Designing Christmas One Room at a Time

Please enjoy this archived content from our
2018 Christmas at Biltmore celebration.

To create the magic of Christmas at Biltmore, our Floral Displays team* draws inspiration from the details of America’s Largest Home®, including the style and furnishings of the rooms and objects from Biltmore’s collection displayed within them.

For 2018, let’s explore the stunning holiday décor created for some of the most iconic rooms in Biltmore House, learning how each designer brings their vision to life.

Grand Staircase Christmas tree in Biltmore House
The Grand Staircase tree offers heavenly inspiration with stars and cherubs

Vestibule, Entry Hall, and Grand Staircase

“This connected set of open spaces is the first thing guests see when entering Biltmore House,” said Joslyn Kelly, floral designer, “and it sets the tone for their whole visit.”

For the Vestibule, Joslyn used crystal garland and swags accented with gold to create an impression of entering heaven. She placed trees behind the paned glass in that area, adding twinkling lights for a star-like effect. 

The heavenly theme continues into the Entry Hall, with soft, iridescent hues of blue, gold, and pink drawn from the painted ceiling in the Library. Look for candelabras on the table above a seasonal display of fresh poinsettias and amaryllis.

“I chose a very different look for the tree under the Grand Staircase this year,” said Joslyn. “I was inspired by the celestial details on the face of the grandfather clock that stands nearby.” 

Crowned with suspended stars and featuring charming cherub ornaments, this tree is centered under the Grand Staircase Chandelier, making it appear as though the four-story light is the tree topper. 

“The tree looks different at each level, giving our guests a new perspective as they go up and down the Grand Staircase.”

Renoir-inspired Mediterranean colors in the Breakfast Room

Breakfast Room

“When you have two paintings by Renoir in a room, that’s a wonderful source of inspiration,” said Sara Merkel, another member of Biltmore’s Floral Displays team. 

“The artist painted these after he retired to the Mediterranean, so I’ve pulled out the warm orange and green tones of the region that are featured in both Child with Orange and Young Algerian Girl, plus a bit of blue for the Wedgwood-style fireplace surround.” 

In addition to the colors, look for Sara’s décor to incorporate a rich assortment of herbs, olives, fruit, pomanders, and nuts.

Pretty details in the Morning Salon honor the Vanderbilt family’s Dutch heritage

Morning Salon

Designed to appear as though Edith Vanderbilt might be using the space to write out her Christmas cards, Deborah Link of Floral has created a feminine feel with elegant cobalt and gold ribbon and a Victorian tussie-mussie on the desk. 

“In addition to those elements, I wanted to hint at both George and Edith Vanderbilt’s Dutch origins with classic blue-and-white Delft-style ornaments on the tree,” said Deborah.

Eiffel Tower and fleur-de-lis ornaments evoke a Parisian feeling in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom

“We’re telling a very special story about George and Edith Vanderbilt this year,” said floral designer Kyla Dana. “The tree décor is inspired by the first Christmas of their courtship, which took place in Paris.”

According to archival information, George’s close friend Willie Field secretly took one of George’s stockings and gave it to Edith who filled it with treats including a copy of Quo Vadis—a novel George Vanderbilt enjoyed.

When you enter Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom, note that the room features a lush mix of purples, ambers, and oranges, all inspired by the colors of the distinctive oval ceiling.

Lucinda Ledford points out a delicate spiderweb ornament on the Billiard Room tree

Billiard Room

Lucinda Ledford with Biltmore Floral sought to bring the great outdoors into Biltmore House with details drawn from Buckspring Lodge—the Vanderbilts’ rustic retreat built on the slopes of Mt. Pisgah

“Since this room features sporting prints and other elements of outdoor pursuits,” said Lucinda, “I utilized natural colors and textures such as feathers and pine cones to introduce a woodland tone. There are also small framed photographs of the Vanderbilt family on the tree as ornaments.”

Banquet Hall Christmas tree

Other 2018 Christmas at Biltmore Highlights:

  • 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 George Vanderbilt’s love of travel—especially nautical travel—the décorations will include ships, stars, and rope knots. 
  • Oak Sitting Room
    • ​Look for colorful décor in rich jewel tones of red, cobalt, gold, and green, all drawn from the room’s splendid Axminster—the only rug of English origin in Biltmore House.
  • Watson Room
    • As the sole room featuring twin beds, it’s easy to imagine children staying here on Christmas Eve. Look for stockings hanging on the bedposts and a small floor tree decorated with dolls, beads, and German blown glass ornaments.
  • South Tower Room
    • This charming scene features a table with paper, ribbon, and gifts since archival notes tell us this is where Edith Vanderbilt wrapped her gifts for the Christmas season!

