Worth Preserving: The Oak Sitting Room at Biltmore

In honor of our ongoing mission of preserving Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, we’ll take a closer look at the restoration of the Oak Sitting Room. Even though the process took nearly 15 years to complete, it was well worth the time and effort.

Lori Garst, Associate Curator, reflects on this massive project that returned the space to its original look and function.

Preserving Biltmore includes restoration of the Oak Sitting Room
The restoration of the Oak Sitting Room helps us interpret the room more accurately as a private apartment for the Vanderbilt family and their closest friends

Preserving Biltmore is a constant process

National Preservation Month is a time when the hard work and dedication of our employees is fully on display,” said Lori, who has worked at the estate for 31 years. “But actually, this is what we do all year long!”

Biltmore’s Museum Services team keeps a running list of projects that are addressed according to budget and need, with worn or deteriorated items receiving top priority.

“We always have a five- to 10-year plan for what needs attention,” said Lori. “We’re not only preserving objects, but also preserving Biltmore’s story. The recently restored Oak Sitting Room is a shining example of both.”

Restoring the Oak Sitting Room

Go behind the ropes to see details of the Oak Sitting Room up close!

A typical room restoration at Biltmore usually takes five to seven years, maybe less. The Oak Sitting Room, however, took a decade and a half to complete.

“We started with a target date,” said Lori, “But in this case we faced several aspects that were interesting and challenging all at the same time.”

The time-consuming process included furniture upholstery that was reproduced by the original manufacturer in France–the company was still in business and had George Vanderbilt’s fabric orders in their archives from more than 100 years before.

Lamps, and accessories were painstakingly cleaned and repaired, and conservators spent five years restoring a 17th-century Boulle-style desk—already an antique when George Vanderbilt purchased it—to its original grandeur.

“The desk was in pieces that were stored in several different places,” said Lori, “but we knew it was something special even in its disassembled state.”

A staff member is preserving and restoring brass inlay to a desk in Biltmore House
A conservator reapplies a section of the delicate brass inlay on the Boulle-style desk in the Oak Sitting Room

Working meticulously to conserve every detail of the room, Museum Services was sometimes diverted by exhibitions and other projects that rose in priority. In the end, however, the project’s extended duration contributed to its success.

Conservation and restoration are not accomplished overnight,” explained Lori. “In 15 years, we had time to pursue leads and make additional discoveries. It sounds like a long time, but what a gift it was.”

Finding clues

Restoration is not only about repairing, restoring, and reproducing rooms and the objects within them, but also discovering how and why they were used. Thorough research was conducted on the Oak Sitting Room to confirm that it functioned as a “private apartment” or more intimate family space within the large home. Clues were gleaned from unexpected sources.

Bronze statue in the Oak Sitting Room at Biltmore
One of several exceptional bronze sculptures Vanderbilt collected, now displayed in the Oak Sitting Room along with other prized possessions

“We learned some things about the Oak Sitting Room from a letter written by George Vanderbilt’s close friend Joseph Hodges Choate, the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain who had been a guest at the estate in 1902,” said Lori. “Choate mentioned viewing George’s collection of Rembrandt etchings, which showed that the room was furnished with some of Vanderbilt’s most prized possessions.”

Knole-style furnishings and other details

Knole-style furnishings in the Oak Sitting Room at Biltmore
An 1839 portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt by Charles Loring Elliott hangs in the Oak Sitting Room, emphasizing the importance of family in this private apartment

Research on the Oak Sitting Room also informed its furnishings plan, leading to the restoration of the English Knole-style sofa and chairs that serve as one of the room’s many focal points.

Upholstered in a striking green and gold damask, these unusual pieces of furniture are objects of curiosity to guests, but were appealing in their time for their functional flexibility (with contemporary versions still made today).

“In 1889, before the plans for Biltmore House were completed, George Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt visited estates in England and France for inspiration,” said Lori, “and Vanderbilt noted the furniture at Knole House. He loved the articulated arms that could be raised to conserve warmth, or lowered for conversation, air flow, or even a place to rest your arms or a book. We knew the comfortable Oak Sitting Room would have been a likely place for this suite of furniture that had been in storage.”

Visit now to see how we continue preserving Biltmore

Restoration of the Oak Sitting Room in Biltmore House
With the restoration of the Oak Sitting Room, guests can easily imagine the Vanderbilts using this lovely space as a private apartment reserved for family and close friends

“Preservation at Biltmore touches every department at some level,” said Garst. “Teams come together to hang the art, put down the rugs, and arrange the furniture. Even our Floral Designers add their touches with a green palm or a tiny bud vase sitting next to a chair.”

Visit Biltmore to experience the Oak Sitting Room preservation project for yourself. Enjoy the beauty of the estate’s historic gardens and grounds throughout the year, and extend your visit with a stay at one of our distinctive hotels or private historic cottages.

Create Cocktail Chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin–a delicious collaboration between two family-led companies in Asheville, North Carolina.

Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Chemist Conservatory Rose Gin
Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin crafted is a collaboration with Chemist Spirits in Asheville, NC

Mixed or muddled, handcrafted botanical gins are very much on trend, and none surpass the pure elegance of Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“This is the third time we’ve collaborated with Chemist Spirits to handcraft their limited-edition, small-batch Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin,” said Geoff Campbell, Wine Marketing Manager. “It’s a remarkable way to evoke the classic refinement of Biltmore’s gardens in bloom.”

Barrels at Biltmore's Winery
Oak barrels in the Barrel Room at Biltmore Winery

The 84-proof base gin crafted by Chemist Spirits expresses soft juniper notes bursting with bright citrus. It is then matured for several months in red wine-soaked estate barrels for a rich infusion of warm fruit and toasted oak flavors.

