Shedding New Light on Biltmore’s Halloween Room

Witches, bats, and black cats don’t usually come to mind when you think of Biltmore, but deep in the basement of America’s largest home, there’s a cavernous room with brick walls painted in brightly-colored murals depicting such creatures.

The paintings include characters from folklore, a platoon of wooden soldiers, and other imaginative imagery that eventually caused this area to be dubbed The Halloween Room.

Soldiers painted on the walls of Biltmore's Halloween Room
Soldiers depicted in Halloween Room mural

For many years, the colorful murals remained a bit of a mystery, with some thought that the room was the scene of a 1920s Halloween weekend house party during which guests of John and Cornelia Cecil were invited make their mark on the walls.

Subsequent research revealed, however, that the paintings were created in December 1925 to prepare the room for a New Year’s Eve celebration–but that still didn’t explain the slightly eerie tone of the murals.

New Discoveries

Theatrical program for La Chauve-Souris
Theatrical program for La Chauve-Souris

Leslie Klingner, Curator of Interpretation, recently discovered an obscure connection between the scenes on the walls and an avant-garde Russian cabaret and theatrical troupe called La Chauve-Souris, which translates to The Bat.

The troupe toured America in the 1920s, performing on Broadway in 1922 and again in 1925. The vaudevillian comedic acts were set off by abstract sets designed by two Russian artists, Sergei Sudeikin and Nicolai Remisoff. The show met with great success, triggering a rage for all things Russian in New York City and beyond.

The Cecils must have been fans of the cabaret as they and their friends created their own version of La Chauve-Souris on the basement walls of Biltmore House. Most of the murals were drawn directly from Remisoff and Sudeikin’s illustrations for the theatrical program. 

Staff looks at an archival copy of La Chauve-Souris theatrical program
Leslie Klinger looks at an archival copy of the La Chauve-Souris program

After three weeks of painting, the Cecils hosted a gypsy-themed ball on December 30, 1925, as part of their New Year’s celebration.

“This connection was really exciting to me because we didn’t expect it at all,” Leslie said. “It wasn’t until I read an autobiography of a local man who went to that party that I put it together.”

“The best party I have ever attended”

Halloween Room mural in Biltmore House
Painted scenes in the Halloween Room

The Charleston Daily Mail reported that 100 guests attended the Cecil’s New Year’s Eve festivities. One costumed attendee, local resident James G.K. McClure, recalled arriving in the basement of Biltmore with his wife Elizabeth, armed with a guitar and an old accordion, to find a room full of “all kinds of gypsy atmosphere such as cauldrons and pots and glowing fire … all around.” 

Enchanted by the unexpected theatrics, he wrote a detailed account of the holiday soiree to a friend, describing “a gypsy dance at Biltmore House which was the best party I have ever attended.”

Originally designed for storage, The Halloween Room currently showcases a video about the creation of Biltmore and the collaboration by estate founder George Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Crowdsourcing Biltmore’s 2019 Christmas Wine Labels

Ready to pour on the cheer this holiday season? We’re excited to share the process of crowdsourcing our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore® Wine labels!

“In previous years, we held a competition for artists to share their interpretation of what Christmas at Biltmore means to them,” said Jill Whitfield, senior wine marketing manager. “We chose several finalists, then asked our online audience to vote for their favorite design.”

Crowdsourcing for creativity

In 2018, Biltmore Wines decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of asking artists to submit their work, they asked our Facebook followers to help them develop that year’s Christmas label, one step at a time.

It worked so well that we decided to repeat the process of crowdsourcing our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Wine labels.

Creating mood boards

Mood boards with frosty and cozy themes

Mood boards featuring #Frosty and #Cozy elements

“First, we worked with Biltmore’s art team to create a pair of mood boards,” Jill explained. “One featured #Frosty elements including a palette of cool, wintry colors and silvery metallics. The other was #Cozy, with warmer tones and sparkling gold ornaments. We then posted them on Facebook and asked our fans and followers to vote for their favorite mood.” 

Setting the tone

For the second phase of voting, Lisa Vogel, Art Director, pulled together two “tone” boards so voters could choose between themes representing a #Vintage look represented by an old-fashioned Christmas card and a #Modern look with a clean graphic feel.

Facebook fans liked both of the themes, but their final preference was for #Vintage.