Creating Christmas With Lizzie Borchers

When your responsibilities include decorating America’s Largest Home® for Christmas, you want to make sure you’re ready for the start of the holiday season.

Father and daughter enjoy Christmas at Biltmore

Create a Biltmore Christmas tradition with your family

Ahead of schedule

“We’re a little ahead of schedule this year,” said Lizzie Borchers, Floral Displays Manager for Biltmore, “and that’s a great place to be, because there’s no telling what bumps we may encounter!”

Now in her second year leading the team that creates the spectacular décor for Christmas at Biltmore, Lizzie feels she’s got a handle on the whole process.

“I feel fortunate to have gone through the entire Christmas at Biltmore season last year before I had to plan it all,” she said. 

Members of Biltmore's landscaping team with poinsettias

Todd Roy, Clare Cottrell, and Kathryn Marsh of Biltmore’s landscaping team with decorative poinsettias 

Team effort

Although her team includes nearly a dozen full-time floral designers and several reserve members who assist with special events, it still takes more than 100 people to bring Christmas together, from housekeeping and engineering to logistics, landscaping, and more.

Not everything happens as expected, however, and Lizzie admits they always have back-up plans, just in case. 

“Orders can be delayed and things can change at the last minute, but we make it work, even if it means pulling extra items out of storage. It’s really all about the details—that’s what sets Biltmore apart. We’re fastidious about what we do, from developing beautiful displays that delight our guests all the way to straightening the ornaments and carefully spacing the lights.”

Antler Hill Village illuminated for the season

Beyond Biltmore House

In addition to decorating Biltmore House, Lizzie’s team also enlivens Antler Hill Village & Winery, both hotels, and all estate restaurants and shops with seasonal splendor

Compared to the formal tone of Biltmore House, Lizzie and her team create a more rustic feel that is authentic for the village.

More than 7,000 ornaments decorate the Winery ceiling

Bubble ornaments sparkle at the Winery

“Inspired by the name, we’ve used a lot of antlers in the décor this year. We’ve added more illuminated grapevine spheres around the Village Green and more cascading waterfall lights in the trees—guests told us how much they love those. And don’t forget all the beautiful bubbles adorning the Winery ceiling—it’s like being inside a glass of champagne!”

Memories that last a lifetime

Although she doesn’t plan to make sweeping changes to the look and feel of the estate’s decorations, Lizzie wants to continue exploring ways to distinguish between Christmas at Biltmore during the day and Candlelight Christmas Evenings at night.

Choirs perform in the Winter Garden during Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore

Choirs perform in the Winter Garden during Candlelight Christmas Evenings

“They’re very different experiences,” she said, “and I want to ensure that our guests enjoy how special the décor is during regular hours, and then return at night to an entirely different feeling, like they’ve stepped back in time. Christmas is the perfect season to discover Biltmore all over again.”

Featured blog image: Lizzie Borchers with some of the “bubbles” that adorn the Winery ceiling

Savor the Art and Science of Winemaking

“The art and science of winemaking—for nearly 20 years, that’s how Bernard Delille and I described ourselves,” said Sharon Fenchak, winemaker and vice president of wine production for Biltmore.

Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille enjoy a glass of wine in Biltmore's vineyard
Biltmore winemakers Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille (now retired) enjoy a glass of wine in Biltmore’s vineyard

“Before his retirement in 2018, that’s also what we accomplished as a team,” Sharon said. 

A shared philosophy

“Our backgrounds were very different, with Bernard having begun his winemaking career in France,” said Sharon, “while my passion for the craft began while I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

Despite their differences, the two shared a philosophy of creating high-quality wines that are true to varietal character while still being food-friendly and approachable.

Savor the art and science of Biltmore wines
Sharon and Bernard at work in Biltmore’s wine lab, tasting the scientific results of the art of winemaking

Raising a glass to retirement

When Bernard announced he planned to retire in July 2018, all the members of the wine production team wanted to handcraft a special wine that would commemorate their years of working together.