Perfect petals

Pink roses blooming in Biltmore's Rose Garden
Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden provides perfect pink petals for our collaboration with Chemist Gin

To preserve the peak freshness of this limited-edition small-batch gin, hand-plucked rose petals from Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden are infused into the barreled, rested spirit just days before it is bottled and released.

The result is a palate-pleasing botanical gin with a subtle pink hue from the wine barrels and sweet nuances of pink and white rose, lemon cream, vanilla, ripe strawberry, and grapefruit peel that finishes with a smooth, velvety note of dry red wine.

Perfect blooms in Biltmore's historic Rose Garden
May to June – Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden takes center stage as multiple species of roses are in full bloom. Petals from our roses were selected for a spirited collaboration with Asheville’s Chemist Spirits that resulted in Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.

“The rose is symbolic of many powerful emotions, and Chemist Spirits’ Conservatory Rose Gin captures this essence in a bottle that makes for a perfect gift to be enjoyed with friends and family,” said Debbie Word, who founded Chemist Spirits along with her daughter Danielle Donaldson, an accomplished chemist who is also a young mother.

“Chemist Spirits is particularly proud to make this special release available in time for Mother’s Day, when roses are traditionally gifted to celebrate our admiration for and the grace of the women in our lives,” Debbie noted.

“We invite you to enjoy Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin in the ‘spirit’ in which it is intended–as a reminder to slow down and savor those lingering moments that capture the sweeping romance of the estate and inspire us to pause and drink in the roses,” Geoff said.

Create cocktail chemistry

Create cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin
Create cocktail chemistry like this elegant “Vie en Rose” with Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

To honor this exclusive collaboration in which Chemist Spirits locally distilled gin is carefully aged in Biltmore wine barrels—along with a fragrant profusion of petals from estate roses—we’re shaking things up by pairing our wines with a splash of spirits to create instant cocktail chemistry:

• Sip a sensational Vie en Rose cocktail featuring Biltmore Estate® Syrah and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin.
• An elegant French Rose 75 cocktail with Biltmore Estate® Brut Sparkling and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin is a favorite for any occasion.

Find Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin and Biltmore wines

Create instant cocktail chemistry with Biltmore Rose Gin
Enjoy a refreshing French Rose 75 Cocktail featuring Biltmore Estate Brut sparkling wine and Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin

Enjoy signature Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin cocktails at estate restaurants, and find our award-winning wines in Biltmore shops and online.

To purchase Biltmore Conservatory Rose Gin by the bottle (while supplies last), visit or contact Chemist Spirits in downtown Asheville.

Biltmore: Olmsted’s Living Masterpiece of Landscape Design

Biltmore is a living masterpiece of landscape design thanks to the work of Frederick Law Olmsted, the estate’s landscape architect.

Celebrating Olmsted’s Bicentennial

Family walking in Olmsted's mature landscape design at Biltmore
From formal gardens to woodland spaces, explore Olmsted’s living masterpiece at Biltmore

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s birth, and Biltmore is one of 120 organizations nationwide coming together as Olmsted 200: Parks for All People to create 12 months of programming and events designed to strengthen and expand parks, open space, and the American quality of life.

“For our part of the national celebration, we have added a collection of scenic stops across the property to provide details on the work Olmsted accomplished here at Biltmore,” said Lauren Henry, Associate Curator. “These interpretive signs present a rich and detailed overview of Olmsted’s final masterpiece and his enduring legacy of landscape design architecture.”

This virtual tour of Biltmore’s historic gardens and grounds provides an exciting perspective on the landscape design that Olmsted created for George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate.

Early years

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Frederick Law Olmsted’s early years included a wide variety of work opportunities that shaped his views and helped cultivate his interest and skill in landscape design.

In addition to his best-known career as a landscape architect, Olmsted managed a gold mine in California; he spearheaded the U.S. Sanitary Commission for the North during the Civil War; and he established The Nation, a weekly journal that is still in existence. His impact on America ranges far beyond the field of landscape design.

Other notable landscape design projects

Olmsted's landscape design: Bass Pond waterfall at Biltmore
The Bass Pond waterfall is a hidden gem in the gardens at Biltmore. Find your way to it following the trail around the Bass Pond.

In 1857, Olmsted became the superintendent overseeing work on Central Park in New York City. During the course of that complex project, he evolved into an expert in the planning of parks and landscapes. For the rest of his professional career, Olmsted would plan, design, and oversee some of the most important public and private outdoor spaces in the nation.

  • Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY (1866)
  • U. S. Capitol Grounds, Washington, DC (1874)
  • Emerald Necklace, Boston, MA (1878)
  • Niagara Reservation, Niagara Falls, NY (1887)
  • World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, IL (1893)

Biltmore: a living masterpiece of landscape design

Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, George Vanderbilt, and other key Biltmore figures, 1892
Landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted (seated, center) and George Vanderbilt (standing, center-right) with other key Biltmore figures, 1892.

Before considering designs for his future home, George Vanderbilt brought Olmsted to the land he had purchased to assess its potential. Olmsted agreed with Vanderbilt that distant views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were pleasant, though the land itself was poor.

In order to restore this land, which was not suitable for the extensive parks Vanderbilt envisioned, Olmsted advised undertaking scientific forestry—a first for America, though the practice existed in Europe.

