Painting with Plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory

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

Bromeliads and orchids in Biltmore's Conservatory
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory

Caring for Biltmore’s Plants

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

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

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

Tropical Plant Treasures

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

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

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

Painting with Plants

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

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

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

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

A special project in 2019

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

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

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

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

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns in 2020

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

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

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

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

Biltmore Gardens Railway: A Structural Comparison

Twice a year, the Conservatory is transformed into a wonderland of creativity. Discover Biltmore Gardens Railway, featuring miniature estate landmark replicas made of all-natural materials gathered from Biltmore’s grounds.

Biltmore Gardens Railway brings an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives, rail cars, and handmade buildings to life by connecting them to Biltmore and its founder George Vanderbilt. Working from original plans, drawings, and photographs of the estate, a team from Applied Imagination constructs the replicas in a stunningly accurate reimagining of Biltmore.

Let’s take an up-close look at the attention to detail paid to the recreations of these historic structures.

Biltmore Gardens Railway recreation of Lodge Gate
Image 1: Photograph of the Lodge Gate from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1900
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Exhibition Room

About the Lodge Gate Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, pine bark, hickory nuts, lotus pods, contorted Filbert, bamboo, winged bean, pine cone scales, and acorn caps
  • Dimensions: 28”x22”x15”
  • Time to complete: 275+ hours
Biltmore Gardens Railway recreation of Conservatory
Image 1: Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Orchid Room

About the Conservatory Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: horse chestnut, pine bark, anise, honeysuckle, ash, winged euonymus, contorted Filbert, and oak bark
  • Dimensions: 21”x52”x14”
  • Time to complete: 350+ hours
Biltmore Gardens Railway recreation of Biltmore House
Image 1: Photograph of Biltmore House from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910
Image 2: Applied Imagination’s recreation, on display in the Conservatory’s Palm House

About the Biltmore House Recreation

  • Materials collected from the estate: baby acorns, acorn caps, star anise, pine cone, contorted Filbert, grapevine, honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, bamboo, ash bark, oak bark, and elm bark
  • Dimensions: 66”x122”x55”
  • Time to complete: 1700+ hours

Visit Biltmore Gardens Railway

The enchantment of Biltmore Gardens Railway is a semi-annual event at Biltmore. Check our event listing for upcoming dates and plan your visit today!

Exploring Biltmore’s Conservatory in Asheville, NC

Imagine the luxury of having a house full of tropical plants to delight your senses—ranging from 40-foot palms to four-inches tall bromeliads. George and Edith Vanderbilt enjoyed that experience with Biltmore’s Conservatory, a beautifully designed greenhouse built for nurturing plants. 

Beneath its expansive glass roof, the Conservatory contains hundreds of plant varieties grown in several purposefully designed spaces, including the Orchid Room, Hot House, and Cool House. From spring to late summer, the Biltmore Gardens Railway is on display. The seasonal botanical model train display features small-scale replicas of the estate’s structures and includes approximately 800 feet of miniature rails.

Palm House at Biltmore

As you enter into this section of the Conservatory, you’ll immediately see why it was designated as the Palm House on architect Richard Morris Hunt‘s original plans. The grand space rises 40-feet high and contains our tallest plants, including the Queen Palm and Golden Hawaiian Bamboo that reach to the ceiling. Other notable specimens are the Mast Tree, a tall and narrow tree species once used to build ship masts, and the broadest plants in the building: Silver Bismark Palms, spreading 15 to 20 feet wide.

Orchid Room at Biltmore

To the left of the Palm House is the Orchid Room, filled with exotic orchid blooms in myriad colors and forms. There are more than 1,000 orchid plants in the Conservatory’s collection, ranging from the familiar corsage and lady slipper varieties to rare examples that perfume the air with tantalizing fragrance. Our year-round orchid display is made possible by Biltmore’s expansive collection. Blooming orchids are rotated into the room year-round, ensuring an endless show of color.

