Highlights From Our 2019 Vineyard Harvest

In 2019, Biltmore’s vineyard produced 177.5 tons of grapes on approximately 45 acres of mature vitis vinifera vines—that’s almost double last year’s output.

Biltmore vineyard supervisor Philip Oglesby
Biltmore vineyard supervisor Philip Oglesby

“Harvest began on August 22, and that’s the earliest start I remember in more than 20 years,” said Philip Oglesby, Vineyard Supervisor. “We picked until October 11, and the weather cooperated with long, hot, dry days that allowed the grapes to mature to their full potential.”  

With an average yield of more than four tons per acre, our 2019 harvest can be considered one of the best in recent memory.

Picking red grapes at Biltmore
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard

Quantity and quality

In addition to the quantity, the quality of fruit produced in 2019 was outstanding. Weather played an important role in the process as relatively mild spring temperatures gave way to the kind of hot, dry summer conditions that create earlier-than-normal ripening times.

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina
Grapes for our Biltmore Reserve wines are grown at the estate or selected from local partners

“As always, we look forward to the fine wines that will be handcrafted following the harvest—especially our Biltmore® Reserve wines that are created from estate-grown grapes,” Philip said. “This special designation represents our finest local vintages and our continued commitment to our agricultural heritage.”

Highlights from Biltmore’s vineyards: 

  • Cabernet Franc                                                         37 tons on 8.2 acres
  • Cabernet Sauvignon                                              32 tons on 10.2 acres
  • Chardonnay                                                            103 tons on 25 acres
  • Merlot  5.5 tons on 1.2 acres

Total: 177.5 tons on 44.6 acres

Highlights from our partner vineyards

Sun shining through grapes in Biltmore's vineyard
Grapes ripening in Biltmore’s vineyard

Washington:

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak selected approximately 160 tons of grapes from the state of Washington (America’s second largest producer of wine grapes), with average brix (measurement for the number of grams of sugar present per 100 grams of liquid) around 25, which is comparable to last year.

  • September was very rainy and a hard freeze in early October preventing the grapes from ripening further.
  • Varietals: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, and Tempranillo.
  • Increased selection by 12% compared to 2018.
Ripe red grapes in Biltmore's vineyard
As the grapes ripen in our vineyards, the fruit must be protected from uninvited guests such as robins, geese, and turkeys

California:

Sharon selected approximately 25 different varietals from multiple growing regions throughout the state with an average brix of 23, which was slightly higher than 2018. 

  • Arroyo Seco, CA
    • Approximately 18,000 acres located along the central coast in Monterey County.
    • Cold winter, mild-but-wet spring, and a few summertime heat spikes left grapes with a little more hang-time and a later harvest by about 2–3 weeks.
    • Varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Mendocino County, CA
    • North coast; 14, 512 acres includes 10 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) with very diverse climates.
    • Wet spring and late bud break gave way to moderate weather for most of the growing season; yields were light-to-average, with good fruit quality for the vintage.
    • Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.
  • Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, CA
    • About 15,000 acres of vineyards; known for cool-climate grapes.
    • Heavy rain in late winter and a wet spring led to a moderate yield with a good and healthy crop.
    • Varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel
    • We selected about 120 tons of fruit from the region, with the majority being Pinot Noir, of which about half will be handcrafted to become Vanderbilt Reserve wines.
Pouring Biltmore wine into a glass
Tempranillo is a great way to spice up your wine selections

Savor Biltmore Wines

Whether you’re visiting the estate and enjoying complimentary tastings at our Winery or stocking up on your favorite varietals in your neighborhood or online, we invite you to savor our award-winning wines today!

Explore Biltmore Estate Limited Release Wines

For our Biltmore Estate Limited Release series, winemaker Sharon Fenchak carefully crafts each one with outstanding grapes sourced from partner vineyards in California and Washington.

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

“When I discover exceptional grapes from one of our west coast growers, it inspires me to create distinctive wines for our Limited Release series,” Sharon said.