Portrait of Olmsted by Sargent and aerial view of landscape design at Biltmore, ca. 1950
(L-R) Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted at Biltmore by John Singer Sargent; commissioned by George Vanderbilt, ca. 1895; aerial photograph of Biltmore House & Gardens, ca. 1950

The success of the final design of Biltmore House and its extensive home grounds, fields, and managed forests was the result of the strong collaborative effort between George Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and Frederick Law Olmsted.

Though Hunt’s focus was the house and Olmsted’s the grounds, there were times when they shared ideas, with the goal of a functional and harmonious final product in mind. Vanderbilt encouraged the ambitious ideas of both men, paving the way for some of their finest work.

Discover Olmsted’s legacy at Biltmore today

Couple hiking in the woods at Biltmore
Enjoy the landscape designs that Olmsted envisioned for Biltmore more than a century ago

Biltmore was a project that stretched Olmsted’s design abilities and was unique among his body of work for its fusion of French and English (or formal and naturalistic) design influences.

The scope and variety of his endeavors here were made possible through the support of George Vanderbilt, who also saw the value in his vision. Today, Biltmore works to maintain Olmsted’s design intent and remains a key part of Olmsted’s legacy as his last great project.

We invite you to discover Olmsted’s ongoing legacy at Biltmore for yourself by enjoying our historic gardens and grounds as a guest or Annual Passholder.

Discover Biltmore’s Working Winery

Discover Biltmore’s working winery and learn how we handcraft our award-winning Biltmore wines.

Biltmore’s Wine History

George Vanderbilt was known as a thoughtful collector of wines who wove an appreciation for fine wines into the fabric of the Biltmore experience, making it part of his legacy for gracious living.

While Mr. Vanderbilt introduced the pleasures of wine to Biltmore, it was his grandson, William A.V. Cecil, who had the vision and determination to develop vineyards and a winery at his family’s estate in the early 1970s.

Creating Biltmore’s working winery

Biltmore Winery Clock Tower at sunset
A Blue Ridge Mountain sunset behind Biltmore Winery’s iconic clock tower

In 1983, renovation began on the estate’s original dairy barn to convert it into a state-of-the-art winery, complete with production facilities, a tasting room, and a wine shop.

Bill Cecil, Jr., son of William A.V. Cecil and great-grandson of George Vanderbilt, assumed a leadership role in overseeing the project. “It wasn’t easy to turn an old barn into a new working winery,” said Bill, “but we knew it was important to keep the integrity of the original structure, and that helped us make each decision along the way.”

Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore Winemaker, with a syphon
Winemaker Sharon Fenchak draws wine from a barrel with a type of syphon called a wine thief in the Barrel Room at the Winery

Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak

Since the Biltmore Winery opened in 1985, we attribute much of our success to our talented winemakers: Philippe Jourdain, Bernard Delille, and Sharon Fenchak, who joined the Winery team as assistant winemaker in 1999 and was promoted to winemaker in 2003.

Sharon now oversees Biltmore Wines as winemaker and vice president. Just like her predecessors, Sharon remains committed to handcrafting Biltmore Wines with the philosophy of keeping each wine true to varietal character, food-friendly, and consistent from vintage to vintage.

Steel tanks in Biltmore's working winery
Steel tanks used in the winemaking process at Biltmore

“Tastes change over time,” said Sharon. “Our wines are crafted in a classic style, but we keep our production facility up-to-date and we take advantage of technology and trends that help us improve our skills. It’s very important that we constantly learn more about what our guests enjoy so we can continue to produce wines they seek out here at the estate or savor in their own homes.”

Biltmore’s vineyard

According to Philip Oglesby, Vineyard Supervisor, Biltmore’s harvest season begins in late August with early-ripening white varietals such as Chardonnay. Vineyard crews pick grapes by hand throughout September and into October, giving the red varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc more time to mature.

Workers pick Chardonnay grapes in Biltmore's vineyard
Vineyard crews picking grapes by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate

“Within hours of being harvested, the grapes grown in our own vineyard on the west side of the estate are brought to the crush dock behind the Winery,” said Philip. “As the next phase of the winemaking process begins, we look forward to learning which wines will be created—especially those that earn the Biltmore® Reserve label that honors exceptional North Carolina vintages from Biltmore and our local growing partners.” 

Although most wineries specialize in either still or sparkling wines, we handcraft both here at the estate—just another distinction that sets Biltmore’s working winery apart.

Hand holding glass of Biltmore wine at our working winery
Make a reservation for your complimentary tasting at Biltmore’s working winery!

Cheers to our working winery and our handcrafted wines!

Join us at the Winery to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Make reservations to savor complimentary tastings of our wines in the Tasting Room, take a deeper dive into our working winery with a Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting, or simply relax at the Wine Bar with any of our wines by the glass or bottle. 

Purchase Biltmore wines at the estate and online—or become a member of the Vanderbilt Wine Club and enjoy having our wines shipped directly to your door each season.

Featured image: Biltmore Winery entrance in Antler Hill Village
 

Raise A Glass To Our Newest Masterpiece

This spring, we invite you to raise a glass to our newest masterpiece–a delightful white wine blend that is the first release in our Masterpiece Collection series.

Tasting notes

Masterpiece Collection white wine with fruit
Our new Masterpiece Collection White Wine features soft floral and almond aromas, plus flavors of citrus and slight hints of oak

“Smooth, refreshing, and off-dry with floral and citrus notes, this wine was handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy as a collector of extraordinary art and exceptional vintages,” said Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker. “It echoes the return of warm weather with soft floral and almond aromas, plus flavors of citrus and slight hints of oak.”

