Restoring the Past: The Smoking & Gun Rooms

For upper echelons during the Gilded Age, few things were more important than networking and maintaining social standing. Smoking and Gun Rooms were essential for many affluent families. At Biltmore, these two rooms have been used in various ways over the last century, yet always centered around hospitality.

In honor of National Preservation Month in May, we invite you to learn about the intricate layers of our preservation efforts to restore the Smoking and Gun Rooms of Biltmore House.

Hallway between Smoking and Gun Room
An archival photo of the hallway from the 1940s displays embossed wallpaper resembling leather, dating back to 1911.

A home well-loved

Biltmore has been called home to many generations of Vanderbilts and Cecils throughout the years. And, just as we do in our own homes, we update, refresh, and alternate the use of space, the Smoking and Gun Rooms on the first floor of Biltmore House were no different.

During George Vanderbilt’s time, gentlemen primarily utilized these rooms to socialize, relax, and gear up for outdoor activities including hunting and fishing. After George’s death, Edith and Cornelia downsized, and used these rooms as office and living quarters, which they remained through the Cecils’ stay. Always evolving and reflecting the tastes of the time and lifestyles of their inhabitants.

Handwritten letter by George Vanderbilt from February 13, 1896. Letter says
A handwritten letter by George Vanderbilt in 1896 gives us a glimpse at the historic use of these rooms.

History writes itself

Through a combination of research, our own archival documents and photos, and those from repositories around the world, we can peel back the layers of time to bring Biltmore back to its roots.

Among the treasures uncovered in our archives are a series of letters that offer a glimpse into the past. One letter, dated to the 1890s, finds George requesting retrieval of a box stored in a desk in the Smoking Room—these little nuggets of information provide us with invaluable clues to the room’s furnishings and use.

“Dear Charles, With the enclosed key please open the desk in the smoking room. In the middle drawer is a box addressed to me at Biltmore about 14×7 inches + 2 inches deep… On the top of the desk are a lot of letters and some invitations. Please mail me these.” – George Vanderbilt on February 13, 1896

Herbert Noble in Biltmore Winter Garden c. 1930
Herbert Noble in Biltmore’s Winter Garden c. 1930

The Butler’s Log

Central to our research efforts is the Butler’s Log, meticulously maintained by Herbert Noble during the 1930s. This detailed account of the changes made within Biltmore House offers a treasure trove of information, from descriptions of room updates to insights into the removal and replacement of furnishings and décor that had been worn out, water damaged, or whatever the case may be. Often what he is moving out is the pieces of information that are most helpful.

Herbert recorded, “Leaks at some time had ruined the original paper which was dark green. As the blue draperies were so very faded and worn, I had new ones made for it of dark red damask…”

Edith standing in the Smoking Room
The wallpaper seen in this photo of Mrs. Vanderbilt matches a sample of wallpaper in storage, which assisted us in restoring the Smoking Room to its original state.

We took that information alongside a picture of Edith which shows a striped wallpaper on the wall behind her and found the same green striped wallpaper in our storage. This sample has since been sent off to be reproduced by Atelier D’Offard in Tours, France, who specializes in hand-blocked wallpapers as produced in the 18th and 19th centuries.. The same company who produced wallpapers for the Louis XV Suite.

Another entry states,”Mr. Cecil uses this room for a writing room.  He had the woodwork cleaned & oiled last year…Mr. Cecil had the backs of the cabinets painted yellow which shows up the birds so much more besides improving the appearance of the room.  The dark blue & red rug is from the Van Dyke room…  As this room had no draperies I hung a pair of velvet draperies in here.

A glimpse inside the Gun Room of Biltmore House as it undergoes preservation.

Digging deeper for information

While we had archival clues for the Smoking Room, the Gun Room required the team to start entirely from scratch. According to Lori Garst, Biltmore’s Curator of Collections, we had no archival drawings to use when planning the restoration of the Gun Room. Our research last summer focused on the function of late 19th  and early 20th-century gun rooms.  Based on the finishes in our gun room, we knew that the dirty work of cleaning the guns was done elsewhere.  Rather, Biltmore’s gun room, like others, was more of a gathering place where the men went to pick up their equipment for the afternoon’s shoot or fishing outing. 

Pardon our Preservation: Restoration of these rooms will be visible to guests through completion.