She noted that the Limited Release wines are usually based on smaller amounts of fruit, and that gives her production team an opportunity to bring out the qualities of the varietal.

96 Points: Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec

Enjoy Biltmore Estate Limited Release Wines
Enjoy award-winning Biltmore Estate Limited Release Wines like our Malbec

Dark chocolate-covered cherries, hints of cocoa, and violets are the dramatic opening scents of our outstanding Biltmore Estate Limited Release Malbec, which just scored 96 points and a double gold medal at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The varietal originated in France and rose to its current popularity in Argentina and California. As dark as crushed berries in the glass, our Malbec is rich, fruit-forward, and a bit spicy with lingering tannins that pair perfectly with grilled meat, kebabs, and andouille sausage.

It’s also a surprisingly good partner for smoked cheeses and vegetarian fare like mushroom ragout, Portobello burgers, and tempeh dishes. As delicious as it is now, it offers good aging potential—if you can stand to wait!

91 Points: Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Tempranillo

Most of the world’s Tempranillo is grown in Spain where it is believed to have originated, but this earthy red wine is rapidly gaining a following around the globe.

“Tempranillo has a lot of personality,” said Sharon. “Ours is full-bodied and fruit-forward with earthy aromas, rich dried fig flavors, and lingering tannins—just what you’d expect in a classic barrel-aged version of this varietal.”

Because of its excellence, our Biltmore Estate Limited Release Tempranillo was recently awarded 91 points and a gold medal by the Beverage Testing Institute. This hearty wine is a great match for beef, lamb curry, and pork.

Explore all Biltmore Estate® Limited Release wines

Pouring Biltmore wine into a glass
Tempranillo is a great way to spice up your wine selections

In addition to these two award-winning varietals, enjoy other wines in our Limited Release series: Biltmore Estate Limited Release Chenin Blanc, Biltmore Estate Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Biltmore Estate Dry Riesling, Biltmore Estate Limited Release Merlot, Biltmore Estate Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc.

Purchase Biltmore Wines online now

Biltmore Estate Limited Release Merlot on a holiday table
Purchase any of our wines–including the Limited Release series–at the estate or online

Whether you stick to your favorites or explore any of our unique varietals, you can stock up on our award-winning wines close to home through our Retail Locator or shop online.

Creating A Glorious Gingerbread Cottage

Thank you for enjoying this archived content from 2019!

Each year, the pastry team at The Inn on Biltmore Estate® welcomes Christmas at Biltmore with a special tradition: the construction of a gingerbread confection inspired by the beautiful details of George Vanderbilt’s private estate.

The Cottage on Biltmore Estate
The Cottage on Biltmore Estate

Choosing the perfect subject

For 2019, the team has chosen to reproduce the charming Market Gardener’s Cottage that greets guests as they travel to and from The Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Designed by Richard Howland Hunt, son of Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt, the Market Gardener’s Cottage dates back to 1896. It was the site of the estate’s Market Garden, also known as the Truck Farm.

Fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the fertile fields surrounding the cottage were served in Biltmore House, and the surplus was sold to area hotels, grocers, and community members.

Now known as Cottage on Biltmore Estate, this historic structure is offered as a premier overnight property that allows guests to enjoy an extraordinary lodging experience.

A challenging creation

Members of The Inn’s pastry team contributed more than 295 hours of labor to construct this gingerbread replica of Biltmore’s historic Market Gardener’s Cottage.

“Creating the cottage was extra challenging for us this year because we had to halt production for two days since Thanksgiving was so late,” said Pastry Chef Dana McFarland who oversees the project each year.