Exhibit Room

From over-the-top spring floral designs to a holiday wonderland, the Exhibit Room to the right of the Palm House hosts seasonally changing displays. This is a favorite location for guests to capture photos year-round.

Hot House at Biltmore

You might recognize some of the residents of the Hot House, as the tropical environment promotes the lush growth of philodendrons, pothos, and other species sold as popular houseplants.

Cool House at Biltmore

This is a subtropical zone, featuring Australian tree ferns, banana trees, and the aptly-named Lollipop plants and Shrimp plants. Note the overachieving Thai Giant Elephant Ear; with leaves 4–5 feet long, this plant has the biggest leaves in the Conservatory.

Alleys

Each summer, the alleyways adjoining the Hot House and Cool House are filled with plants for guests to enjoy. The Hot Alley features Bromeliads, while the Cool Alley showcases plants from the ginger and Heliconia families.

Potting Room at Biltmore

This workspace in the Conservatory has been used for over a century to re-pot plants as needed.

Enjoy 365 Days of Biltmore with an Annual Pass

Enjoy the grandeur and beauty of the 2,000+ plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory year-round. Purchase a Biltmore Annual Pass so you can return season after season to enjoy our gardens!

Keeping Track of Biltmore Gardens Railway

Twice a year, Biltmore’s Conservatory is home to Biltmore Gardens Railway, an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and rail cars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks – even one of the Conservatory itself! A second railway display is located in Antler Hill Village where trains travel past replicas of the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, and other European landmarks visited by George Vanderbilt during his world travels. 

Working from original floor plans, drawings with elevations, and photographs of Biltmore House and other estate structures, a team with Applied Imagination constructed the Biltmore replicas using natural materials they gathered from estate grounds. The result is a stunningly accurate version of Biltmore. 

Scale model replica of Biltmore House inside Conservatory.

Some fun facts and figures to consider about Biltmore Gardens Railway: 

“Luxuriant” bamboo, as Frederick Law Olmsted called it when planning George Vanderbilt’s gardens and grounds, was harvested and used as the roofing material on the Biltmore House replica. Grapevine was also collected and fashioned into Biltmore’s iconic gargoyles. 

1,700 – The number of hours it took to construct the 10-foot-long replica of Biltmore House, compared to… the 6 years it took to build the 250-room Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

6 – The number of artists it took to build the scale model of Biltmore House, compared to… the 1,000 workers it took to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

5,000 – The number of tons of Indiana limestone used to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s, compared to… the 25 types of items harvested from estate grounds to create replicas of Biltmore House and other buildings. This included horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, hickory nuts, lotus pods, bamboo, pine cone scales, acorn caps, winged bean, star anise, grapevine, honeysuckle, ash bark, oak bark, pine bark, elm bark, hickory bark, eucalyptus leaves, day lily stem, rose of sharon, cedar branch, walnuts, stewartia, wisteria, turkey tail fungus, and contorted Filbert.

Artists from Applied Imagination suited up in waders to snip a few treasures from the Italian Garden pools. The lotus pods growing there were just too perfect to pass up, and ended up in the creation of the Stables. 

Woman gathering seed pods from the Italian Garden pool.

6 – The number of separate railroad tracks running through the Conservatory carrying locomotives and rail cars around the buildings. The trains cross bridges and trestles on varied levels and through multiple rooms.  

8 – The number of estate building replicas in the Conservatory. 

7 – The number of artists it took to create all of the replicas in the Conservatory.

3,745 –The number of combined hours it took to construct eight estate building replicas for the Conservatory exhibition.

Overhead trellis carries scale model train through the Conservatory.

8 – The number of buildings in the display at Antler Hill Village. 

1,050 – Amount of railroad track in feet required for the displays.

1 – Amount of weeks to install Biltmore Gardens Railway at two locations on the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway is a wonderful, fun-for-all-ages feature at Biltmore this summer. Plan your visit now

Biltmore Dairy: An Udderly Fascinating History

George Vanderbilt established Biltmore Dairy operations at his estate in Asheville, North Carolina for three main reasons: to supply dairy products to Biltmore House, to provide an example to others on how to run a successful farm, and to generate income through commercial product sales.