A masterpiece of Impressionist art

Strada Romana à Bordighera landscape painting by Claude Monet
“Strada Romana à Bordighera,” an Italian landscape painted in 1884 by Claude Monet, was purchased by George Vanderbilt in 1892

The label features an original landscape painting by Impressionist artist Claude Monet. He captured a colorful scene entitled Strada Romana à Bordighera in 1884, and Vanderbilt purchased it from Durand-Ruel, a noted dealer of Impressionist art, in 1892.

In addition, Vanderbilt acquired another Monet landscape entitled Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar (1886) that remains in the Biltmore collection today. Beginning this spring, both paintings will be displayed in Biltmore House for the first time in many years.

Choosing the label

Masterpiece Collection White Wine with paint brushes and tulips
Our Masterpiece Collection White Wine captures the essence of spring!

“We chose Strada Romana à Bordighera as the label for our new Masterpiece Collection White Wine because of its lovely colors and bright energy,” Shruthi noted. “It captures the feel of warmer weather and the desire all of us feel to enjoy the outdoors during spring and summer.”

Pairing this masterpiece with your favorite flavors

Masterpiece Collection White Wine with tiramisu
Pair this lovely white wine with your favorite flavors–including decadent desserts like tiramisu!

According to Shruthi, our Masterpiece Collection White Wine pairs perfectly with the lighter fare we favor in spring and summer.

“Try it with classic fare such as crab, ham, fried oysters, salmon, and pasta with cream sauce for a light meal, or make a small moment memorable as you sip it by the glass in the garden on warm evenings, pack it for your next picnic, and enjoy it with friends at brunch or lunch,” said Shruthi.

Masterpiece Collection white wine with glasses
In addition to its crisp, refreshing flavors, the label featuring original artwork by Claude Monet makes this wine an exceptional gift

Select this special masterpiece for spring!

If you’re looking for a special gift for spring and summer occasions such as Easter, Mother’s Day, bridal luncheons, weddings, and college graduations, this wine’s one-of-a-kind label makes it a charming gift for art lovers and those who appreciate all things Biltmore.

Our Masterpiece Collection White Wine is now available in estate shops and online.

Monet & Friends Make a Grand Impression at Biltmore

Please enjoy this archived content. Our Monet & Friends exhibition ended July 10, 2022.

We’re certain that our Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color exhibition will make a grand impression on our guests at Biltmore this spring, from March 9 through July 10, 2022.

You will be surrounded by the sights, sounds, and scents as you enter the vivid world of The Impressionists with Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color, created and produced by Grande Experiences.

Hosted in Biltmore’s Amherst at Deerpark® exhibition space, the second stellar event in our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore exhibition series will delight visitors through an immersive sensory experience celebrating one of the world’s most pivotal art movements.

See a new type of art emerge

Monet & Friends exhibition at Biltmore
Monet’s extraordinary gardens surround you during Monet & Friends, created and produced by Grande Experiences

From 1860–1905, a dynamic group of Paris-based artists challenged the norm and began painting in a much less formal manner than the Old Masters who came before them.

While previous subjects had included mythological stories, historical events, and portraits of famous people rendered with painstaking precision, the group who became known as The Impressionists chose instead to create bold, brush-stroked “snapshots” of everyday life, capturing the ideas and feelings of a moment in time.

Creating grand impressions

Often stationing themselves outside, or “en plein air,” the forward-thinking group recorded the everyday beauty found in garden and park landscapes, beachside and boating scenes, bustling cafés, and quiet boudoirs.

Rejected by the Salon, which was the official art exhibition of France’s Academy of Fine Arts, The Impressionists, known at the time as the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc., pushed against predisposed notions of fine art and began holding their own exhibitions starting in 1874.

By their eighth and final exhibition in 1886, the public’s opinion overrode that of the Academy’s, and the popular art form represented an exciting evolution in art history.

The influence of Monet

Detail of a Monet sescape in Biltmore's collection
Detail of Monet’s 1886 seascape “Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar” in Biltmore’s collection

One of the leading Impressionist artists, Monet unwittingly became responsible for the movement’s name.

Born in France in 1840 on the coast of Normandy, Oscar-Claude Monet’s father wanted him to follow in his footsteps as a wholesale merchant. From a very young age, however, Monet wished to become an artist.

Studying at the Academie Suisse alongside classmate Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Monet was influenced by landscape painter Eugène Boudin, one of France’s first artists to paint outdoors.

Monet’s work followed the textures of his subjects; the length of his brush strokes mimicked flowers and foliage, rippling water, and boats and structures. His 1872 painting Impression, Sunrise sparked the term “Impressionists” from an art critic who felt this new style had an unfinished look. The trailblazing group of artists took the name as their own, and even more interest and curiosity was sparked about the new way of creating and viewing art.

George Vanderbilt: a patron of Impressionism

Renoir paintings at Biltmore House
(L-R) “Young Algerian Girl” and “Child with an Orange” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

True to his visionary approach, George Vanderbilt was an early adopter of the new Impressionist movement. His affinity for the style ultimately resulted in a collection of sixteen Impressionist works including two landscapes by Monet: Strada Romana à Bordighera and Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar, and Renoir’s Young Algerian Girl and Child with an Orange. Vanderbilt also acquired Maufra’s Vue du Port as well as works by Manet and Whistler.

For the first time in many years, George Vanderbilt’s own Monet masterpieces will be displayed in Biltmore House along with a series of informational panels on the Impressionist movement.

Look for both paintings by Monet in the Salon and take advantage of this special opportunity to see the artist’s process up close, including his brushwork, atmospheric effects, and study of light.