A mission of preservation

For Lori and the team, every preservation project is a chance to uncover and revive history. “Restoration projects at Biltmore uncover our past. Stories related to the spaces are revealed, and the original design details are uncovered. In the Smoking and Gun Room, we have both. When complete, the rooms will be completely transformed.”

We welcome you to see our ongoing preservation efforts of this National Historic Landmark for yourself during your next Biltmore visit.

Through the Lens: Biltmore’s Most Instaworthy Moments

A day on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC is a photophile’s dream! No matter what style of photography you prefer, there’s always a place to #capturethemoment. We’ve found the most instaworthy spots; now all that’s left for you to do is get out your camera and point, tap, and shoot!

Sunflowers at Biltmore
Over 100,000 sunflowers will bloom in our sunflower field at the end of summer this year!

#FarmyardFriends

College of animals on Biltmore Grounds made for instaworthy blog.
One way we continue our farming legacy is by raising some of the same heritage breeds that were here during George Vanderbilt’s lifetime.

Everybody loves cute baby animals and spring is the prime time to meet the newest members of the Farmyard family. Kids will enjoy meeting our friendly farm animals, learning about life on the farm, and playing at the Pisgah Playground.

If a deeper understanding of Biltmore and agriculture is what you’re looking for, our Farm to Table Tour and Taste will take you to the rarely seen West Side of the estate, where our livestock is raised and our greenhouses thrive. You’ll get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at our Black Angus and Jersey beef cattle, Berkshire hogs, and Dorper sheep. If you’re lucky, you might even see their hardworking protectors, three Great Pyrenees.

#NaturalPerspective

Sometimes the best photos are taken off the beaten path. With over 22 miles of trails to explore, you’re sure to find your own instaworthy hidden gems among the forests and fields.

Bass Pond Bridge with children looking over the railing.
The Bass Pond offers a different perspective of Frederick Law Olmsted’s work on Biltmore Estate.

One of our favorite spots to explore and capture is the Bass Pond, situated at the end of Biltmore’s formal gardens. Although it may be a bit of a walk, the charm of its scenery makes it well worth it. A rustic boathouse stands on the shore, and a bridge spans the waterfall at the far end. It’s the perfect spot for photographing instaworthy seasonal color changes and birdwatching all year long.

Couple hiking on Biltmore Grounds.
Get lost in the natural wonder of Biltmore’s 8,000 acres.

If you’re up for a challenge, we highly recommend exploring the Westover Trails for a deeper look at the Birthplace of American Forestry. The black route totals 3.5 miles round-trip, taking you deep into the beautiful woodlands of Biltmore Estate. Great for technical bike riding and an advanced hiking experience, it’s also a wonderful area to get that instaworthy photo of local flora and fauna. Just remember to put your comfy shoes on; this one’s a doozy!

#SipandSavor

H. Angel Cocktail photo from Library Lounge for Blog
Stop by The Library Lounge at The Inn on Biltmore Estate for a #buzzworthy view! Photo courtesy of Heather Angel.

Are you a foodie that moonlights as a shutterbug? You’ll find delicious treats all across the estate! Stop by our Wine Bar in Antler Hill Village for a glass of our award-winning red, white, and rosé Biltmore Wines and expertly paired charcuterie or locally-crafted chocolates! For mouthwatering menus to share with your followers, be sure to visit one (or more!) of our seven restaurants; each featuring a selection of our estate-raised specialties bursting with flavor and vivid colors of the season’s fresh-grown herbs and vegetables.

View from near the Inn.
Photo courtesy of Camryn Glackin of Coral & Charm

#SecretSpot! Just steps away from The Dining Room (our four-star dining experience) at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, you’ll find this serene lookout spot. George Vanderbilt was enamored with the rolling hills and Blue Ridge Mountains backdrop, and so are we. One of the most peaceful moments on the estate can be seen in the wee hours of the morning when the fog gently settles within the crevices of the hills.

#BiltmoreBlooms

Spring and summer are our most brightly colored seasons, but Biltmore’s gardens and grounds boast year-round beauty. Grab your cameras and stop to smell the tulips – and the azaleas, roses, orchids, daffodils; the list goes on and on!

Couple walking in the tulips
Tiptoe through the tulips with your loved ones.