“We knew it had to be outstanding,” Sharon said. “It needed to speak to all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and to reflect the distinctive direction in which we’ve developed Biltmore wines.”

Art and science in Biltmore’s vineyard

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

For the wine itself, Sharon and the wine production team looked no further than the natural outgrowth of “art and science” in Biltmore’s vineyard.

When she joined Biltmore’s wine production team in 1999, one of Sharon’s first projects involved a clonal selection initiative in the estate’s vineyards. “Clone” refers to a cutting or bud from an original varietal.

Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak in the vineyard
Sharon has helped nurture the Chardonnay Dijon clones in Biltmore’s vineyard for nearly 20 years

“The vineyard team was working with Dijon Chardonnay clones,” said Sharon, “and we were looking for those best suited to the conditions of the estate vineyard. From a winemaking and viticulture standpoint, clones 76, 95, and 96 showed great promise, producing smaller, looser clusters of grapes with more intense flavors and aromatics.”

The 2017 harvest of these distinctive clones would result in the first release featuring them exclusively, and Sharon knew these grapes were the perfect ones for a signature Chardonnay in honor of Bernard’s dynamic career and their long partnership.

Labeling a work of art

“For the label, we wanted something that illustrated the idea of art and science,” Sharon said. “The marketing team created a number of different concepts, from traditional monograms to some very fun graphics that had grape vines turning into the scientific formula for malolactic fermentation!”

X marks the spot

Commemorative label for the Bernard and Sharon wine
The commemorative Chardonnay label featuring Bernard’s handwriting font at the bottom

According to Lisa Vogel, art director, the design finally came together with an X-shaped cross of the two winemakers’ names and a traditional wax seal featuring their initials in the middle.

“Everyone admired Bernard’s beautiful penmanship,” said Lisa, “so we created a special font entitled ‘Delille’ from his actual handwriting to further personalize the collaboration represented by the label and the wine inside the bottle.”

“It’s a remarkable Chardonnay with a compelling label,” said Sharon. “I hope that everyone who tries it truly savors the art and science of winemaking it represents—including the expertise of our vineyard team who nurtured and harvested the grapes and the care with which the wine production team handcrafts all our Biltmore wines.”

Savor our wines by the bottle or glass

Woman enjoying Biltmore Estate Chardonnay
Savor the art and science of Biltmore wines by the bottle or glass!

Purchase Biltmore wines at the estate, online, or find them close to home.

While visiting Biltmore’s Winery, reserve a time to savor a complimentary tasting of our award-winning wines in person.

Uncork Refreshing Summer Cocktails with Biltmore Wines

Warm summer temperatures naturally call for cool drinks, so whether you’re poolside or porch-side, uncork refreshing summer cocktails with Biltmore wines!

Try our exceptional sparkling wines in your favorite fizzy cocktails and explore our recipes for homemade sangria.

Sparkling Cocktails

Ruby Slipper   |   Pomegranate Pas de Deux Punch   |   Southern Belle

Sangria

White Wine Sangria   |   Red Wine Sangria

Ruby Slipper

Ingredients

Method
Combine vodka, grapefruit juice, and grenadine in a mixing glass over ice. Shake well and strain over ice in a tall glass. Top with Pas de Deux Moscato. Garnish with a fresh strawberry on the rim. Single serving.


Pomegranate Pas de Deux Moscato Punch

Ingredients

  • 1¼ ounces Stoli Ohranj Vodka
  • ¾ ounces Cointreau
  • 1 ounce pomegranate juice
  • ½ ounce fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 2 ounces Pas de Deux Moscato Sparkling Wine
  • Orange wheel for garnish

Method
Combine vodka, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, and orange juice in a mixing glass over ice. Shake well and strain over ice in a tall glass. Top with Pas de Deux Moscato. Garnish with an orange wheel. Single serving.


Southern Belle

Ingredients

• 5 ounces Biltmore Estate Romance Brut Sparkling Wine
• 1 ounce Amaretto Disaronno
• 1 ounce apricot brandy
• Fresh apricot or star fruit, sliced for garnish

Method
Pour brandy and amaretto into champagne flute. Add sparkling wine to the glass. Garnish with apricot or star fruit slice. Single serving.


