Scholar’s Walk

“Scholar’s Walk has an interesting history,” said Heather Jordan, Director of Wine Marketing. “When the Winery was first opened, few people knew as much about wine production as they do today. We wanted to help guests understand what we were doing, so we created Scholar’s Walk as a way to tell our wine story.”

With a mix of photography, videos, informational panels, and a timeline mural, Scholar’s Walk engaged guests and helped them learn about our vineyards and our commitment to handcrafting fine wines.

Ann Ashley, Vice President of Talent and Organizational Development, was a member of the team that opened the Winery in 1985, and she remembers helping develop the educational aspects of Scholar’s Walk.

Guest views Scholar's Walk displays at Biltmore Winery“We had some wonderful displays,” says Ann Ashley, “including a light-up map of our vineyard and audio recordings that explained our winemaking philosophy. It was state-of-the-art technology for the 80s!”

Learning more

Today’s guests can enjoy learning more about the history of Biltmore Wines by exploring the timeline on display at the Winery entrance in Antler Hill Village and the archival photographs and informational panels in the tunnel beyond it—none of which was open to the public when the Winery first opened. We’ve also added more storytelling and behind-the-scenes views in our specialty tours and tastings.

Three people drinking Biltmore WineNew wine bar

Now that our expanded tastings, tours, and specialty wine experiences have eliminated the need for Scholar’s Walk as an educational tool, we’re ready to convert this elegant brick, beam, and stucco space into a modern wine bar featuring outdoor seating with a view of the iconic clock tower atop the Winery.

“We intend it to be a very relaxing spot,” Heather said, “more like a lounge, where you can linger to enjoy Biltmore wines with friends. We will have a full selection of wines, and there are visually stunning details such as the bar itself, made from a tree that was original to the property.”

Featured image: Location of the new Wine Bar on Scholar’s Walk at Biltmore’s Winery
First image: An original display on Scholar’s Walk
Second image: Guest viewing a display on Scholar’s Walk
Third image: Guests enjoy a glass of wine on Scholar’s Walk where the new Wine Bar will be located

Desperately Seeking Springtime? Try Biltmore’s Conservatory!

Each spring, we welcome the return of the season with our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration. In the midst of winter, however, Biltmore’s Conservatory offers an indoor tropical oasis that’s as welcome as a breath of spring. The colorful blooms and sheer number of different plants are amazing inside this indoor garden that anchors the Walled Garden.

The Conservatory in the Walled Garden at BiltmoreA passion for horticulture

Completed in 1895, the Conservatory embodies the late 19th-century passion for horticulture. It was a collaboration between George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect, and Richard Morris Hunt, who designed Biltmore House. Hunt designed the structure while Olmsted weighed in on the location.

“Olmsted wrote to Hunt in March 1889, discussing several landscape considerations including positioning the Conservatory out of view from the house,” said Bill Alexander, Landscape and Forest Historian. “This was in keeping with Olmsted’s desire to create a natural landscape and uninterrupted view.”

Succulents growing in Biltmore's ConservatoryLike other conservatories in the early 1900s, Biltmore’s glass-enclosed building sheltered exotic and tropical plants from around the world. But this facility was much more than a pretty place to showcase rare plants; it also fulfilled Vanderbilt’s vision of Biltmore as a self sufficient, working estate. The structure nurtured tender young seedlings for transplanting outdoors and housed gardeners’ workspaces, tools and equipment.

It’s also unique from other circa 1900 conservatories. “Ours has a full basement underneath it; I don’t know of any other conservatory that has one,” Bill said. “Olmsted and Hunt used the lay of the land to create a functional work space.”

For a building made primarily of glass, it’s remarkable that the Conservatory’s design and construction stood the test of time for more than a century. In 1997, the structure received an extensive two-year renovation.

“We focused on much-needed repairs while restoring much of the floor plan to the original 1893 design,” said Bill. “I believe George Vanderbilt, who was fascinated with technology and innovations, would have been excited by everything we did to preserve this historic building.”

The Orchid Room in the Conservatory at BiltmoreOrchids on display

One of the highlights of the Conservatory is the Orchid Room, where Marc Burchette, orchid specialist, cares for more than 500 plants in the collection. Jordana Chalnik, Conservatory Horticulturist, and Kathryn Marsh, Conservatory Gardener, assist Marc as needed with care and displaying of plants.

“Our collection highlights five major groups of orchids,” said Marc, who also serves as vice president of the WNC Orchid Society. “A large portion is orchids people generally know, like corsage orchids which come in every color imaginable. We also have lady slipper orchids and small, yellow-flowered dancing lady orchids.”