The Walled Garden is a guest favorite during Spring at Biltmore. This festival of flowers marks the blooming of our 100,000 bulbs planted estate-wide. You’ll find 50,000 tulips, 14,000 daffodils, 1,000 hyacinths, and a variety of other flowers and shrubs. During the summer months, the beds transform with towering tropical plants,

Make your way down the paths to our soaring glass-ceilinged Conservatory for a one-of-a-kind display of lush, exotic, and tropical plants. Macro photographers will be in heaven with eye-level plants around every corner.

Library Terrace View.
Wisteria thrives with robust support, much like the sturdy crafted latticework it is holding onto.

Situated near Biltmore House are two distinctive pergolas covered in eye-catching wisteria that blooms each spring; one on the Library Terrace and one just below the South Terrace. The scent of wisteria in full bloom is intoxicating and the light purple blooms flutter in the breeze! Take a seat on one of the benches and point your camera skyward. The Wisteria reaches out to greet your lens, beckoning for that #pictureperfect moment.

Italian Garden Pool.
Our night-blooming lilies reach their peak bloom in the early morning and close completely by noon.

Right beside the Library Terrace of Biltmore House is the Italian Garden. Each spring and summer, numerous varieties of exotic water lilies, tropical bananas, papyrus, and other plants and flowers bloom in the water garden. The different colors and varieties create a mosaic effect for the koi fish to swim among. Although it’s one of the most visited areas of the estate, many guests don’t realize that it remains astoundingly faithful to the original design from 1895.

#Instagood

Biltmore House from High Lawn for instaworthy blog.

One of the most iconic views of America’s Largest Home® can be captured from the lower and high lawn atop the Rampe Douce. You’re going to want to get out your wide-angle lens for this view! Biltmore House stands in all its glory with the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains just behind. It’s also a picture-perfect location to sprawl out on a warm day with a picnic basket and a bottle of Biltmore Wines!

#TravelGoals… Plan Your Visit Today!

You only live once, right? Are you ready to experience all the special instaworthy moments Biltmore has to offer? Reserve your visit and be sure to tag @biltmoreestate #biltmore when you share your memories on social!

Tip: Be sure to review Biltmore’s photography policies before your visit.

Spring at Biltmore: A Delight for the Senses

As Biltmore awakens from its wintertime slumber, a wonderland for the senses unfolds across our mountain oasis. Discover some of our favorite ways to delight all five of your senses this spring with a visit to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.

Installation from Chihuly at Biltmore, March 25, 2024 – January 5, 2025 at Amherst. Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, 25 x 15′, Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, installed 2024 © 2012 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Must-see masterpieces

Spring offers up an everchanging visual kaleidoscope of color as our historic landscapes bloom weekly with the vibrant hues of tulips, daffodils, azaleas, and rhododendrons! Plus, every spring, Biltmore’s Floral team displays special arrangements throughout Biltmore House inspired by the gardens in bloom.

This beauty extends far beyond our garden walls to Chihuly at Biltmore, presented in our gallery setting at Amherst at Deerpark® premiering March 25, 2024. Dale Chihuly’s renowned works will leave you breathless as you experience the stunning fusion of vibrant hues and dynamic shapes of his pedestal works, Drawings, and large-scale installations of ChandeliersTowersMille Fiori, and Neon.

Tip: Chihuly at Biltmore is an awe-inspiring experience for families and guests of all ages. That said, due to the nature of the exhibition, all guests under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Young girl sniffing tulips in Biltmore gardens
Take a moment to stop and smell the Tulips in Biltmore Gardens.

Fragrances and flavors to savor

This time of year, it feels like the air is transforming right beneath your nose! Be sure to stop and smell the flowers during your springtime stroll through Biltmore’s historic gardens and grounds.

The scents of our gardens and grounds in bloom seamlessly intertwine with Biltmore’s award-winning wines and estate-grown farm-to-table fare.

As you swirl, sniff, sip, and savor our favorite spring wines, make note of the distinctive tasting notes and fragrances, expertly crafted by our Winemakers. Once your palette is warmed up, consider indulging in a guided Red Wine & Chocolate Tasting to help you discover why chocolate and red wine are a match made in heaven.