A family of bears on the steps of the gingerbread cottage
A family of bears on the steps of the gingerbread cottage

Special ingredients

Her team used the following ingredients for their massive gingerbread construction project:

  • 124 pounds of powdered sugar
  • 17 pounds of gingerbread
  • 15 pounds of modeling chocolate
  • 14 pounds of Jolly Rancher® hard candies
  • 8 pounds of fondant
  • 5 pounds of old-fashioned candy sticks
  • 5 pounds of caramel chocolate balls
  • 4 pounds of Jelly Belly® jelly beans
  • 9 ounces of M&M’s®
  • 2 ounces of Sixlets®

In researching the Market Gardener’s Cottage to make sure they had the details correct, the pastry team learned that there were originally several greenhouses behind it. They created an array of fruits and vegetables that might be grown in a greenhouse at this time of year to display in the cottage’s courtyard, including apples, butternut squash, carrots, pears, and pumpkins.

Confection perfection!

“All the shingles on the cottage were hand-cut out of modeling paste,” Chef McFarland said. “And though most guests have guessed that the courtyard bricks are made out of Tootsie Rolls®, we actually used Jolly Rancher candies to get that look.”

Gingerbread cottage at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
The decorated Christmas tree in the courtyard of the cottage

One special highlight of the gingerbread cottage is the Christmas tree in the courtyard–it has tiny garlands of popped sorghum on it–and it spins!

“The wreaths and garlands on the cottage all have individually-cut cut green flowers on them to give the appearance of evergreens,” said Chef McFarland, “while the bushes in the front and the trees in the back are made with Rice Krispy® treats.”

Tiny gingerbread wreath on the cottage
A perfectly detailed gingerbread wreath on the cottage

Last but certainly not least, Chef McFarland notes that there are 60 feet of mini lights on the outside of the cottage, and an infuser placed inside the structure makes it look as if there’s real smoke rising from the chimney.

Special thanks to The Inn’s talented pastry team of Chef Dana McFarland, Megan Shreve, Ron Levitan, Lucas Conti, Leilani Padilla, Rachel Tipping, Ashley Buchleitner, Laura Hinzman, Danyelle Sander, Sarah Vess, and Anthony Mushinski for all their hard work!

Visit now

Gingerbread house
Create your own charming confection at one of our Gingerbread House Tea events!

This charming confectionery delight was displayed in the Lobby of The Inn during our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore celebration.

Romance Sparkles at Biltmore

In addition to being America’s Largest Home®, Biltmore also features a state-of-the-art working winery.

There are other distinctions that set Biltmore’s Winery apart, such as the fact that our winemaker crafts both still and sparkling wines here. It’s unusual to offer both—most wineries specialize in one or the other—but Biltmore has a long history of doing the unexpected.

Our sparkling legacy

One reason for our sparkling wine program is to honor the legacy of Edith Dresser Vanderbilt’s family.

Edith Dresser's formal engagement photo, 1898
Edith Dresser’s formal engagement photo, 1898

On May 31, 1898, the Asheville Citizen reported the following story in connection with the upcoming marriage of George Vanderbilt and his fiancée Edith Dresser:

The wine with which the health of the bride is to be drunk at the wedding breakfast of Miss Edith Dresser and George Vanderbilt Thursday has a history, according to the Washington Post. Many years ago the wine cellar of Daniel Le Roy, one of the pioneer summer residents of Newport, was famous, and large sums were offered for what remained of it when Mr. Le Roy died.

None of this famous wine was ever sold, but as the stock decreased Mrs. Le Roy directed that it should not be used except at the wedding of her grandchildren and their descendants, a certain number of bottles being apportioned to each.

“Once we discovered this story,” said Jill Whitfield, senior marketing manager for Biltmore Wines. “We wanted to share the details so that everyone could enjoy it. It continues to inspire us as we create different styles of sparkling wines perfect for all celebrations,” Jill said.

Isn’t it romantic?

Biltmore Estate Romance Brut Sparkling wine label
Romance features a stunning floral label

Our Biltmore Estate® Romance Brut honors that charming gesture. Romance is handcrafted from grapes selected from our California vineyard partners, including a hint of Pinot Noir that shows up in its delicate rosy straw color. The soft bouquet offers hints of citrus, apple, and brioche, while fine, tiny bubbles give way to flavors of white peach and a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. Pair it with your favorite party fare including prosciutto-wrapped melon, chicken salad croissants, brie, and—of course—wedding cake!