Biltmore Winery’s White Wine Sangria

Ingredients

• 1½ cups sugar
• ½ cup water
• 2 Fuji apples
• 2 D’Anjou pears
• 2 nectarines
• 1 mango
• 2 blood oranges
• 6 oranges
• 3 lemons
• 2 limes
• ½ cup brandy
• 2 bottles Biltmore Estate Chardonnay

Method
Mix sugar and water in a small saucepan to create a simple syrup. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and set aside to cool. Slice or dice apples, pears, nectarines, mango, blood oranges, 2 oranges, 2 lemons, and 1 lime. Juice the remaining oranges, lemon, and lime.

In a gallon pitcher, mix simple syrup, brandy, juice, and Chardonnay. Add fruit and refrigerate overnight or until needed. Serve in a wine glass filled 2/3 full with ice. Yields 1 gallon.


Red Wine Sangria from The Inn on Biltmore Estate

Ingredients

Method
Mix first 6 ingredients together. Fill 4 wine glasses 2/3 full with ice and top each with 1 ounce of sparkling wine. Garnish each glass with one lime and orange wedge. (This recipe, minus the sparkling wine, can be mixed ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.) Serves 4.

Simple syrup: Mix 1½ cups sugar with ½ cup water in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Chill.

Restoring Our Roof: North Tower Ridge Cap Project

In 2015, several leaks in Biltmore House made it clear the time had come for restoring our roof.

We brought in Huber & Associates, a firm of historical and restoration roofing experts, to remove the original North Tower Ridge Cap from America’s Largest Home.

Restoring the roof of Biltmore House
A worker removes a section of the original ridge cap under the watchful eye of a grotesque carving

After carefully removing each section and taking it back to their Florida workshop, the team used the original pieces as models to build an all-new ridge cap for restoring our roof.

This seven-month project shows our commitment to our continuing mission of preserving Biltmore. Here’s how the work unfolded:

April 2015

The crew arrived at Biltmore and spent several days disassembling the North Tower Ridge Cap and preparing the pieces for travel.

A worker removes a section of the original copper roofing
A member of Huber & Associates carefully removes an original section of the North Tower Ridge Cap

May 2015

Three different weights of copper were discovered — 18, 20, and 24 ounce — as well as a leaf from one of the vertical panels that still had some of the original gold leaf intact!

Restoring the roof panels
An original roof panel with George Vanderbilt’s monogram still shows traces of gold leaf

About 900 individual pieces arrived in Florida, where they were inventoried and analyzed.

June 2015

Scaffolding in place to access North Tower Ridge Cap restoration on roof of Biltmore House
Scaffolding in place to access North Tower Ridge Cap restoration on roof of Biltmore House

Meanwhile, work continued at Biltmore to repair any underlying leaks in the roof, and a temporary ridge cap was created to prevent further damage while the replacement was being built in Florida. 

August 2015

Restoring elements of the roof of Biltmore House
Exact reproductions of decorative copper components from the North Tower Ridge Cap

The crew at Huber & Associates created separate casts for stamping, pouring, and forming new molds to replicate the original pieces.

October 2015

Restoring our roof at Biltmore House
Huber & Associates returned to install the replicated pieces of the ridge cap

Huber & Associates finished their painstaking replication of the North Tower Ridge Cap and brought all the pieces (original and new) back to Biltmore for installation. The photo above shows one of the new copper sections being installed next to an original portion of the ridge cap with its distinctive green patina.

November 2015

Installation of the new North Tower Ridge Cap began and the project was completed in late November. The original pieces were placed in storage.

The new copper ridge cap is a reddish-brown color that looks much like it did when Biltmore House was completed in 1895. It is being allowed to acquire a natural patina over time rather than trying to match it by modern methods.

Restoring our roof with new copper sections
A worker installs a new section of the North Tower Ridge Cap

Biltmore was honored to receive the Griffin Award for Restoration—given annually by The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County for projects that accurately depict the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time—for this preservation initiative.

We are grateful to our amazing employees and to Huber & Associates for all their hard work. 

Biking in Biltmore’s 8,000-Acre Backyard

Before coming to Biltmore, Outdoor Adventure Center guide Roy Vandervoort worked as a master bike technician for REI and he owned his own bike shop—all that’s to say, he certainly knows a thing or two about cycling.

So when it comes to biking in Biltmore’s 8,000-acre backyard, Roy is an expert.