Theme boards with #Modern and #Vintage elements

Boards with #Contemporary and #Vintage themes

Crowd favorite

With the mood and theme decided, it was time to get Asheville artist Jeff Pittman involved in the project. He drew inspiration from the boards to create two representations of Biltmore on which Facebook followers would have the final vote.

Both #Vista and #Reflections were popular, but #Reflections—featuring the west façade of Biltmore House on the hill above the Lagoon—was the winner.

Jeff refined the initial #Reflections painting he created with more detail and a few more festive touches. “Everyone loved both of Jeff Pittman’s offerings” said Lisa, “but I think it may have been the peaceful pair of Canadian geese crossing the Lagoon that made #Reflections such a crowd favorite!”

Paintings showing different views of Biltmore House

Jeff Pittman’s two representations of a Biltmore Christmas scene

Creating original artwork

What happened next?

“Jeff went to work in his studio,” Lisa said, “and created the final artwork that would become the labels for our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine.”

Asheville artist Jeff Pitman painting the 2019 Biltmore Christmas Wine label

Jeff Pittman at work on the 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Wine label

The finished label celebrates the natural splendor of this special season at Biltmore

“The voters made it clear what they wanted,” said Jill, “and that’s why crowdsourcing is such a great way to engage your audience—it gives your most loyal followers a voice in what you’re creating for them.”

Finished painting for the 2019 Biltmore Christmas wine label

Finished artwork in Jeff’s studio

Join us at the Winery on the following dates in November and December to meet artist Jeff Pittman and have your bottles of Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine signed by him.

Meet the artist

  • November 8, 4 p.m.–6 p.m.
  • December 13, 4 p.m.–6 p.m.

Pour on the cheer with Biltmore wines

Christmas tree with Biltmore wines and desserts

Choose any of our fine wines for holiday celebrations

Purchase any of our fine wines—including Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine (soft and fruit-forward with flavors of berry and spice to complement holiday dishes including ham, turkey, and blackberry pie à la mode) and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine (fragrant and semi-sweet with flavors of apricot, spice, and citrus to pair with holiday dishes like sweet potato casserole, apple pie, and pumpkin pie)—at estate shops or online

Biltmore Wines Make Great Gifts

The holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate with friends and family and enjoy favorite foods, special desserts, and great memories.

This year, we suggest you make seasonal gift-giving easy with Biltmore wines. From refreshing blends and food-friendly favorites to elegant sparkling wines, you’re sure to find a perfect pairing for everyone on your list.

A “century” of taste and style

Biltmore wine bottles with bows
Biltmore wines make a thoughtful gift for the holidays

Our Biltmore Century Sweet Red Wine and Century Sweet White Wine were developed to honor Biltmore’s centennial celebration. These approachable red and white blends are easy-to-drink and complement a wide variety of dishes, and the beautifully etched bottles make a special keepsake of your Biltmore experience—or provide inspiration for another visit!

Add sparkle to the season

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Biltmore sparkling wine is perfect for any occasion

According to Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak, sparkling wines are surprisingly versatile and go very well with many foods.

“Don’t just save them for a special toast—make any occasion a celebration when you uncork the Biltmore bubbles!” said Sharon.

We recommend keeping a few bottles on hand in case unexpected guests drop by during the holidays, or taking our festive sparkling wines with you as a thoughtful hostess gift.

The perfect Christmas present

2019 Christmas at Biltmore Red and White Wine labels
2019 Christmas at Biltmore Red and White Wine labels

There’s no better way to commemorate the holidays than with our Christmas at Biltmore Wine, available in red and white styles! The label features new original artwork each year that captures the magic of Christmas at Biltmore, making the wine an easy-to-give annual gift. We enjoy pairing these slightly sweeter wines with classic seasonal desserts like pumpkin pie and sugar cookies.

An elegant gift

The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County
The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County

Inspired by the classic sporting life the Vanderbilts and their guests enjoyed at Biltmore, The Hunt is a truly exceptional wine.  Aged for about 18 months in French and American oak barrels, this robust, Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot is delicious by the glass and pairs well with many of the rich flavors of the holiday season.

The Hunt’s label—inspired by the strong lines of an extraordinary August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore’s original collection—makes this wine a truly remarkable gift for wine enthusiasts and those who enjoy the outdoors.

Join the club!