Yellow orchids in Biltmore's ConservatoryMarc most admires the diversity of orchids, explaining that there are 25,000 to 30,000 species growing in every ecosystem except Antarctica.

“They are diverse in every respect, from the shape of their flowers to the way they trick pollinators like bees or humming birds, because there is rarely any nectar or pollen in the blooms,” said Marc. “They are fascinating.”

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like to explore Winter Warmer-Upper and Biltmore’s Hidden Garden.

Featured image: Peaceful seating area inside the Conservatory
First image: Conservatory in the Walled Garden
Second image: Succulents in a decorative urn
Third image: The Orchid Room in the Conservatory
Fourth image: Yellow orchids in the Orchid Room

Olmsted’s Deliberate Approach

The three-mile Approach Road that meanders from Biltmore Village up to Biltmore House is not there by accident—it’s the result of a very intentional and complex design by Frederick Law Olmsted, Biltmore’s landscape designer.

Everything by design

In Olmsted’s own words, “…the most striking and pleasing impression of the Estate will be obtained if an approach can be made that shall have throughout a natural and comparatively wild and secluded character; its borders rich with varied forms of vegetation, with incidents growing of the vicinity of springs and streams and the remote depths of a natural forest.”

The road is a perfect blending of forest and landscape with no hard edges to separate the two. The lack of long-range views is intentional.

“The Approach Road is the first important garden and landscape feature you see on the estate,” said Parker Andes, Director of Horticulture. “It gives you a true feel for Olmsted’s skill.”

Mountain laurel blooms along approach road

“Along the brook and on the edge of the drive, Olmsted planted low-growing plants. For variety of color in the winter, he used hardy olives, evergreens with an olive tint, junipers, red cedars, and yews,” explained Parker. “All of these created the complexity of light and shadow that define a picturesque style.”

George Vanderbilt (front row, far right, in a light-colored hat) and Frederick Law Olmsted (to Vanderbilt’s right) with the crew that dug the Approach Road

Changes through time

Over time, all of Biltmore’s landscapes have matured and changed in appearance. The challenge for today’s landscaping team lies in determining Olmsted’s original intent, and they use archival resources such as early plans, letters of correspondence written during the construction of the estate, and information about Olmsted’s design philosophies to help them stay true to the original vision.

Sometimes, variations from the plan are necessary. For example, Olmsted planted some exotic plants that were not invasive at that time, including Oriental bittersweet, mahonia, and barberry. We’ve replaced those with others plants that offer similar characteristics and looks. We also now know that certain plants will not thrive where originally planted, so we select others that are able to do well in those original locations.

Fall color along the Approach Road

“It’s a continual learning process, and each year I discover something new,” said Parker.

Featured blog image: Approach Road in spring

Rolling out the Red Carpet…

Our Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics exhibition beginning February 10 gives you the opportunity to take a closer look at costumes from six films nominated for an Academy Award® in Costume Design—including an Oscar® winner!

British costume designer Jacqueline Durran was honored with an Academy Award in 2012 for her interpretation of late 19th-century Russian attire for Anna Karenina. Five of the costumes she designed for the film will be on display in the Second Floor Living Hall of Biltmore House.

Anna Karenina is the third film for which Durran worked with director Joe Wright and actress Keira Knightley. Their previous projects, Pride and Prejudice (2006) and Atonement (2008), each earned Durran an Academy Award nomination for her designs. The designer was also nominated for her work in Mr. Turner (2015).

Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland–>

The Designed for Drama exhibition also includes costumes from five other films whose designers were nominated for Academy Awards:

  • Finding Neverland (2004); designed by Alexandra Byrne, a four-time nominee who won an Oscar for Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007).
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999); designed by Colleen Atwood, an eleven-time nominee and three-time Oscar winner for Chicago (2002), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).
  • Jane Eyre (2011); designed by Michael O’Connor, a three-time nominee who won an Oscar for The Duchess (2008).
  • The Portrait of a Lady (1996); designed by Janet Patterson, a four-time nominee.

As part of our exhibition preview, a costume from Sense and Sensibility (1995), designed by Jenny Beavan and John Bright, is on display at the Winery in Antler Hill Village. As a costume design team, Beavan and Bright have shared six nominations—including one for Sense and Sensibility—and won an Oscar for their work in A Room with a View (1985).

Feature image: Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Alicia Vikander as Vronsky and Kitty in Anna Karenina; photo credit: ANNA KARENINA ©2012 Universal Pictures Limited.

<!–Second image: Kate Winslet as Sylvia Davies in Finding Neverland; photo credit: FINDING NEVERLAND ©2004 Courtesy of Miramax.–>