Explore this multi-sensory experience

Ballerinas painted by Edgar Degas
Guests discover breathtaking scenes of light and motion captured by Impressionist artist Edgar Degas as part of the Monet & Friends experience

With our breathtaking Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color exhibition opening March 9, you can experience the broad brushstrokes of history during a time when art and culture changed profoundly, and learn about the artists who boldly led the way.

While listening to the exquisite sounds of Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Offenbach, you’ll be surrounded by the masterworks of Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Morisot, Toulouse Latrec, and more.

Plan your grand impression getaway today!

The warm and vibrant days of spring will arrive early at the estate during this second installment of the Legends of Art & Innovation exhibition series, along with our annual Biltmore Blooms seasonal celebration.

Enhance your visit with an overnight stay at one of our luxurious accommodations, and mark your calendar for the third and final installment of this one-of-a-kind experience: Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, coming to Biltmore July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023.

Featured image: Strada Romana à Bordighera by Claude Monet, 1884

Meet The Team That Handcrafts Biltmore Wines

Meet the team that handcrafts Biltmore wines here at the estate in Asheville, North Carolina. With old-world skill and new-world passion for their craft, they’re taking Biltmore’s winemaking philosophy of creating approachable vintages and varietals to new heights in the industry.

Meet Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore Winemaker and Vice President

Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore Winemaker, with a syphon
Winemaker Sharon Fenchak draws wine from a barrel with a type of syphon called a wine thief in the Barrel Room at the Winery

Sharon Fenchak has served as Biltmore’s Winemaker and Vice President since 2018. In addition to handcrafting Biltmore’s award-winning wines, her responsibilities include oversight of Biltmore’s vineyard, partnerships with local and west coast partners, and the production team that creates more than 150,000 cases of wine annually.

After high school, Sharon joined the United States Army as a Communications Specialist. While stationed in Vicenza, Italy, she discovered a new appreciation and a growing passion for wine—particularly the sparkling moscato for which the region is noted.

Once she returned to the states, Sharon earned a bachelor’s degree in food science from Penn State University and a master’s degree in the same field from the University of Georgia at Athens. She worked as an assistant winemaker at Habersham Winery in Baldwin, Georgia, then became the winemaker for Chestnut Mountain Winery in Braselton, Georgia.

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the vineyard
In addition to her other winemaking responsibilities, Sharon oversees the estate’s vineyard

In 1999, Sharon joined Biltmore’s winery production team as assistant winemaker, learning from veteran French winemaker Bernard Delille and leading in-house research and development for new grape-growing technology and testing grape-production methods. Sharon and Bernard shared a philosophy of creating high-quality wines that reflect true varietal character while still being food-friendly and approachable.

Sharon was promoted to Winemaker in 2003 and continued handcrafting high-quality wines worthy of the finest Biltmore traditions of taste and style. When Bernard retired, Sharon became Biltmore’s Winemaker and Vice President.

Meet Shruthi Dhoopati, Assistant Winemaker

Assistant Winemaker Shruthi Dhoopati tasting white wine
Assistant Winemaker Shruthi Dhoopati tastes wine in the Barrel Room

In her role as Assistant Winemaker, Shruthi Dhoopati is involved in every aspect of creating Biltmore wines, from helping select grapes for production to assisting Sharon in the process of developing each varietal and blend from fermenting and aging to ensuring that wines are consistent from vintage to vintage.

Before joining the winemaking team at Biltmore, Shruthi served as Winemaker and Vineyard Manager
for Addison Farms in Leicester, North Carolina.

Biltmore wine team at work in the tank room
Sharon and Shruthi taste a white wine directly from the steel tank

Shruthi obtained a Master of Science degree in Viticulture and Enology through the Vinifera Euromaster program with courses at Montpellier SupAgro, Bordeaux Sciences Agro (ISVV), and Turin University in Piemonte, Italy.

She holds a joint degree between Montpellier SupAgro, Hochschule Geisenheim, Università Degli Studi di Udine, University of Lisbon, Madrid Polytechnic, and the University of Turin. Shruthi completed her thesis work on viticultural soils of foothills and mountain areas in North Carolina and northwestern Italy.

In addition, Shruthi completed internships with Denis Dubourdieu Estates in Barsac, France, Max Ferdinand Richter Estate in Germany’s Mosel Valley, Andrew Will in Vashon, Washington, and Montenidoli in San Gimingano, Italy.

Tools used by Biltlmore's wine team to test wines
Biltmore’s winemaking team uses tools ranging from measuring cups to beakers to wine glasses to analyze results

Try Biltmore wines for yourself

Couple drinking Biltmore wine
Enjoy Biltmore wine on the estate and at home.

If you’re visiting Biltmore, be sure to make a reservation for your complimentary tasting at the Winery in Antler Hill Village, or enjoy a glass of your favorite varietal or blend at the Wine Bar or other relaxing location.

You can also find our award-winning wines in most estate shops, or online at biltmoreshop.com.


Featured image: (L-R) Biltmore wine’s dream team: Sharon Fenchak and Shruthi Dhoopati

10 Fast Facts: Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore

Here are 10 fast facts to help you learn more about each of the three individual Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore exhibition series:

Fast Fact #1: George Vanderbilt and Vincent van Gogh share a Dutch heritage

Van Gogh Alive multi-sensory experience
A guest explores Van Gogh Alive, created and produced by Grande Experiences

Artist Vincent van Gogh, the subject of our Van Gogh Alive exhibition that ends March 5, 2022, was born in 1853 in the Dutch village of Zundert.