Biltmore wines in front of a fireplace
Make your comfort zone more comfortable with Biltmore wines

Want to give a gift that keeps on giving year-round? Consider providing someone special with a membership to our Vanderbilt Wine Club! Members receive a shipment of three handcrafted Biltmore wines each quarter, carefully selected to delight wine enthusiasts.

In addition, members will enjoy wine notes and special recipes to complement each shipment. Membership includes exclusive access to new and limited releases, discounts on wines, flat-rate shipping, and invitations to join us for events throughout the year. 

Make your gift giving easy

To make your gift-giving even easier, Biltmore wines are available in estate shops, online, and at retailers across the nation.

Preparing Biltmore’s Historic Gardens for Fall

The task list is long in Stacey Weir’s weekly planner this time of year as she and her crew begin preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall.

As Historic Gardens Manager, Stacey and her team must focus on putting the gardens to bed after the long, lush days of summer are done.

Preparing our historic gardens for fall
Preparations for fall begin during late summer in Biltmore’s historic gardens

“The landscape has delighted our guests all season with a showy tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original landscape scheme,” said Stacey, “but now it’s time to be preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall.”

The ever-changing gardens require meticulous note-taking and calendar-minding to stay on track for the next season… and the next and the next.

It’s challenging for Stacey to summarize what her team does to get the gardens ready for fall and winter, but she shares some of the main tasks below–and notes that you can follow the Biltmore team’s lead in your own garden at home.

Fall tasks at hand

“One of our first tasks for preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall begins just after Labor Day,” Stacey said. “Our crews will be busy pulling all of the tropical plants that have been on display during warmer weather.”

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
After Labor Day, tropical plants will be returned to the Conservatory

That means the massive terra cotta planters filled with elephant ears that line the front of Biltmore House and other areas are being emptied and stored for next summer.

“Some crew members will suit up in waders to work in the Italian Garden pools where tropical lilies and enormous Victorian lily pads are just finishing their blooming season,” said Stacey. “The crew will weed out the remains and clean the ponds.”

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
A gardener dons waders to work in the Italian Garden pools

In addition, Stacey notes that height pruning in the floral pattern beds and borders of the Walled Garden is a priority in order to keep leaf drop manageable as the winds pick up with seasonal change. Perennials are cut back to ensure good growth for spring.

“We’ll lift the dahlia bulbs out of the ground in the Walled Garden’s Victorian border to allow the soil to dry naturally,” Stacey said. “The bulbs will be placed in a cool dry place to store over winter to be replanted in the spring.”

Mum’s the word in the Walled Garden

Fall mums in the Walled Garden at Biltmore
Vibrant mums are a sure sign of fall in the Walled Garden

Biltmore’s signature fall color flower display of mums will also be planted in the Walled Garden pattern beds.

The mums will begin showing glorious color in late September and early October, with peak bloom around the second or third week of October. 

“We usually plan a warm-toned color scheme for fall, with shades of orange, golden yellow, and deep reds and purples,” noted Stacey.

Fall leaves become a part of Biltmore soil

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
In addition to beautiful colors to the Azalea Garden, fall brings lots of dropping eaves that will eventually become mulch and soil amendments

As temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change color, just like at your house, there’s leaf management to consider. The horticulture crew embarks on several leaf clean-ups throughout the season to minimize final clean-up at the end of the season.

Crews collect the leaves and use them for compost, or they put the leaves in to a tub grinder with woody debris and grind everything to use for soil.

Any leftovers are used in a compost that made with herbaceous debris, which is broadcast in the field crops and food plots throughout estate property.

Christmas and winter work

Poinsettias growing at Biltmore
Poinsettias being grown in the production house at the Conservatory

A portion of the poinsettias used during our annual Christmas at Biltmore displays are grown in the production house near the Conservatory.

Planted in July, the poinsettias begin to pop up in early fall. A selection of the full-grown plants will be placed in Biltmore House, while the others will decorate the Conservatory.

In early October, the Conservatory team will also plant tulip bulbs in pots in order to have tulip bloom and color “under glass” by Valentine’s Day in mid-February.

Looking ahead to Biltmore Blooms

Tulips at Biltmore
Preparing our historic gardens for fall includes planting tulip bulbs for spring

And then, there are the tulips which herald the start of our springtime Biltmore Blooms celebration.

To enjoy vivid blooms in April, the bulbs must be planted in November just before Thanksgiving. Actual planting days are based on temperatures to avoid planting when the ground is frozen.