George Vanderbilt’s vision of a self-sustaining estate extends past our wines. Biltmore remains a working farm, producing field crops, pastured beef, lamb, pork, and eggs from chickens, to be served in restaurants across the estate. Recreate the dishes you loved during your visit with seasonal recipes and Biltmore’s gourmet foods delivered right to your door when you shop online.

Family listens to audio guide while standing in Biltmore's Banquet Hall
Hear the stories of this grand estate with an all-new Biltmore House audio guide in spring 2024!

The sounds of Spring at Biltmore

Discover the stories of this National Historic Landmark and the people who lived and worked here over a century ago as you listen to an all-new audio guide for Biltmore House, coming in mid-April! If it’s been a while since you last explored America’s Largest Home, this spring will be a perfect time to come back to discover new and favorite stories.

Dig even deeper into the stories of this opulent home by upgrading your visit to include an expert-guided tour.

For spring break getaways and holidays, be sure to check our activities listing for special live music and events around the estate.

Baby goat jumps off of a log in Antler Hill Village.
Meet the bouncing baby animals at our Farmyard each spring.

Hands-on learning and adventure

Our expert guides are ready to help you discover educational, fun, and adventurous activities that fit your interests and abilities. Embark on a hike across Biltmore’s expansive grounds or coast along the winding gravel paths while the beauty of the landscape unfolds on one of our Guided Bike Rides.  

Or take it slow and grab the reins to connect with Biltmore’s history with a One-Hour Carriage Ride that offers breathtaking Blue Ridge mountain views and a rarely-seen view of the west façade.

Just like clockwork, the animals that call Biltmore home welcome cuddly youngsters every spring. Visit Antler Hill Village for a deeper look at Biltmore’s legacy as a working farm. The Farmyard offers a kid-friendly introduction to farm life and the animals that are an integral part of our self-sustaining estate.

Our Farm to Table Tour & Taste experience (available exclusively to overnight guests and Passholders) offers even more in-depth discovery of Biltmore’s farming legacy and how that connects to our modern field-to-table philosophy.

Be sure to swing by Antler Hill Barn for fascinating demonstrations of Appalachian crafts, like broom-making, that are part of our estate history, naturalist talks, and more.

Japanese magnolia and forsythia bloom outside of The Inn on Biltmore Estate each spring.

Surround yourself with spring

With a sensory treat around every corner, we invite you to fully immerse yourself in the unique experiences that await you this spring. Imagine waking to awe-inspiring Blue Ridge Mountain views and the scent of crisp spring air just outside your door.

Plan your spring getaway now with admission and overnight stay packages featuring Chihuly at Biltmore, guided activities, and more. And, with so much to see, taste, smell, and do this year, spring is a perfect time of year to become a Biltmore Annual Passholder!

Presenting the Artist: Dale Chihuly

“Glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way.” – Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly Persian Ceiling (detail), 2012 25 x 15′ Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, installed 2016.

Dale Chihuly is an American artist known for revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement and elevating the medium of glass from the realm of craft to fine art.

With Chihuly at Biltmore now on display, we invite you to learn more about the artist and his impact around the world.

About the Artist

Dale Chihuly with Laguna Torcello II Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, 2018
Dale Chihuly, 2017 © 2017 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly discovered his passion for glass during his interior design studies at the University of Washington. After graduating in 1965, he joined the first glass art program in the United States at the University of Wisconsin.

He later continued his studies and established the glass program at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, where in 1968, he earned an MFA and a Fulbright Fellowship that enabled him to study and work at the prestigious Venini glass factory in Venice.

His pivotal experience there influenced the team glassblowing approach that he later emphasized an educator and employed in his own practice. Upon returning to the US in 1968, he became head of RISD’s glass program and co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington, contributing significantly to the development of glass as fine art.

While mentoring other young artists, Chihuly relentlessly pursued his own creative vision, developing a body of work that is featured today in over 200 museums worldwide, and earning numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and thirteen honorary doctorates.

Exhibitions Around the World

Dale Chihuly, Mille Fiori (detail), 2018 © 2018 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.
Dale Chihuly, Mille Fiori (detail), 2018 © 2018 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Chihuly has created more than a dozen well-known series of works, among them, Cylinders and Baskets in the 1970s; Seaforms, Macchia, Persians, and Venetians in the 1980s; Niijima Floats and Chandeliers in the 1990s; and Fiori in the 2000s. He is also celebrated for large architectural installations.