Imagine having a Vanderbilt for your milkman—flavoring your coffee with cream from the dairy of a multi-millionaire. It is enough to make one smack his lips and imagine the product is richer than that of ordinary dairymen.
– “A Millionaire Farmer,” St. Louis Globe Democrat, 1894

Biltmore Dairy delivery wagon, ca. 1900
Biltmore Dairy delivery wagon, ca. 1900

Beyond the dairy, original agricultural operations included sheep, hog, and poultry farms, and a substantial market garden for produce. All of these endeavors, collectively named Biltmore Farms, contributed to George Vanderbilt’s ability to fulfill the estate’s mission of self-sufficiency.

However, Biltmore Dairy was the most successful of all of Biltmore’s enterprises, providing the estate with a financial cushion that would see it through George Vanderbilt’s death, two world wars, the Great Depression, and beyond.

Cows in main dairy barn
Cow stalls in the main dairy barn, ca. 1930

The Legacy of Biltmore Dairy

Much of this success was thanks to the Vanderbilts’ prized herd of Jersey cows. Of all major dairy breeds, Jerseys produce the richest milk—high in butterfat, protein, and calcium. They also produce a higher volume of milk per each pound of body weight than other type of cattle.

The Biltmore Dairy Farms herd, believed to be the largest herd of registered Jerseys in the world, is unquestionably one of the finest and best known.
– “Souvenir Edition Annual Meeting of the American Jersey Cattle Club,” June 3, 1942

Biltmore Dairy workers, ca. 1910
Biltmore Dairy workers, ca. 1910

To ensure that the herd maintained excellent health, staff included a full-time veterinarian and a dairy bacteriologist. Dairy workers kept detailed records on the herd and conducted regular inspections to ensure their living conditions were of the highest quality.

The herd was primarily housed in the estate’s Main Dairy Barn—what is now Biltmore’s Winery. Just down the road was the Creamery, where cream was separated from the milk. Milk was then bottled and sold, while the cream was made into butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese, and, of course, ice cream.

Biltmore's Main Dairy Barn
Biltmore’s Dairy Barn (what is now the Winery), May 30, 1913 (Courtesy of Alice Marie Lewis)

The Tasty History of Biltmore Ice Cream

Biltmore’s ice cream played a leading role at estate gatherings, including Cornelia Vanderbilt’s birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, and May Day festivities. Almost every oral history interview in our archives that mentions a childhood memory on the estate also includes a reference to ice cream.

After Biltmore House opened to the public in 1930, guests could view the milking rooms and processing areas in the Dairy Barn, sample the milk, and buy ice cream. Biltmore Dairy was so successful, and its products were so well-known that it became an attraction in its own right for estate visitors.

Biltmore Dairy milkmen and delivery trucks, ca. 1935-1940
Biltmore Dairy milkmen and delivery trucks, ca. 1935-1940

It was around this time that the dairy’s delivery wagons were replaced with trucks and the fleet grew from 30 vehicles to over 400 in just 15 years. Salesmen were now able to market the products as far away as Charlotte, which at the time was a windy, wooded five-hour drive.

Unfortunately, the market shifted. With the advent of chain grocery stores came a cheaper, more efficient way to purchase milk, eventually making door-to-door dairy delivery obsolete. Biltmore Dairy and other smaller, family-run businesses were unable to compete with expansive commercial operations. In April of 1985, Biltmore Dairy was sold to Pet, Inc.

Mother and daughter enjoying ice cream in Antler Hill Vilalge
Enjoy our vanilla ice cream, based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe.

Enjoy Biltmore Ice Cream Today

Today, Biltmore continues to draw inspiration from Biltmore Dairy. Biltmore Dairy Bar® in the Stable Courtyard was named in honor of our agricultural heritage. Additionally, vanilla ice cream based on a delicious original Biltmore Dairy recipe is offered at both Biltmore Dairy Bar® and at the Creamery in Antler Hill Village.