“Each fall, our crews plant thousands upon thousands of bulbs including tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in the Walled Garden and across the estate. When spring arrives, the total number of blooms is breathtaking!” said Stacey.

The matrix

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn sketch shows details of a planting in the Conservatory

To keep track of every plant–from seed to taking them out of the production house to putting them in the ground–all of these timetables and tasks are organized on paper.

The plans include a “priority matrix” that the gardeners have developed through the years to determine which tasks to focus on first depending on factors such as guest-facing locations and type of plant.

Otherwise, “It’s all a jumbled mess in your head,” Stacey said, She’s quick to add that when you’re working in the gardens season after season, the memory naturally retains the details.

Gardeners are constantly thinking several steps ahead of the task at hand. “In horticulture, everything effects the next thing,” said Stacey. “Perennial-wise you have to make allowances now to have success in the spring. Everything has the continual life span of birth and rebirth almost.”

Plan your fall getaway today

Couple enjoying fall at Antler Hill Village
Plan your spectacular fall getaway to Biltmore today!

From colorful leaves to crisp days and cool nights, there’s no better time to enjoy a visit to Biltmore than during the fall season. Plan your getaway today.

Decanting Downton

In honor of hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition through September 7, 2020, we thought it would be fascinating to look at Downton Abbey—and Biltmore’s own history—through the lens of a wine bottle.

A thoughtful collector

We know that George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful wine collector in his own right, and he also relied upon the services of professional wine purveyor Alexander Morten who was well-known for his excellent taste and recommendations.

To learn more about the process of procuring and preparing wines in the late 19th century, we turned to Jeff Plack, business development manager for Biltmore Wines and a wine aficionado in general, to “pour out” what he knows about the subject.

Archival list of wines in Biltmore's wine cellar
March 12, 1913: list of wines in Biltmore’s cellar

The business of wine

“I love the fact that in the new Downton Abbey feature film–and in many episodes of the six-season PBS Masterpiece seriesthe characters were sipping wine at some point,” said Jeff. “Wine consumption was a direct measure of one’s wealth in that era and it was not unusual for large estates to have thousands of bottles in their cellars. At that time, the wines were mostly French.”

Jeff explains that Mr. Carson, the Crawley family’s beloved butler in the series, would have been largely responsible for the wines served at Downton Abbey.

“The family might have taken an active interest in wine,” Jeff said, “but the butler was generally the person who oversaw the supply and prepared the wines for the dinner table.

Decanting wines

Formal place setting on the Banquet Hall Table in Biltmore House
This formal place setting on the Banquet Hall table features six pieces of crystal, including a champagne coupe and a cordial glass for port or sherry

In one episode of the series, Carson is seen decanting wine using an interesting contraption.

“It’s appropriately called a decanting machine or cradle,” said Jeff. “The cradle holds the wine as someone turns a crank which slowly pours the wine out of the bottle.”

In the scene, Carson is using a lighted candle behind the bottle to help him see any sediment in the wine. This technique, along with a piece of muslin over the decanter, would help filter out impurities.

(Note: the featured image for this blog shows the decanting cradle in Mr. Carson’s pantry as part of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition currently hosted at Biltmore.)

The circle of wine

For wealthy households like the one depicted in Downton Abbey, the variety of wines consumed at dinner made a circle of sorts.

Glass and silver wine decanter
A delicate silver and glass wine decanter from the Biltmore collection

“Evenings would usually begin with port or sherry and possibly a glass of champagne as an apéritif,” said Jeff. “Each subsequent course of the dinner would be paired with a different wine.”

Mariporta dessert wine on a tray with glasses
Our Mariporta is a port-style dessert wine reminiscent of the ones the Vanderbilts might have enjoyed

According to Jeff, wine pairings were different than the ones we make today.

A common practice of the era was to serve a white Burgundy (generally a Chardonnay) with the first course and then a red Bordeaux with the main meal. 

“It was less about the science of which wines ‘go with’ or complement which foods, and more about wines that they preferred,” Jeff said. “For dessert, they would move back to something like port, similar to our Mariporta Red Dessert Wine, and then end with sparkling wine again; a happy circle of wine life.”

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Biltmore sparkling wine is perfect for any occasion

With modern winemaking techniques, we no longer need to use decanting machines and filters, and though we enjoy pairing wines based on qualities such as acidity and tannins, we also love complementing favorite flavors with wines we enjoy.