In 1986, he was honored with a solo exhibition, Dale Chihuly objets de verre, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, in Paris. In 1995, he began Chihuly Over Venice, for which he created sculptures at glass-making facilities in Finland, Ireland, and Mexico, and then installed them over the canals and piazzas of Venice.

In 1999, Chihuly mounted perhaps his most ambitious exhibition to that date, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem; where more than 1 million visitors attended the Tower of David Museum to view his installations. In 2001, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London presented the exhibition Chihuly at the V&A.

Exhibitions in Botanical Settings

Dale Chihuly, Ethereal White Persian Pond, 2018, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, installed 2021 © 2018 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.
Dale Chihuly, Ethereal White Persian Pond, 2018, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, installed 2021 © 2018 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

Chihuly’s lifelong fascination for glasshouses has grown into a series of exhibitions within botanical settings. The Garden Cycle began in 2001 at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, and continued at several locations, among them London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew in 2005 and 2019; the New York Botanical Garden in 2006 and 2017; and Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay in 2021.

Meanwhile, Chihuly continued to present ambitious exhibitions at museums, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, in 2008; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2011; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, in 2012; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in 2013; the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, in 2016; the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2017; and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands in 2018. In 2012, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the artist’s long-term exhibition, opened at Seattle Center.

In 2018, Biltmore welcomed Chihuly at Biltmore, an exhibition showcasing the artist’s breathtaking large-scale glass sculptures in the century-old gardens of America’s Largest Home®. This unique visual experience marked the first art exhibition in Biltmore’s historic gardens and the first garden exhibition of artist Dale Chihuly’s works in North Carolina.

Experience an All-New Chihuly at Biltmore

Dale Chihuly, Sapphire Neon with Burned Logs and Neodymium Reeds (detail), 2015, 8 x 21 x 15' © 2015 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.
Dale Chihuly, Sapphire Neon with Burned Logs and Neodymium Reeds (detail), 2015, 8 x 21 x 15′ © 2015 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

The success of the 2018 exhibition paved the way for an all-new Chihuly at Biltmore exhibition, presented in Amherst at Deerpark®.

“Amherst offers an ideal setting for you to not only view the installations, but learn about Dale Chihuly’s life, work, and his powerful influence on art, as well as Biltmore’s own connection to glass art,” said Travis Tatham, Biltmore’s Director of Entertainment and Event Programming.

In addition to the awe-inspiring gallery exhibition featuring specially curated pedestal works, Drawings, Chandeliers, Towers, Mille Fiori, and Neon, guests have the opportunity to marvel at two large-scale installations presented on estate grounds: one on the East Terrace in front of Biltmore House and one at the Entry Green in Antler Hill Village.

Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier by Dale Chihuly at Biltmore's Winery
Chandelier in Winery. Dale Chihuly, Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier, 2022, 9-1/2 x 6 x 6′, Biltmore Winery, Asheville, North Carolina, installed 2023 © 2022 Chihuly Studio. All rights reserved.

While in the Village, be sure to admire Chihuly Iris Gold and Garnet Chandelier at the Winery. Installed in 2023, it was commissioned especially for Biltmore and is part of the estate’s permanent glorious glass collection.

From the grand interiors of America’s Largest Home® and surrounding artistic landscapes to the awe-inspiring displays in the galleries of Amherst, we can’t wait to welcome you to Chihuly at Biltmore.

Reserve your admission tickets and special admission-inclusive overnight packages for this must-see exhibition.


Featured image
Dale Chihuly with Laguna Torcello II
Biltmore, Asheville, North Carolina, 2018

8 Great Reasons for a Fall Visit to Biltmore

Biltmore Estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for a fall visit. While there are certainly more than 8 great reasons to plan a fall visit to Biltmore, like the fact that the season is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping” in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite reasons to add Biltmore to your travel list this fall.

8 great reasons to visit Biltmore this fall
Biltmore House surrounded by gorgeous fall color

1. A prime location in Asheville, NC

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to soaking in all that your fall visit to Biltmore has to offer, we recommend enjoying the natural beauty and history of the surrounding area, including Pisgah National Forest.

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

2. Long-range views from the rooftop of America’s Largest Home®

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see from Biltmore’s rooftops! This guest-favorite guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.

Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!
Each year, the Walled Garden boasts a new, vibrant display of mums!

3. A festive display of fall colors

In addition to the ever-changing hues of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore’s gardens and grounds come alive with vibrant mums, colorful floral displays, and fall foliage that you will not want to miss! Even though we don’t officially kick off our Christmas season until early November, you’ll also have the chance to catch a sneak peek of what our team has in store for the upcoming festivities during your fall visit to Biltmore!

Learn about Biltmore's farming history at The Farmyard!
Learn about Biltmore’s farming history at The Farmyard!

5. Afternoons in Antler Hill Village

All aboard for family fun around our charming, European-inspired Antler Hill Village! What better time of year to learn about Biltmore’s farming legacy at Antler Hill Barn and The Farmyard than during harvest season? Savor the bounty of our fields at our estate restaurants and award-winning Winery. Discover stories of the Vanderbilt family and their travels as you experience your own getaway with your loved ones.

Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn
Explore our 8,000-acre estate by carriage, horseback, and more.

6. Outdoor adventures for all

A fall visit to Biltmore beckons you to enjoy the crisp air and glorious fall colors of our great outdoors! Go hiking or biking along our nearly 22 miles of paved and unpaved trails on our private, 8,000-acre estate. Admire the scenery along the French Broad River, through lush green forests, or in the open meadows of the estate. Stop by the Bike Barn or Outdoor Adventure Center in Antler Hill Village for a detailed trail map and orientation. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant Carriage Ride or Horseback Trail Ride, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate.

7. Vineyard harvest season

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate the harvest season. Savor complimentary tastings of handcrafted wines and learn how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our winemaking process.

Fall color at The Inn on Biltmore Estate
Autumn’s beauty is right outside your door with an overnight stay on Biltmore Estate!

8. The ultimate fall getaway

An overnight stay on Biltmore Estate offers the unique experience of waking up with sprawling autumnal beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel, experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn, or truly get away this fall with a stay in one of our private, historic Cottages.  

Plan your getaway and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall visit and year-round with an Annual Pass membership.

Afternoon Tea at Biltmore Is a Treasured Tradition

Afternoon tea at Biltmore is a treasured tradition inspired by the Vanderbilt family.

Archival photo of a group of men and women, plus two large dogs, having afternoon tea at Biltmore House
Afternoon tea on the Loggia, May 1903. L-R: Edith Vanderbilt with unidentified dog, Mademoiselle Rambaud (Edith Vanderbilt’s former chaperone), Lila Vanderbilt Webb (George’s sister), Mary Webb (Lila’s sister-in-law), Isabella Stewart Gardner, William Blodgett II, and George Vanderbilt with a St. Bernard.

Afternoon tea at Biltmore

Although “taking tea” often seems like a formal affair, archival records show that afternoon tea at America’s Largest Home® wasn’t always regimented. “We have photos that show the Vanderbilts and their guests having tea while lounging outside with their dogs,” said Lauren Henry, Curator of Interpretation.

Another photo shows George Vanderbilt pouring tea for Edith at Buck Springs Lodge in a very rustic setting. “What this photo tells me is that tea was very much a part of their culture, an integral part of daily activities. They probably served it on camping trips!” Lauren said.

The perfect place for afternoon tea

Archival photo of a young boy and girl having a tea party
Cousins John Nicholas Brown and Cornelia Vanderbilt at a tea party in 1906

Children were often included at tea with the Vanderbilts. “There is a letter from Edith Vanderbilt’s sister Pauline describing her day at Biltmore and talking about the children coming down for tea,” said Lauren. “It was unusual in those days for kids to be present at tea with the adults, but Pauline noted it was a good time to reconnect.”

The Vanderbilts frequently served tea in the Tapestry Gallery. “I like to imagine that in the winter they pulled up chairs to the fireplace,” Lauren said. “And in warmer weather they sometimes enjoyed afternoon tea on the Loggia to take advantage of the cool breezes and breathtaking views all the way to Mt. Pisgah.”