In addition to being an exceptional sparkling wine, Romance features a lovely floral label that enhances any special occasion, from bridal showers and receptions to engagements and anniversaries.

Handcrafted in traditional style

Sparkling wine being poured into a glass
Our sparkling wines are handcrafted in the traditional style

“All our sparkling wines are handcrafted in the traditional méthode champenoise,” said Jill. “This process requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle, and is vital for developing the delicate bubbles that characterize outstanding sparkling wines.”

Let the party bubble up!

Pouring sparkling wine
Sip Pas de Deux Sec with food or create sparkling cocktails

If you’re looking for a versatile sparkling wine that pairs well with a surprising variety of foods, opt for our Pas de Deux® Moscato Sparkling Wine. “This semi-sweet sparkler has a slight orange aroma that complements its flavor profiles, plus flavors of wild strawberry and lemon,” said Jill.

“Our Pas de Deux is a delightful addition to sweet treats such as fresh fruit, pound cake, and crème brûlée, and it’s a perfect partner for spicy cuisines,” Jill noted. “And it was recently awarded 90 points by Beverage Testing Institute!”

More great ratings

Biltmore sparkling wines in an ice bucket
Put Biltmore Estate Brut on your “bucket list!”

Our Biltmore Estate® Brut recently earned 90 Points + Editor’s Choice from Wine Enthusiast, making it another excellent choice for celebrations or any occasion that calls for bubbly.

“It’s a refreshing blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ,” Jill said, “and it offers a good balance of citrus and strawberries with hints of honey and apricot.”

Our finest sparkling

Pouring Biltmore sparkling wine into a glass
Biltmore sparkling wines are characterized by fine, tiny bubbles

For a truly elegant gesture, Jill suggests serving our Biltmore Estate® Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs.

“This is our finest sparkling wine,” Jill said. “It is crafted from North Carolina Chardonnay grapes and features tiny, elegant bubbles that burst to release tropical and citrus flavors. If you want to make an impression on someone special, this is the wine to choose.”

Biltmore Estate Brut and glasses
Celebrate any occasion with Biltmore sparkling wines

No matter what you’re serving or celebrating, pair your good times with Biltmore wines!

Decking the Halls, Biltmore Style

Each year, our Floral Displays team decks the halls of America’s Largest Home® for Christmas at Biltmore.

For 2019, discover how they draw inspiration from the beautiful details, including the art and furnishings, in Biltmore House.

Winter Garden and Surroundings

Decorating Christmas trees in Biltmore House
Norene Barrett puts finishing touches on a Christmas tree topper

Norene Barrett began working at Biltmore 18 years ago in the mail services department. Though she enjoyed her role, she looked for different ways to express her own creativity.

In 2015, after taking an intensive course in floral design, Norene joined Floral Displays and is now responsible for decorating sections of Biltmore House and the estate.

Decorating Christmas trees in Biltmore House
Floral team members Feny Bryan, Norene Barrett, and Kathy Nameth decorate a trio of trees inspired by the Greek friezes on the wall

“This trio of trees is meant to take guests back in time,” Norene said of her design for the area between the Winter Garden and the Billiard Room. “The trees are cheery and bright, but I used a lot of white elements for continuity with the series of Greek friezes on the walls.”

Norene added snowy branches to her décor along with period ornaments to bring a nostalgic feeling of Christmas past.

Winter Garden in Biltmore House decorated for Christmas at Biltmore
Winter Garden decorated for Christmas at Biltmore

For the Winter Garden, Norene is planning to light the evergreen garlands so that they glow, and instead of traditional kissing balls suspended from the greenery, she has created sparkling swags that catch the light. She’ll also add plenty of poinsettias to emphasize the garden feel of the space.

Breakfast Room

Adding ornaments to a Christmas tree in the Breakfast Room
Joslyn Kelly adds ornaments to the Breakfast Room tree

“This is the room where the family would eat breakfast, so I wanted it to have a warm, homey feeling as if you’re being welcomed to the table,” said Joslyn Kelly, floral designer.