Jan Aertson Van der Bildt (c. 1620–1704) emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam (now New York City) around 1650. Jan Aertson had numerous children by several wives. His first three children were by his first wife Anneken Hendricks, who he married around the time he came to America. Among those children was Aris Janse, George Vanderbilt’s great-great-great-great-grandfather.

George Vanderbilt was also inspired by his Dutch origin when he selected “Bilt” as the core part of the name for his estate.

Fast Fact #2: An interest in Asian art

George Vanderbilt visited Japan in 1892 and brought back 32 cases of art and decorative objects, including a suit of samurai armor that dates to Japan’s Edo period (1615–1868).

The late 19th century saw an increased fascination with Japan following its opening to the western world, especially in regards to its art and material culture (this trend was referred to as Japonisme).

Both Vincent van Gogh and George Vanderbilt demonstrated an interest in Japan: Van Gogh, through the study of Japanese prints that he collected, painting his own interpretations of the “exotic” style.

George Vanderbilt personally visited Japan in 1892, ultimately shipping home 32 cases full of “curios” that were scattered throughout Biltmore House. Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt also visited Japan in the early 1920s.

Though Van Gogh never visited Japan, his correspondence shows that he felt that southern France was more evocative of Japanese atmosphere and landscape, which was one of the reasons he was drawn to Arles from Paris.

Fast Fact #3: A shared love of sunflowers

Sunflowers blooming at Biiltmore
Enjoy a later-summer getaway with a sea of sunflowers blooming at Biltmore!

Vincent van Gogh found great inspiration in sunflowers. He loved their bright color, which many other artists found too garish. During his time in Arles, France, Van Gogh wrote “I find comfort in contemplating the sunflowers,” to Emile Bernard, c. August 18, 1888.

Each year, Biltmore plants a swathe of late-summer sunflowers along the path from Antler Hill Village toward the Lagoon. We hope the glowing golden blooms provide inspiration and enjoyment for today’s guests as well as a welcome treat for wildlife!

Fast Fact #4: Meet Monet & Friends March 9–July 10, 2022

Breathtaking displays from Monet & Friends
Breathtaking displays from Monet & Friends, showcasing the life and works of many Impressionist painters

From March 9–July 10, 2022, Biltmore will be hosting the multisensory Monet & Friends – Life, Light & Color, created and produced by Grande Experiences, on the grounds of the estate. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in breathtaking paintings projected on an enormous scale, illuminating the bold brushstrokes of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and more.

Two landscape painting by Claude Monet–Strada Romana à Bordighera (1884) and Belle-Île, le chenal de Port-Goulphar (1886)–were both purchased by George Vanderbilt from Durand-Ruel, the noted dealer of Impressionist art, in 1892.

There was also a third Monet landscape that Vanderbilt collected, though unfortunately it is not in Biltmore’s collection today. Correspondence indicates that at least one of the Monet paintings spent some time in the Vanderbilts’ Paris apartment, but none of them show up in any interior photos of Biltmore House. This is the first time in many years that the paintings are being installed in Biltmore House for more permanent display.

Fast Fact #5: Savor a masterpiece

Masterpiece Collection white wine with glasses
Savor our new Masterpiece Collection White Wine!

In honor of having two of Monet’s masterpieces on display in Biltmore House, we’ve created a new wine for our Masterpiece Collection.

The inaugural release is a crisp, smooth, refreshing white blend handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s legacy as a passionate collector of extraordinary art and exceptional vintages, with a stunning label that features Claude Monet’s colorful Strada Romana à Bordighera landscape painting.

Fast Fact #6: Breakfast with Renoir

Renoir paintings at Biltmore House
(L-R) “Young Algerian Girl” and “Child with an Orange” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In addition to the Monets he collected, Vanderbilt also acquired two paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir from Durand-Ruel in 1892. Both appear in the earliest photos of the Breakfast Room, meaning they have been on display in America’s Largest Home® for around a hundred years—possibly longer!

Child with an Orange (1881) and Young Algerian Girl (1882) represent a lesser-known part of Renoir’s work when he was painting colorful scenes from Algeria rather than life in Paris.

George Vanderbilt visited the Mediterranean region several times in his life, including an 1894 trip that included stops in Algeria.

Fast Fact #7: Lasting impressions

George Vanderbilt portrait by James Whistler
George Washington Vanderbilt. 1897-1903. James McNeill Whistler. Oil on canvas. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Impressionism interested Vanderbilt so much that in the late 1800s he acquired a total of 16 paintings by Claude Monet, Édouard Manet*, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Maxime Maufra, and James McNeill Whistler to furnish his homes.

While many of those names have become synonymous in the modern era with Impressionism and high-value art, others (like Maufra) are less well-known. George Vanderbilt seemed to collect those works that he enjoyed, not purely because they were associated with famous names.

Correspondence reveals that George Vanderbilt was often acquiring works from artists that he had a personal acquaintance with, most notably in the case of Whistler. Vanderbilt acted as a patron for Whistler, supporting his work and demonstrating a great respect for him as an artist. He even acted as a pall-bearer at Whistler’s funeral.

*The Manet paintings are no longer in Biltmore’s collection as they were donated to the National Gallery in Edith Vanderbilt’s will.

Fast Fact #8: Curious correspondence

Monet & Friends exhibition at Biltmore
Monet’s extraordinary gardens surround you during Monet & Friends, created and produced by Grande Experiences

We have letters in our archives from Claude Monet regarding a visit that George and Edith Vanderbilt were hoping to make to him in 1904. We don’t know if the visit ultimately happened, but either way they indicate a certain level of acquaintance between the Vanderbilts and Monet beyond just collectors.