Served in style

Here’s a selection of the stylish tea sets that the Vanderbilts and their guests enjoyed at Biltmore:

Cup, saucer, and teapot featuring George Vanderbilt's monogram
George Vanderbilt’s elegant white china with burgundy and gold trim. It was manufactured by Minton and Spode-Copeland, and used for everyday occasions.
Blue and gold tea set with a monogrammed linen cloth.
This blue-and-gold porcelain tea set displayed in the Tapestry Gallery of Biltmore House was made in France around 1888; the lovely floral detailing shown here on the cup is a hallmark of Rococo revival style. The piece of fringed linen with red-and-gold cross stitch is also from the Biltmore collection.
Silver Tiffany & Co. tea set
This silver Tiffany & Company tea set was a gift to George Vanderbilt from his mother and it is engraved with his and her initials. She gave him with the set—a gracious symbol of hospitality—to serve guests aboard Swannanoa, his private train car.

Reserve afternoon tea at Biltmore today!

A plate of sweet treats for afternoon tea at Biltmore
A selection of sweet treats that you’ll enjoy as part of your Afternoon Tea at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®

For more inspiration on the tradition of taking tea, reserve Afternoon Tea at the The Inn on Biltmore Estate®. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax with friends and feel just as if you were a special guest of the Vanderbilts.

Your afternoon tea is served in The Dining Room of The Inn and features delights such as fresh-baked scones with clotted cream, honey, and preserves, artfully prepared sweet and savory canapés, and finely cut tea sandwiches. You can even indulge in a carefully crafted tea-infused cocktail or other spirited offerings.

Moving into America’s Largest Home®

Moving into America’s Largest Home would be a work in progress for George Vanderbilt as Biltmore House was not quite finished for his October 1895 move-in date.

Have you ever moved into a custom-designed new home? If you have, you know that the punch list never seems quite buttoned-up on moving day. Little details seem to linger even after the last box is unpacked—and it was no different for George Vanderbilt’s magnificent new house in Asheville, North Carolina.

A ground-breaking project

Archival image of America's Largest Home under construction
Archival image of Biltmore House under construction, May 8, 1894

Ground was broken in 1889, and during the course of the six years that followed, George Vanderbilt remained in close touch with Biltmore House lead architect Richard Morris Hunt, supervising architect Richard Sharp Smith, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Hunt passed away in August 1895, just months before Vanderbilt moved in, but Sharp Smith was able to complete the plan.

Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889
Archival image of the Brick Farm House, circa 1889

When he came to stay for periods of time at the construction site, George Vanderbilt stayed in what was called the Brick Farm House, a property he purchased from Asheville entrepreneur B. J. Alexander in 1889. Sharp Smith renovated the property, which included a mill and farm buildings, so that it was comfortable enough to accommodate Vanderbilt and his project team when they visited to check on the estate’s progress.

In the months leading up to the official opening, carpentry and cabinetry were among the final touches. With George Vanderbilt’s move-in scheduled for October, archival information shows that Richard Sharp Smith hired 16 additional cabinetmakers to speed up progress.

Archival photo of some of the contractors who built America's Largest Home
Biltmore House contractors, including Richard Sharp Smith (second from right), circa 1892

Finishing the last details of America’s Largest Home

On his first night at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt slept in the Bachelors’ Wing because his bedroom wasn’t finished. There was another issue, too, described in the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted:

When the water was turned on in the stable… to get ready for the servants to occupy, it was found that it would not go up to the second floor where the servants [sic] rooms are.

The problem was soon fixed and water flowed a few days later, but there were still a few outstanding details to hammer out. With family and friends expected for Christmas 1895, Sharp Smith hired an additional 10 cabinetmakers in December. While almost all the carpentry was finally completed in 1896, additional cabinetry projects extended into 1897.

Front façade of America's Largest Home
View of front façade of Biltmore House

Plan your visit today

Today, when you visit Biltmore Estate, you can see first-hand the incredible attention to detail that went into every aspect of America’s Largest Home. But as you might imagine, even this architectural masterpiece was subject to the challenges faced in any home-building project. By seeing the vision of the project through until the end, George Vanderbilt and his design and construction team created a landmark with enduring quality that we still enjoy today, more than 125 years later.

Discover Biltmore’s Working Winery

Discover Biltmore’s working winery and learn how we handcraft our award-winning Biltmore wines. Here, the process begins long before the first grape is harvested; it begins with planting seeds of thought, from there our vision takes root and the rest is history!