Savor Biltmore Wines

Join us at the Winery for complimentary tastings of our award-winning wines. You can purchase Biltmore wines at most estate shops or online. In addition, experience Downton Abbey: The Exhibition hosted in two locations on estate grounds, November 8, 2019–April 7, 2020.

Discover Biltmore Wines From Grape to Glass

How do we select the finest fruit for Biltmore wines? Here’s an overview of the process, from grape to glass!

Sourcing fine North Carolina vintages

In his book Lady On The Hill, George Vanderbilt‘s grandson William A.V. Cecil noted that “Asheville was about the same latitude as Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, and with an altitude between 2,100 and 2,500 feet, the fields of the estate would enjoy warm days and cool nights in the summer.”

While the climate of Western North Carolina is not nearly as predictable as that of the Mediterranean or other major grape-growing regions, when conditions are right, the fruit produced in our estate vineyards is exceptional and earns the Biltmore Reserve label for our finest North Carolina vintages.

To ensure we can meet the growing demand for Biltmore wines, however, we also look to our local vineyard partners in Polk County—a lower-elevation region just south of Asheville that experiences slightly warmer temperatures with less danger of late season frost damage.

Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore's vineyards on the west side of the estate
Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore’s vineyards on the west side of the estate

Beyond Biltmore

We also look to our west coast partners for the quality and consistency of grapes needed to handcraft our award-winning wines. Several times each year, Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak schedules extended visits to California to meet with our growing partners and select outstanding vintages for Biltmore wines. 

“Some of the finest American wine grapes come from the vineyards of coastal California,” Sharon said. “The terroir—the different combinations of weather and soil in each hill and valley—translate into the distinctive flavors and qualities that characterize the wines of that region.”

View of one of our partner vineyards in California
View of one of our partner vineyards in California

California’s Northern Coast

This large wine grape-growing region is located north of San Francisco, with a maritime climate that is affected by cool fogs and breezes from the Pacific Ocean. Some of California’s best-known American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Lake County, Napa, and Russian River Valley, are located here. 

“This AVA is an important one for our Vanderbilt Reserve series,” said Sharon. “We select grapes from outstanding partner vineyards for some of our most distinctive wines, including our Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2016, and The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County.” 

The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore's original collection
The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore’s original collection

California’s Central Coast

Stretching from San Francisco Bay south to Santa Barbara County, this region offers a warmer climate that still benefits from the cooling influences of the Pacific Ocean. We partner with vineyards from such prestigious AVAs as Arroyo Seco, Cienega Valley, Monterey, and Paso Robles.

“Some of the more unusual varietals we choose from partner vineyards here include Barbera, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Rousanne, and Tempranillo,” Sharon noted.

Washington

A wide range of grapes are now being grown in the fertile valleys of Washington, making the state an important producer of outstanding wine varietals. Vineyards are found primarily in the eastern half of the state that benefits from a dryer shrub-steppe ecosystem and the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. The state experiences long hours of daylight—approximately two more hours per day during the growing season than California—and milder, more consistent temperatures. 

“We are excited to be working with some great partner vineyards in Washington,” said Sharon. “We’re selecting a lot of excellent grapes for our American Series and Limited Release Series wines.”

Handcrafting our award-winning wines

While Sharon and her team handcraft the majority of our wines from start to finish at Biltmore’s Winery in Asheville, North Carolina, our Vanderbilt Reserve wines and Antler Hill wines are created in the particular region where they were grown. This painstaking process is overseen—from selecting the vintage and expressing the varietal character to aging the wine—by Sharon during her visits to California. 

“All our wines represent the Vanderbilt family’s legacy of gracious hospitality on which Biltmore was founded,” Sharon said, “and as Biltmore’s winemaker, I am committed to handcrafting our wines with the philosophy of keeping each one true to varietal character and consistent from vintage to vintage. Whether I’m at work in North Carolina or California or Washington, I’m focused on creating wines that reflect the quality of this family-owned estate and Winery.”

Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online
Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online

Discover our exceptional wines for yourself

Visit Biltmore’s Winery, purchase online, or find them close to home with our Retailer Locator.

Featured image: Ripe grapes being harvested in Biltmore’s vineyard

Discover Biltmore’s Working Winery

In celebration of North Carolina Wine Month in May, let’s discover Biltmore’s working winery where 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 Winery

Biltmore Winery Clock Tower at sunset
A Blue Ridge Mountain sunset behind the 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 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.”