We also have correspondence indicating that the Vanderbilts were acquainted with Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, and that she had been planning to paint portraits of Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt, but was prevented from doing so by illness.

Leonardo da Vinci -- 500 Years of Genius
From July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023, immerse yourself in the multi-sensory experience of “Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius” at Biltmore

Fast Fact #9: Discover Da Vinci, July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023

Following the conclusion of Monet & Friends, our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series will conclude with Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, from July 14, 2022–January 8, 2023.

Inventor, artist, scientist, engineer, sculptor, anatomist, musician, architect, philosopher—Da Vinci was all of these things. His brilliance and many extraordinary achievements are brought to vivid life in the world’s most comprehensive and thrilling Leonardo da Vinci experience, created and produced by Grande Experiences.

Fast Fact #10: Old Masters and modern favorites

Reproduction of Rembrandt etching for the Oak Sitting Room in Biltmore House
Reproduction from the Morgan Library of a Rembrandt etching for the Oak Sitting Room

George Vanderbilt’s collection included an interesting combination of Old Masters and more modern artists like the Impressionists mentioned above. The two Old Masters he favored were Rembrandt and Dürer, though his interest did not stop there. His collection includes two prints made after Da Vinci paintings, including The Last Supper and a self-portrait.

Vanderbilt’s book collection includes several books about Da Vinci, including Leonardo da Vinci: the Florentine years of Leonardo & Verrocchio (1913) which is in the Biltmore House Library.

Don’t miss our Legends of Art & Innovation at Biltmore series!

There’s still time to immerse yourself in Van Gogh Alive before it ends on March 5, 2022. Tickets are on sale now for Monet & Friends, and will be available soon for Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius.

All three multisensory exhibitions are created and produced by Grand Experiences and hosted at Amherst at Deerpark® on the grounds of the estate.

New Exhibition Explores Construction of Biltmore House

Our new Building Biltmore House exhibition explores the construction of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent home—a massive project that took hundreds of workers seven years to complete.

A new take on our construction story

“For nearly two decades, we displayed photographs and stories about the construction of Biltmore House in the Basement area known as the Halloween Room. It was a favorite of our guests, but we removed the panels in 2019 to make room for components of a different exhibition,” said Meghan Forest, Archives and Curatorial Assistant.

According to Meghan, the new Building Biltmore House exhibition, also located in the Halloween Room, will uncover additional in-depth information about the people, circumstances, and innovations surrounding the building of America’s Largest Home®.

“One important goal of the new exhibition is to focus more on the craftsmanship and labor of the employees who worked on the project rather than just the construction techniques,” noted Meghan. “Through continuing research in our own archives and outreach to descendants of some of the original workers, we’re able to share new stories that add depth and context to Building Biltmore House.”

Discovering personal connections

In the course of the archival research for this exhibition, Biltmore worked closely with Dr. Darin Waters who serves as North Carolina Deputy Secretary for Archives and History in the Office of Archives and History for the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

His personal connection with Biltmore dates back more than two decades, and his ancestors’ history with the estate dates back more than a century, presenting a thematic through-line for his own life story. Guests will learn more about Dr. Waters’ research and family discoveries as they take in the details of Building Biltmore House.

Design dream team

(L-R) purchasing agent and agricultural consultant Edward Burnett, architect Richard Morris Hunt, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, George Washington Vanderbilt, and architect Richard Howland Hunt, son of Richard Morris Hunt. 1892

In 1889, 26-year-old George Vanderbilt recruited two of the nation’s most sought-after design professionals, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, to assist him in building a grand estate that would serve as a scenic retreat for the young man’s family and friends.

Both Hunt and Olmsted had been instrumental in shaping the look of late-19th-century New York, with Hunt having designed the Statue of Liberty pedestal and the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Olmsted creating the tranquil greenspace of Central Park and advocating for the preservation of Niagara Falls State Park.

Planning and inspiration

Sketch of Biltmore House
Archival sketch of Biltmore House façade, drafted prior to construction, does not include the glass-roofed Winter Garden that was added as plans were finalized

Having purchased a total of 125,000 acres since his first visit to Asheville in 1888, Vanderbilt charged Olmsted with choosing the site of his future country home along with designing the manicured gardens and grounds that would rehabilitate the acreage’s former farms and cutover woodlands.

Vanderbilt, Hunt, and Hunt’s wife Catharine then embarked on a two-month trip across England and France to gather ideas. The journey proved a success, as Hunt eventually designed a 175,000-square-foot French Renaissance Revival-style château influenced by the exteriors of France’s Blois, Chambord, and Chenonceau estates, and the interiors of Knole Palace, Hatfield House, and Haddon Hall in England.

Vanderbilt named his estate “Biltmore” for Bildt, the Dutch town of his ancestry, and the old English word “more” meaning open, rolling land.

Building Biltmore House

Building Biltmore House
George Vanderbilt escorts a group of guests on the South Terrace during contruction. 1893

When construction began hundreds of workers and tradesmen arrived daily to perform general labor as well as blacksmithing, painting, carpentry, and stone carving. While many materials such as bricks and stone were sourced locally, others were imported from across the country and overseas.

Men, materials, and supplies arrived at the construction area on standard gauge rail lines supported by trestles designed by Olmsted to span the mountainous terrain without damaging the forests below. The construction site became a bustling city of its own, with workers occupying temporarily built offices, workshops, and sheds.

Biltmore House comes to life

Watch archival footage of George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate “rising” from its foundations!

Month by month, George Vanderbilt’s vision took shape as Biltmore House rose from its foundation. The home consisted of 250 rooms, including 101 guest and servant bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, and 43 bathrooms.