Pink ornaments for the Breakfast Room
A selection of red and pink Christmas ornaments chosen to complement the Breakfast Room decor

Drawing inspiration from the room’s elegant cut velvet draperies and upholstery, Joslyn selected ornaments in a range of pinks and reds to complement the lovely patterns and colors of the fabric.

Floral displays on the Breakfast Room table
Lush floral displays and cranberry topiaries top the Breakfast Room table during Christmas at Biltmore

Look for glorious floral arrangements, towering topiaries of deep burgundy cranberries, and gilded pears among the delicate crystal and china place settings on the table.

Morning Salon

Nativity scene in the Tapestry Gallery
The estate’s Nativity scene, often staged in the Tapestry Gallery in years past

Cristy Leonard has been a member of the floral team for seven years, and the Salon is one of her areas to decorate for our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore celebration.

The estate’s large traditional Nativity will be staged in the Salon this year, and according to Cristy, the set has been a major source of inspiration for her designs.

“I’ve planned special new surroundings that includes twinkling lights to resemble nighttime in Bethlehem,” Cristy said.

Biltmore designer holds ornaments she created
Cristy Leonard displays ornaments she created for the Salon tree

Cristy chose to decorate the Salon’s main tree in brilliant peacock blues and greens with bright touches of gold. She added cherubs, gilded grapes, and grapevines to symbolize the prosperity and blessings of the season.

Christmas tree in Biltmore House Salon
Salon Christmas tree wound with gold fabric

As a finishing touch, Cristy swathed the tree in yards of gauzy golden fabric, echoing the look of the room’s iconic draped and tented ceiling.

Third Floor Living Hall

Harpist in Third Floor Living Hall
Seasonal music in the Third Floor Living Hall

During the Vanderbilt era, Third Floor Living Hall was a place for guests to relax in the evenings, share the events of the day, and perhaps read or catch up with friends.

Michelle Warren of Biltmore’s floral team created a child’s tree for this room, complete with dolls, toys, and wooden soldiers around the base, ready for the younger set to play with them while their parents indulged in a sing-along or a game of cards.

Humpty Dumpty toy under Christmas tree
A whimsical Humpty Dumpty and other toys under the Third Floor Living Hall Christmas tree

As you enter Third Floor Living Hall, look for a charming scene featuring a table set up with paper, ribbon, and tags, just as if Edith Vanderbilt were wrapping her gifts for the Christmas season!

Other 2019 Christmas at Biltmore highlights:

  • Grand Staircase
    • This elegant Christmas tree is centered under the Grand Staircase Chandelier, making it appear as though the four-story light is the tree topper.
  • Banquet Hall
    • From the 35-foot fresh Fraser fir at one end to the triple fireplaces at the other, the Banquet Hall is a traditional guest favorite and one of the most beloved rooms in Biltmore House.
  • Library
    • Themed around the idea of Christmas Traditions, the Library incorporates traditional colors such as gold, red, green, plaids, and a tartan print.
  • Oak Sitting Room
    • The colorful décor in rich jewel tones of red, cobalt, gold, and green is drawn from the room’s splendid Axminster—the only rug of English origin in Biltmore House.
  • Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
    • The tree ornaments are inspired by the Vanderbilts’ courtship which took place in Paris. The room features a soft mix of lilac, amber, and cream colors drawn from the distinctive oval ceiling.
  • Main Kitchen
    • Look for a whimsical gingerbread replica of Biltmore House.

Christmas at Biltmore

Enjoy the daytime celebration November 1, 2019–January 5, 2020, and experience Candlelight Christmas Evenings through January 4, 2020.

Biltmore Holiday Wine Guide

To share the warmth and cheer of Biltmore wines, we’ve created our Holiday Wine Guide to help you make the most of this special season.

“The Holiday Wine Guide covers all the different celebrations from Thanksgiving to New Year’s,” said Jill Whitfield, senior wine marketing manager. “There are recommendations for each special occasion, including thanking your hosts and having gifts on-hand for surprise guests.”