Biltmore Gardens Railway: Fun-For-All-Ages

In the summer of 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway brought large-scale model railroads and handmade buildings connected with Biltmore and its founder George Vanderbilt to two locations on the estate—the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village.

The exhibition featured replica structures fashioned from all-natural materials, largely collected from the estate, to offer a one-of-a-kind, fun-for-all-ages experience.

Enjoy a special look at the structures and stories that inspired Biltmore Gardens Railway.  ​

Conservatory Display: Structures from the estate and surrounding area

Photograph of Biltmore House and the Italian Garden, ca. 1910
Photograph of Biltmore House and the Italian Garden, ca. 1910

Biltmore House with Fountain & Rampe Douce
Completed in 1895, Biltmore House was a collaborative effort between George Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt. It took six years to construct America’s Largest Home®. The 250-room French Renaissance chateau contains more than four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces.

Photograph of the Stable Complex construction from George Vanderbilt's collection, ca. 1894
Photograph of the Stable Complex construction from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1894

Stable Complex
An important part of a turn-of-the-century country home, the stables housed the Vanderbilts’ 30–40 driving and riding horses. Correspondence in Biltmore’s Archives indicates that George Vanderbilt made every effort to procure the best horses possible for the estate. Original horses’ names included Ida, Pamlico, and Maud.

Archival Conservatory photo
Photograph of the Conservatory from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1910

​Conservatory
This grand structure was built to provide flowers and plants for Biltmore House year-round—a role it continues to fulfill today. Carefully placed at the lower end of the Wall Garden so as not to obstruct the view from Biltmore House, the Conservatory includes a Palm House and an Orchid House and spans more than 7,000 square feet.

Photograph of All Souls’ Church from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1906

All Souls’ Church
Commissioned by George Vanderbilt, All Souls’ Church was the anchor—architecturally, spiritually, and socially—of nearby Biltmore Village. The church as well as the rest of the buildings in the village were the result of a collaboration between Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Photograph of the Biltmore Passenger Station from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1899

Biltmore Passenger Station*
The Passenger Station in Biltmore Village was the first stop for many of the Vanderbilts’ guests when they arrived in Western North Carolina on their way to the estate. Family and friends were met there by the Vanderbilts’ carriage or car and brought up the breathtaking three-mile Approach Road to Biltmore House.

Photograph of deer at the Bass Pond Waterfall from the Biltmore collection, ca. 1950

Bass Pond Waterfall
Designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the Bass Pond was created by greatly enlarging an old creek-fed millpond. In order to keep the pond free of sediment and debris caused by heavy rains, Olmsted engineered an ingenious flume system to divert debris and storm water through a conduit laid on the lake bed.

Photograph of The Gardener’s Cottage from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1892

The Gardener’s Cottage
One of the first buildings completed on the estate, the Gardener’s Cottage served as the residence of Biltmore’s first head gardener. The one-and-a-half story stone cottage was originally occupied Mr. Robert Bottomley, who was the estate’s head gardener until November 1903.

Photograph of the Lodge Gate from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1900

Lodge Gate
Located at the entrance to the estate from Biltmore Village, the Lodge Gate provided round-the-clock security by means of a resident gatekeeper. Other entrances to Biltmore also had gatehouses and gatekeepers, though the Lodge Gate was considered the main entrance to George Vanderbilt’s grand estate.

Antler Hill Village Display: Landmarks from George Vanderbilt’s travels

Photograph of Pisgah National Forest Entry Gate, ca. 1916-1936

Pisgah National Forest Entry Gate – Transylvania County, North Carolina
Just before George Vanderbilt’s death in 1914, he was involved in negotiations to sell a large portion of his estate to the federal government in hopes that it would become a forest preserve. His wife Edith later completed this undertaking, selling 87,000 acres of the estate to establish the core of what later became Pisgah National Forest.