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the Barrel Room at the Winery
Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the Barrel Room at the Winery

Biltmore Winemakers

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 of wine production. 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 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 grapes in Biltmore's vineyard
Vineyard crews pick grapes by hand at Biltmore

“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.

Guests enjoying a wine tasting at Biltmore Winery
Guests enjoy complimentary tastings at the Winery

Cheers!

Join us at the Winery to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Savor complimentary tastings of more than 20 of our wines in the Tasting Room, take a deeper dive into our working winery with specialty wine experiences, or simply relax at the Wine Bar with any of our wines by the glass or bottle. 

Purchase Biltmore wines at the estate, online, and close to home with our Retailer Locator—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
 

Painting with Plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory

From brilliant bromeliads to elegant orchids, painting with plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory is how Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturist, describes his work.

Painting with plants such as bromeliads and orchids in Biltmore's Conservatory
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory

Caring for Biltmore’s Plants

Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory
Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory

Caring for this glorious garden under glass—filled with tropical treasures from around the world—is no easy task, but Todd enjoys his work in such exotic surroundings.

“It takes a lot of effort to keep the Conservatory looking so lush and beautiful,” said Todd. “All these plant species have different moisture needs, so we spend the first several hours of each day watering everything by hand—it helps us keep a close eye on the thousands of plants in our care.” 

Tropical Plant Treasures

Pink anthurium in Biltmore's Conservatory
Pink anthurium thrive in the Conservatory

Todd has been part of Biltmore’s Conservatory staff for the more than four years. Prior to joining the estate, he worked as a horticulturalist for a historic estate in southwest Florida, which gave him an appreciation for tropical plantings.

“I focus on adding to the diversity of what we offer in the Conservatory,” Todd said. “We have some palms that are very old, and some Cycads that date back to the time of the Vanderbilts, but we’re always adding new things for guests to discover and enjoy.”

Painting with Plants

Painting with plants and colorful foliage in the Conservatory
Todd incorporates colorful foliage into his designs

Along with his horticultural skills, Todd has a background in fine art, including painting and photography. His work in the Conservatory gives him a living canvas for expressing his creativity.

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn sketch shows details of a planting in the Conservatory

“From flowers to foliage, there are so many colors and textures to work with that it really is like ‘painting with plants’. My designs often begin with the color and pattern of foliage and how I can best create multi-level displays that intrigue our guests and engage their imagination,” said Todd.

A special project in 2019

Biltmore Gardens Railway includes this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory
In 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway included this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory

In addition to his regular responsibilities, Todd was instrumental in preparing the Conservatory to host Biltmore Gardens Railway in 2019.

The charming botanical model train display featured replicas of estate landmarks, handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

“Once the structures and the trains were installed, we had to create displays around them that both complemented the exhibition and showcased the Conservatory itself as one of Biltmore’s historic gardens,” Todd said. “It was an enormous project, but our guests really enjoyed it!”

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns in 2020

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns to Biltmore this summer; you can enjoy it in Antler Hill Village from July 7 through September 7, 2020.

This year, the botanical model train display will showcase iconic American railway stations, some of which have ties to the Vanderbilt family.

Featured blog image: Todd Roy displays a brilliantly-colored bromeliad in Biltmore’s Conservatory

Summer Entertaining in 3 Easy Steps: Chill, Grill, and Thrill!

Summer entertaining is as easy as chill, grill, and thrill!

Summer entertaining with the Vanderbilts

Ladies enjoying a spring picnic with wine at Biltmore House
Enjoy summer entertaining with an outdoor picnic, just like the Vanderbilts!

At Biltmore, summer entertaining was a favorite pastime for the Vanderbilts and their guests.

From birthday parties in the Rose Garden to picnics on the grassy slopes of Mt. Pisgah, warm weather offered the perfect excuse to leave formal dining behind and enjoy a gathering in the great outdoors.

Chill, Grill, and Thrill

Inspired by their example, here are three easy “chill, grill, and thrill” steps to simplify your summer entertaining whether you’re in the kitchen, on the porch, by the pool—or wherever your plans take you.