Holiday Entertaining with Wines

Biltmore wines with cake and holiday lights
Look for all Biltmore wines online

“For general holiday entertaining, Biltmore® Estate Cabernet Sauvignon–awarded 95 points in the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition–and Biltmore Estate® Pinot Grigio, which received 90 points from the Beverage Testing Institute, are a great place to start,” Jill said.

Jill recommends rounding out your selections with our Biltmore® Reserve Rosé North Carolina 2018, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2017, and our bubbly Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine.

Your Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving table with Biltmore wines
Our Thanksgiving Trio brings everyone to the table

Whether you’re adding a leaf to your table to accommodate a crowd or traveling out of town to visit family, Biltmore wines pair perfectly with everything from turkey and dressing to flavorful new “Friendsgiving” favorites.

“Our special Thanksgiving Trio featuring Biltmore® Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2018Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2017, and Biltmore Estate® Brut makes it easy to pair all your holiday favorites with a fine wine,” said Jill. “If you want to add a bit more variety, Biltmore Estate® Dry Rosé and Biltmore Estate® Merlot are great wines for delighting your guests.”

Wrap-up Gift Giving with Biltmore Wines

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

Simplify holiday shopping by sharing the gift of Biltmore wines. They make a thoughtful gift for anyone on your list or a special thank-you to your hosts for including you in their celebration.

Consider options such as The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County 2017, which earned 91 points from Critics Challenge, our charming Mariporta Red Dessert Wine, long-time guest favorite Biltmore Estate® Cardinal’s Crest, our lightly sweet Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Chenin Blanc, or our finest sparkling–Biltmore Estate® Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs North Carolina 2017, handcrafted from outstanding locally-grown grapes.

Savor Christmas with Biltmore Wines

Biltmore wines with Christmas tree and desserts
When planning your virtual wine tasting, choose at least three wines to sample together

Showcase your Christmas Eve gathering, Christmas Day Brunch, and Christmas Day Dinner with our most versatile, food-friendly wines to complement any cuisine. 

“Our Biltmore Estate® Sauvignon Blanc earned 91 points in the San Francisco International Wine Competition,” Jill said, “while Critics Challenge awarded our Antler Hill® Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015 93 points. We think you’ll also enjoy sharing our Biltmore Estate® RieslingBiltmore® Reserve Viognier North Carolina 2018, and our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec with your special guests.”

New Year’s: Ready, Set, Celebrate!

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

For a more memorable midnight on New Year’s Eve or a brunch featuring traditional favorites the following day, be sure to include our sparkling wine, handcrafted in the time-honored méthode champenoise that creates the finest bubbles.

“Shake things up with our Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Noir,” suggested Jill. “Not only is it delicious, but the soft coral color makes it a feast for the eyes, too!”

Sparkling wines may be traditional for New Year’s, but Jill recommends considering a range of other options  including our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Biltmore Estate® Limited Release TempranilloBiltmore Estate® Pinot Noir, and Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay.

Enjoying Our Wines at Home for the Holidays

Biltmore wines with chocolate desserts
For the holidays, we’ve bundled the best of our award-winning wines to help you simplify your celebrations (and save)!

“If you’re ready to re-stock your wine reserves, you can find Biltmore wines close to home with our Retail Locator,” said Jill.

Join the Vanderbilt Wine Club®

Vanderbilt Wine Club Christmas party
Enjoy members-only events like our annual Christmas party

Give a year of wine to someone special with a gift membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club. Members receive three hand-selected Biltmore wines each season, shipped direct to your door, and the first club shipment ships free.

In addition, members save up to 25% on all wine purchases online or at the estate, plus complimentary premium wine tastings, access to first release wines, members-only events, and much more. 

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

Thank you for enjoying this archived information about our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore 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
Find inspiration for virtual gift giving and entertaining with our 2020 Holiday Wine Guide

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

Spring tulips at Biltmore
Tulips are a sure sign of spring at Biltmore

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.