Luxurious, state-of-the-art conveniences like indoor plumbing and electricity were included in the house, along with a fire alarm system, two elevators, and a telephone system. A bowling alley, gymnasium, and 70,000-gallon indoor swimming pool were built to provide entertainment and exercise during inclement weather.

The end of a long journey

Archival photo of a marble lion statue at Biltmore
One of two iconic lion sculptures, crafted from Rosso di’Verona marble, await installation at Biltmore House. March 1894

As with any significant undertaking, one must aim for a deadline, and George Vanderbilt declared December 24, 1895, as the date that his labor of love would be unveiled.

Final touches on the landscaping took place, the makeshift workshops on the property were disassembled, and cabinetmakers and carpenters hastened to finish the endless custom details within the home. Although several areas including the Library and his own bedroom were still incomplete, George Vanderbilt welcomed his mother and 26 other relatives to celebrate Christmas Eve in his new home.

Experience Building Biltmore House and more

“Beginning February 4, 2022, we invite all of our guests to visit our new Building Biltmore House exhibition located in the Halloween Room to learn about the inspiring individuals who came together during the construction of Biltmore House and its surrounding gardens and grounds,” said Meghan.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
In addition to enjoying our Building Biltmore House exhibition, enhance your visit with a Rooftop Tour that includes spectacular views and stories.

This new exhibition is included with regular estate admission and is part of the normal self-guided visit route.

To experience more fascinating behind-the-scenes stories of this Gilded Age estate, consider reserving a Rooftop Tour or Expert-Guided Small Group Tour.

Featured image: Visible through a third floor window faced with decorative limestone veneer above the Porte Cochere are the brick walls and iron joists that provide structure for Biltmore House, ca. 1893

Plan a Romantic Date at Biltmore

Biltmore is the perfect place to plan a romantic date, especially when Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.

Whether you’re looking for a day of special activities or a long weekend getaway, winter is a wonderful time to visit the estate. From the magnificence of America’s Largest Home® to special packages at both of our distinctive hotels, we’ve compiled a list of six sensational ideas for planning your romantic date at Biltmore. 

1. Share a sweet treat with someone special

Coffee and pastries from The Bake Shop at Biltmore are perfect for your romantic date
Indulge in a sweet treat from The Bake Shop during your romantic date at Biltmore!

Enjoy fresh–baked pastries and baked goods, excellent espresso, gourmet coffees, and herbal teas from The Bake Shop located in the Stable Courtyard next to Biltmore House. Before or after your self-guided house visit, this is a perfect way to warm up winter’s chill.

Romantic date tip: While you’re in the neighborhood, take time to visit the collection of gift shops located inside the Stables–you’re sure to find a charming memento of your time together!

2. Escape to the tropics!

Practice mindfulness in the peaceful Conservatory
Wander among tropical treasures in Biltmore’s Conservatory

Indoor enchantment awaits in Biltmore’s Conservatory. Possibly one of the warmest spots in North Carolina’s mountains during winter, the Conservatory is filled with thousands of exotic plants, including an expansive orchid display at its showiest peak in the peaceful winter months.

Romantic date tip: Be sure to snuggle up for a selfie together with a lush back drop of tropical treasures!

3. Discover the Vanderbilts’ love story

George and Edith Vanderbilt at buckspring Lodge
George and Edith Vanderbilt sitting on the front steps of Buckspring Lodge, their rustic retreat on Mt. Pisgah

The Vanderbilts at Home and Abroad exhibition highlights the Transatlantic courtship and wedding of George and Edith Vanderbilt with archival letters, personal items and exotic treasures they collected during their world travels. The exhibition is located at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village, just steps away from the Winery.

Romantic date tip: After learning more about the Vanderbilts, take time for a sweet treat or light bite from the nearby Creamery.

4. Warm up at the Winery

Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting for a romantic date
A match made in heaven–red wine and chocolate!

As soon as you arrive at our Winery, make a reservation for your complimentary wine tasting to savor a variety of our award-winning Biltmore wines. To make your romantic date truly memorable, enjoy a specialty wine experience like our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting together!

Romantic date tip: Bubbles make everything better, so indulge in a glass (or a bottle!) of our refreshing Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs or our pretty-in-pink Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Noir sparkling wine!

5. Let your romantic date take flight

Falconry is a Top 5 Winter activity at Biltmore
Explore the thrilling art of falconry at Biltmore

Our 8,000-acre backyard provides natural habitat for a variety of beautiful birds this time of year. Meet them, explore their habits, and learn about their environments with engaging, informative activities that invite you to expand your Biltmore knowledge in a new way. Feathered Friends, Waterfowl Habits, and Guided Bird Walks offer a great way to spend time outdoors with someone special.

Romantic date tip: Let your hearts soar as you discover the ancient art of Falconry together!

6. Immerse yourself in Van Gogh Alive

Van Gogh Alive exhibition
Explore our Van Gogh Alive exhibition now–March 5, 2022

This multi-sensory exhibition is a powerful and vibrant symphony of light, color, sound, and scent that compels you to leave the world behind and immerse yourself in Van Gogh’s paintings. Simultaneously enchanting, entertaining, and educational, Van Gogh Alive, created by Grande Experiences, stimulates all the senses and opens the mind.

Romantic date tip: Hold hands throughout this experience and “read” your partner’s thoughts through the contact.

Plan your romantic date at Biltmore now!

Couple on a romantic date at Biltmore
Plan your romantic getaway at Biltmore this winter

Join us during Winter at Biltmore for a romantic date, or simply enjoy spending time together with family and friends. We look forward to making you welcome!