Chef Vivian Howard of A Chef’s Life Visits Biltmore’s Winery
Written By Jean Sexton
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Biltmore is a proud sponsor of the PBS series A Chef’s Life hosted by chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Vivian Howard. Last fall, Chef Vivian visited Biltmore for a behind-the-scenes look at America’s Largest Home®, which includes America’s most-visited winery. Biltmore winemakers Bernard Delille and Sharon Fenchak were Chef Vivian’s expert guides to help her enjoy learning more about our award-winning Biltmore wines—and tasting them!
We sat down with Vivian recently to reminisce about her visit and learn what she took away from the experience:
Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned about how wine is made at Biltmore?
A: I was fascinated by the challenges faced by the Biltmore winemakers. Weather is a factor whatever you are growing and it is no different at Biltmore. The vineyard is in a valley, where it gets cold and freezes. Hurricanes from the East Coast and Gulf Coast can also bring lots of rain to the North Carolina mountains. Despite the challenges, I think it speaks to Bernard’s and Sharon’s skills as winemakers that they consistently produce great tasting wines.
Q: Were you surprised by any part of the experience?
A: We did a Malbec barrel tasting, which was really fun. I had never done that before. It was interesting to taste a wine in the middle of the winemaking process. Most people only ever get to taste the finished product.
Q: What else was a highlight of your visit?
A: I loved hearing the stories of how Bernard and Sharon ended up at Biltmore. Bernard came from France more than 30 years ago to be the assistant winemaker. He went from the Pyrenees to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sharon, who grew up in Pennsylvania, decided as a nine-year-old who was fascinated with science, fermentation, and yeast that she wanted to become a winemaker. Her parents didn’t drink alcohol. But her time spent in Italy while in the military furthered her ambition. I think it’s interesting how their two very different paths lead them to working together at Biltmore.
Q: What is your approach when it comes to food and wine pairings?
A: My husband Ben and I try to choose wines that we like and that are relatively food friendly. Neither of us gravitate toward heavily oaked wines. Most of my food pairs well with lighter reds or medium-bodied whites. In fact, the wine list at Chef & the Farmer includes two Biltmore Estate wines: the Biltmore Reserve Viognier 2015 and the Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2015 sparkling wine.
Q: What is your favorite Biltmore wine?
A: I’m fond of their sparkling white wines. My favorite thing to drink right now is an Aperol spritz, which is a traditional Italian cocktail that combines sparkling wine, club soda and Aperol, a sweet orange and bitter liqueur. The Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs, which I mentioned is on our wine list, and their Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir sparkling both make a good Aperol spritz.
Q: What was your favorite part of the visit?
A: I am far from a wine expert but I loved learning about wine from Sharon and Bernard. Being in the middle of that breathtaking winery really brought the winemaking process to life. Besides, who wouldn’t want to listen to Bernard’s French accent all day?
Take a tour of Biltmore’s Winery
Want to experience your own behind-the-scenes tour of the Biltmore Winery? Join us for our one-hour tour offered daily for $10 per person.