Bike Barn signStationed at the Bike Barn in Antler Hill Village, Roy and his crew offer bike options for everyone.

Choose from tandems and tagalongs, single-speeds for the paved Lagoon trail or all-terrain geared bikes for woodland trails.

“The estate has both a variety of trails and gorgeous scenery, which makes it an ideal place for biking,” says Roy. “Of all the wonderful trails here on the estate, I’d have to say the Westover Trails are my personal favorite.”

Close-up of bikesBut biking isn’t Roy’s only special skill. He is also seasoned at archery instruction and leading float trips on the French Broad River—all hard labor, of course.

“Whether I’m giving advice on equipment or helping to select a trail, I love to engage with our guests,” says Roy, “but our river float trips are extra special for me because I get to participate, too!”

Estate Activities signStop by the Bike Barn or the Outdoor Adventure Center during your next estate visit and let Roy and his crew help you find the perfect way to play in our Blue Ridge Mountain backyard.

From the Ground Up: Preparing for Chihuly at Biltmore

Chihuly at Biltmore was on display from May 17 to October 7, 2018.
Please enjoy this archived content.

While still in high school, Clare Cottrell discovered two important things that would help shape her future: 1) it was possible to have a career in Public Horticulture, and 2) the location of her dream job was Biltmore.

Clare joined Biltmore’s landscaping team in 2007 after earning her degree in Horticulture Management at Bob Jones University. She served in a number of garden-related roles before becoming Supervisor of Gardens and Conservatory in 2017.

Clare Cottrell at work in Biltmore's Conservatory

Clare at work in the Conservatory

Chihuly at Biltmore

In addition to her day-to-day responsibilities supervising these areas, Clare was also involved with the preparations to host Chihuly at Biltmore—the first art exhibition in our historic gardens and the first North Carolina garden exhibition by artist Dale Chihuly whose works are included in more than 200 museum collections worldwide.

“The preparation for this exhibition was intense,” Clare said, “but it is wonderful to have our gardens be a focal point for guests in 2018.”

Base for Chihuly sculpture in Walled Garden at Biltmore

Base for one of the Chihuly sculptures in the Walled Garden

Planning and preparation

Planning for Chihuly at Biltmore—and its special evening component Chihuly Nights at Biltmore—began nearly two years ago and includes the addition of major infrastructure in our gardens. Power and data lines had to be in place before last year’s spring tulip bulbs were planted, and in a carefully timed three-month period during fall 2016, two crews spent three months installing underground utilities.

In November 2017, the foundations for Chihuly’s sculptures were installed, and some of the complimentary garden plantings were completed.

Chihuly sculpture mounted on its base (shown above) in the Walled Garden

“Specific types and colors of plants were planned around the sculptures and will change with the seasons,” said Clare. “Many of the botanical elements help provide a protective buffer for the artworks, such as low-growing juniper and sedges planted around the foundation of one of the large pieces in the Walled Garden.”

Towering palm in the Conservatory at Biltmore

Towering palm in the Conservatory

Palm project

According to Clare, some long-term garden maintenance projects had to be completed ahead of schedule to prepare for the exhibition.

“Because of the sculptures that are displayed in the Conservatory, we went ahead with a major overhaul of the Palm Room,” Clare said. “There are more than 200 palms in the Conservatory, and some of them are very old. We re-potted and repositioned them to focus the view on the ends where Chihuly’s Chandeliers are installed.”

Walled Garden and Conservatory at Biltmore

Walled Garden and Conservatory at Biltmore

The future looks bright

Even with the demands of the extra planning and preparation, Clare is excited that the estate is hosting Chihuly at Biltmore now through October 17, and she looks forward to the future.

“This exhibition has given us the opportunity to upgrade the infrastructure of the gardens, and that means we can try new ideas and events,” said Clare.

Featured blog image: Clare Cottrell, Supervisor of Gardens and Conservatory 

Spring is a Special Time to Honor Olmsted

Spring is a special time to honor Frederick Law Olmsted, Biltmore’s landscape designer.

Bench by Biltmore's Bass Pond
A quiet spot near the Bass Pond highlights Olmsted’s landscape design

When designing Biltmore’s historic gardens and grounds, Olmsted knew that spring would set the stage for all the glorious seasons to come.

Today, the meticulously maintained landscape still stand as a timely tribute to Olmsted’s springtime birthday.