Biltmore’s Wine History

Archival Bltmore wine receipt
A portion of an archival receipt for a wine and spirits order to be delivered to Biltmore House

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

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

Creating Biltmore’s working winery

Biltmore Winery Entrance
Experience an award-winning portfolio of red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines at Biltmore Winery.

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

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

Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak

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

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

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

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

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

Biltmore’s vineyard

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

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

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

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

Cheers to our working winery and our handcrafted wines!

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

Join us at the Winery to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Experience our Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting in the Tasting Room, take a deeper dive into our working winery on the Farm to Table Tour and Taste, or simply relax at the Wine Bar with any of our wines by the glass or bottle. 

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

Plan a Romantic Date at Biltmore

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

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

1. Share a sweet treat with someone special

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

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

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

2. Escape to the tropics!

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

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

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

3. Discover the Vanderbilts’ love story

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

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

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

4. Warm up at the Winery

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

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

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

5. Let your romantic date take flight

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

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

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

Plan your romantic date at Biltmore now!

Couple enjoying long-range views
Plan your romantic getaway at Biltmore!

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

The Railcar Red Wine Runs Smooth

The Railcar Red Wine runs smooth–and we invite you to try it for yourself!

The powerful red blend—handcrafted to honor George Vanderbilt’s personal ties to the American railroad industry—and as a complement to Biltmore Gardens Railway—is just the ticket for sipping and savoring with your favorite foods.

The Railcar Red Wine runs smooth
The Railcar red wine is a powerful complement to Biltmore Gardens Railway

The Railcar red wine runs smooth

The Railcar is a distinctive red wine crafted predominantly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Merlot,” said Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak. “I selected fruit from our vineyard partners in Paso Robles and Lake County—two outstanding grape-growing regions in California’s wine country.”

As soon as you uncork The Railcar, you’ll experience its earthy bouquet that includes hints of caramel, vanilla, plum, black cherry, and baking spice.

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

On tasting this medium-to-large bodied garnet-colored wine, you’ll discover bright cherry, plum, and dried fruit flavors up front, a bit of spice, and nice full tannins that make it an excellent pairing partner with barbecue, smoked meats, and pasta with red sauce.

Creating a distinctive label

“When we first talked about creating this wine, we knew it would need a special label that showcased how distinctive it is,” noted Jill Whitfield, Senior Marketing Manager, Biltmore Wines. “With that in mind, we reached out to Asheville artist Bryan Koontz to see what he envisioned for The Railcar.”

Sketches for The Railcar label
Bryan refines his graphite concept sketches for The Railcar red wine

Getting on track with a local artist

In addition to being an an exceptional artist who created original artwork for our 2018 Christmas at Biltmore Wine labels and our 2019 Spring Release label, Bryan is a train aficionado whose detailed illustrations of trains have appeared in books depicting the historic development of railroads in this country.

Transitioning the sketches from graphite to watercolor
Transitioning from graphite to watercolor

Concepts and sketches

He’s particularly knowledgeable about the types of steam engines that would have been in use in George Vanderbilt’s day, and he drew on that knowledge to create several concepts that he began to refine with a final destination in mind.

“I knew about George Vanderbilt’s railway connections,” said Bryan, “and that he had his own private railcar. That was the height of luxury at that time, to commission a custom-made railcar and travel in style anywhere a train could take you!”

Bryan’s initial concepts and early sketches were rendered in graphite pencil to provide the crisp clarity that characterizes his work. It’s a medium that lends itself to creating all the tiny details of a vintage steam engine.

Refining the details

The artist at work on the label in his studio
Bryan at work on the label in his studio

As the concept was refined toward its final iteration, Bryan used watercolors to bring the engine, its cars, and the surrounding landscape to life.

Final touches for The Railcar label
The label nearing completion

The final version looks so real you can almost hear the engine coming down the track toward you—perhaps pulling George Vanderbilt’s private railcar behind it!

Enjoy The Railcar Red Wine along with Biltmore Gardens Railway!

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

From July 1, 2020, through February 15, 2021, marvel at Biltmore Gardens Railway, our botanical model train display located in Antler Hill Village.

New this year, we’re featuring iconic American train stations crafted from natural materials such as leaves, twigs, and bark.

Stroll through this fascinating display that hearkens back to the golden age of train travel, and celebrate the occasion with a distinctive bottle of The Railcar Red Wine, available at estate shops, online, or close to home with our Retailer Locator.