Summer entertaining in 3 easy steps: chill, grill, and chill
Chill out with a hearty red wine like our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec and round out the easy meal with a green salad

1) CHILL

First, let’s start with an easy recipe for Grilled Skirt Steak with Tomatillo Salsa created by our Biltmore chefs to take advantage of summer’s bumper crop of tomatillos and heirloom tomatoes.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients
2 pounds trimmed skirt steak (can substitute 4 ribeye steaks)

10 fresh tomatillos, husks removed and tomatillos quartered
8 cloves fresh garlic
3 green onions, roughly chopped
1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro with stems and leaves
1 bunch parsley with stems and leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional; use to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Optional for serving: heirloom tomatoes, quartered; olive oil; fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

Method
The salsa doubles as a marinade for the steak, so prepare it first by combining tomatillos, garlic, onions, shallot, herbs, seasonings, and olive oil in a blender and blending until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of the tomatillo salsa for garnish.

Place steak and marinade in a large zip-top bag and allow to marinate for 1–3 hours in the refrigerator.

Tips for chilling

2) GRILL

Grilled steak and heirloom tomatoes
Grilled Skirt Steak with Tomatillo Salsa

Grill marinated steaks on medium-high heat for 3–5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. When done to your liking, remove steak from the grill and put it on a clean cutting board or platter to rest while you finish the rest of your preparations.

Tips for grilling

  • While the grill heats, prepare a green salad to accompany the meal.
  • After the steak is done, split and toast a couple of baguettes on the still-hot grill to serve with the salad (and soak up those heirloom tomato juices).

3) THRILL

Summer sipping outdoors with Biltmore wines
Enjoy summer sipping and entertaining outdoors with your favorite Biltmore wines

Slice the steak and top with reserved salsa.

Dress quartered heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange around the steak.

Tips for thrilling

  • Bring the entire entrée to the table on the cutting board—no need to transfer to another dish.
  • Use a chiller filled with a mix of ice and water to keep your wine cool, especially if you’re eating outdoors.

Gather your guests

Friends toasting with red wine
Cheers to the chill, grill, and thrill of summer entertaining

Enjoy the chill, grill, and thrill of summer entertaining—plus delicious dining—done the easy way!

Discover more delicious Biltmore recipes and find our award-winning wines online.

Sip Biltmore’s Reserve-Worthy Rosé Wine!

If you think rosé wines are overly sweet or just a little too pink, think again—rosés are one of the hottest trends among wine aficionados at the moment.

For some enthusiasts, rosé wines might have been seen as a lightweight wine, not worth sipping or sharing.

That view is changing, however, as winemakers take rosé wines to a crisper, dryer level that may surprise you.

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Conservatory

Sip our new Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé Wine

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé Wine

Biltmore Winery cultivates a number of varietals in our estate vineyards, and each season we hope to craft Biltmore Reserve wines that reflect the distinctive terroir of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Grape harvest in Biltmore's vineyard

Harvesting wine grapes in Biltmore’s vineyard

“Last year’s harvest yielded enough Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for us to offer something special—a rosé wine, created from our estate-grown grapes,” said Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore winemaker.

Carefully Crafted North Carolina Wines

According to Sharon, the only wines considered for the Biltmore Reserve wine label are those handcrafted from grapes grown in Biltmore’s own estate vineyard and by our North Carolina partners. By law, wines with an appellation and vintage date must contain at least 75% of grapes from the specific region in the year noted.

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Rose Garden

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden

“Our Biltmore Reserve Rosé 2018 wine is crafted from select North Carolina Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes,” noted Sharon. “We’ve coaxed beautiful color and subtle complexity from the fruit, creating layered aromas plus flavors of red berries, tropical fruits, and a hint of spice in this wine.” 
Rosé wines are perfect for outdoor entertaining all summer long.

Savor the Collection of Biltmore Rosé Wines

In addition to our new Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018, we also offer delightful options like Biltmore Estate Zinfandel Blanc de Noir—a vibrant and crisp rosé wine with sweet tropical fruit aromas. 

Our Biltmore Estate Dry Rosé is an elegant and refreshing wine with a subtle, fruit-forward bouquet followed by layers of delicate berry flavors. 

For a sparkling wine as delicious as it is beautiful, try our coral-hued Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir wine crafted from Pinot Noir grapes in the traditional méthode champenoise

Buy Biltmore Rosé Wines Online or at Local Shops

Purchase our rosé wines—or any of our fine Biltmore wines—at the estate’s Winery and shops, online, or through our Retailer Locator.