Born April 26, 1822, Olmsted is known as “the father of American landscape architecture,” with premiere projects including Central Park in New York City and the grounds of California’s Stanford University.

Olmsted designed this lagoon to reflect Biltmore House
The Lagoon is one of Olmsted’s many landscape designs for Biltmore

“There are many beautiful American parks and landscapes that reflect Olmsted’s genius,” said Parker Andes, Director of Horticulture, “but it’s the design for Biltmore that is considered Olmsted’s masterpiece.”

According to Parker, Olmsted had already worked on several Vanderbilt family projects when George Vanderbilt approached him in 1888 for advice on the North Carolina property he’d already purchased.

“Now I have brought you here to examine it and tell me if I have been doing anything very foolish,” Vanderbilt reportedly told Olmsted.

Olmsted’s frank assessment

Biltmore's Approach Road in spring
The Approach Road to Biltmore House is lined with azaleas each spring

“Olmsted was frank in his assessment, advising Vanderbilt that the soil seemed to be generally poor, with most of the good trees having been culled already,” Parker said. “He noted that the topography was unsuitable for creating the type of park scenery that characterized the English country estates that Vanderbilt admired.”

Olmsted planned colorful blooms for spring in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Colorful spring blooms in Biltmore’s Shrub Garden

Plans for both the house and landscape changed in 1889 when Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt toured France together and the scale of Biltmore House and its surrounding gardens expanded.

Olmsted wrote that he was nervous, not sure how to “merge stately architectural work with natural or naturalistic landscape work,” but Olmsted biographer Witold Rybczynki says that the landscape architect achieved something completely original at Biltmore: the first combination of French and English landscape designs.

White wisteria blooming in Biltmore's Walled Garden
White wisteria blooming in the Walled Garden

“You can see Olmsted’s creativity and skill in the transitions between Biltmore’s formal and natural gardens, and his use of native plants, small trees and large shrubs, and color and texture year-round,” said Parker. 

Now that Biltmore welcomes 1.7 million guests each year, the historic gardens and grounds must be protected and preserved as carefully as Biltmore House and all other original parts of the estate.

Kids in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
Guests of all ages love discovering Biltmore’s “outdoor rooms” like the Azalea Garden

“In addition to the impact of so many visitors, the landscape has changed and matured over the past century,” said Parker, “and the challenge for today’s landscaping team lies in determining what Olmsted intended.”

Landscaping crew at work in Biltmore's Walled Garden
Landscaping crews at work to carry on Olsted’s vision for Biltmore

“The team uses archival resources such as early plans, original plant lists, letters of correspondence, weekly reports written during the construction of the estate, and information about Olmsted’s design philosophies to help them preserve the landscape style while remaining true to Olmsted’s vision,” Parker noted.

Plan your visit this spring

Prepare to be dazzled as the splendor of spring unfolds across Biltmore’s historic gardens and grounds and thousands of blossoms create a tapestry of color across the estate.

Featured blog image: A couple enjoys a visit to the estate’s historic gardens and grounds

Patron of the Arts: George Vanderbilt

With his deep appreciation and understanding of arts and languages and his vision for a self-sustaining country estate, George Vanderbilt could easily be called a “Renaissance man;” a description given to individuals who possess many talents or areas of knowledge and are considered versatile and well-rounded in a number of fields.
 

Photographic portrait of young George VanderbiltPatron of the arts

George Vanderbilt did more than simply collect and appreciate art, however; he was also a passionate patron who befriended artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, commissioning their works for his home and corresponding with them far beyond the particulars of portraiture.

Literary authors including Edith Wharton and Henry James were welcomed at Biltmore, and George Vanderbilt’s close friend and author Paul Leicester Ford spent several weeks at the estate while working on his novel Janice Meredith: A Story of the American Revolution
 

George Vanderbilt's personal bookplate

Personal philanthropy

In addition to his personal friendships, George Vanderbilt was a great proponent of public access to the arts, using his philanthropic values to ensure that others could benefit from institutions such as free lending libraries.

While most libraries of that era required patrons to pay for the books they borrowed, Vanderbilt provided funding to build the Jackson Square Free Circulating Library of the New York Public Library System and filled it with books that he donated. This library was one of the first open to the general public.

Rhinocerous by Albrecht DurerOne of George Vanderbilt’s most significant donations was to The American Fine Arts Society in support of young artists. In 1892, Vanderbilt donated $100,000 to pay for the property and construct the building that the Society would use for exhibiting members’ work.

Named the Vanderbilt Gallery in his honor, the inaugural exhibition was a show of Rembrandt and Durer prints, plus prints based on the paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, all from George Vanderbilt’s personal collection. While the Rembrandt prints are no longer part of the collection, some of the Durer prints and those after the style of Reynolds remain at Biltmore today.

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Living the legacy

We continue George Vanderbilt’s passion for the arts today by hosting exhibitions such as Chihuly at Biltmore featuring the monumental glass sculptures of artist Dale Chihuly. Awe-inspiring by day, the installations are also breathtaking during Chihuly Nights at Biltmore with the effects of dramatic evening lighting upon the luminous colors and graceful forms of these spectacular installations.

Chihuly at Biltmore

Join us May 17–October 7 for Chihuly at Biltmore and Chihuly Nights at Biltmore on select evenings during the exhibition. Separate admission is required for Chihuly Nights at Biltmore.

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Blog images:
Featured: Bronze bust of George Vanderbilt by Mary Grant
First image: Photographic portrait of young George Vanderbilt
Second image: George Vanderbilt's personal bookplate
Third image:
Rhinocerous print by Albrecht Durer in Biltmore's collection

Uncorked: Meet Biltmore’s Sommelier

If you’ve ever wondered how to choose the perfect wine to accompany your meal, a professional sommelier can help you uncork the “secrets” of selecting something special.

Speaking from experience

Artur Loli, sommelier for The Inn on Biltmore Estate™, knows that great wine is part of what makes fine dining so memorable.  

Guests at The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate

“The Dining Room of The Inn is world-class,” said Artur, “and Chef Eckman’s culinary skills are legendary, so the wines we offer must also be outstanding enough to elevate the entire experience.”

In fact, The Dining Room of The Inn was recently named a new Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Restaurant. According to Charles Thompson, General Manager of The Inn on Biltmore Estate, these illustrious stars are a remarkable achievement.

“The award speaks to the dedication of our talented staff who truly offer our guests an exceptional travel experience” Charles noted.

Rigorous training

Training to become a sommelier is not an easy process, and often requires years of study to understand and appreciate the nuances of the world’s wines.

Some would-be sommeliers opt for courses through organizations such as the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) to gain a solid foundation in wine knowledge before pursuing further certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, the American Sommelier Association, or hospitality schools. Others choose to work in the industry, seeking a combination of hands-on experience and mentorship by working in vineyards, wineries, and wine-driven restaurants.

“You can certainly learn a lot in the classroom,” Artur said, “but there’s no substitute for working in the hospitality industry where you discover what real guests like and dislike. 

Good listener

Artur, who began working in the hospitality field in Santorini, Greece, 25 years ago and has spent the past 16 years with The Inn, knows that good listening skills are one of the most important tools a sommelier can offer.

“Helping someone choose a wine that complements their meal is as much about listening to them as it is about knowing which varietal has good acidity or which vintage is preferable. All our Biltmore wines are outstanding,” he said, “so it’s never about selling more wine or pushing the most expensive wines we offer. What really matters is earning a guest’s trust with wine selections that appeal to their palate, even when that means non-traditional pairings.”

For Artur, the most rewarding thing about being a sommelier is that he become part of the guests’ experience–especially when they choose to celebrate a special event at The Inn

“It is my pleasure to offer a warm welcome to all our guests, from those who have never joined us before to those who have spent more than 500 nights at The Inn. Helping guests select a bottle of wine, for me, is more than a service standard and a job requirement–it is a passion of mine. Countless times, uncorking a bottle of wine sparks a conversation that is the beginning of creating loyal guests for decades to come.”

Plan your getaway today

Ready to experience the four-star elegance of The Inn on Biltmore Estate? Reserve your special getaway today, and be sure to include The Dining Room–with its impressive new Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Restaurant designation–in your plans so that Artur Loli and other members of The Inn’s knowledgeable staff can help make your visit more memorable!

Blog images
— Featured image: Artur Loli serves sparkling wine to guests at The Inn
— First image: Guests enjoying wine at The Dining Room of The Inn
— Second image: Artur brings wine to guests at an outdoor event at The Inn
— Third image: A sommelier is an expert at opening wines as well as choosing them