Photograph of Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, ca. 2009

Vanderbilt Mansion – Hyde Park, New York
George Vanderbilt’s brother Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife Louise created a seasonal home in Hyde Park, NY. The house was inspired by a classical Palladian villa and was surrounded by formal and informal gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who later served as the landscape architect for Biltmore.

Photograph of a Dutch windmill taken by George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A. V. Cecil, ca. 1950

Windmill & Three Classic Canal House Façades – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Vanderbilt family line originated in Holland in the village of De Bilt, not far from Amsterdam. The Vanderbilts’ ancestors immigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland around 1650, eventually settling near present-day Staten Island, New York. George Vanderbilt visited his family’s homeland in 1897.

Photograph of the Eiffel Tower from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1890

Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
This Paris landmark was already an icon when George and Edith Vanderbilt were married on June 1, 1898 in a civil ceremony after a whirlwind courtship abroad. An understated religious ceremony was held the following day at the American Church of the Holy Trinity, attended only by family and close friends.

Photograph of the Arc de Triomphe from George Vanderbilt’s collection, ca. 1885

Arc De Triomphe – Paris, France
After the Vanderbilt’s Parisian marriage ceremony, the wedding party attended a breakfast at the apartment Edith shared with her sisters on Rue Vernet, just an avenue away from the iconic Arc de Triomphe. Edith’s sister Natalie provided two bottles of champagne that their maternal grandfather had set aside at Edith’s birth to be served on her wedding day.

Colorized photograph of Tower Bridge, ca. 1900

Tower Bridge – London, England
In June 1897, George Vanderbilt rented an apartment on London’s Pall Mall to witness the celebration surrounding Queen Victoria’s 60-year reign. Among his guests viewing the festivities from the balcony was his future bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, likely marking the beginning of their romance.

Engraving of the USS Vanderbilt, ca. 1862

USS Vanderbilt – Transatlantic Service
Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt’s grandfather and founder of the family fortune, commissioned a steamship in 1856 dubbed the Vanderbilt, once hailed as “the largest vessel that has ever floated on the Atlantic Ocean.”

*Feature image: Recreation of Biltmore Passenger Station; this structure is on display in both the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village.

Host a Sizzling Summer White Party!

Ready to host a sizzling summer white party? Our estate wine experts have some great tips to help you make the most of the season.

“From the Hamptons to Los Angeles, well-known fashion and entertainment celebrities have been hosting elegant ‘white parties’ every summer for many years. With all-white clothing and décor, these iconic events are a celebration of everything warm weather-related and summer-worthy—including white wines,” said Alisha Forester, Sales Director for Biltmore Wines.

Dining table set with white linens and white flowers.
Will your summer white party be an indoor or outdoor affair?

1. Find the perfect spot

Start by choosing your location first, as that sets the tone for your summer white party.

  • Gardens and patios with easy access to the indoors make for a great party, and hosting your event poolside makes a big splash!
  • For outdoor parties, make sure you have a backup plan for weather, plenty of shade, and other conveniences for your guests.

Tip: Create classic summer white party style with all-white décor, which can be as simple as white tablecloths and white flowers, especially if you’re celebrating outdoors.

Biltmore Estate sparkling wines being poured in a vineyard during a summer white party.
Sparkling wines are a must-have for your summer white party!

2. Select some white wines

It’s not a summer white party without your favorite Biltmore white wines, and we handcraft wonderful options from still to sparkling.

Try these easy white flights–we’ve already arranged the wines for you in order from lighter styles to those with more body:

  • Dry white flight: Biltmore Estate® Pinot Grigio, Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Sauvignon Blanc, Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay, and Biltmore® Reserve North Carolina Chardonnay.
  • Sweet white flight: Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Orange Muscat, Century Sweet White, Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Chenin Blanc.
  • Sparkling white flight: Biltmore Estate® Brut, Biltmore Estate® Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs, Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs, Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Noir.

Tip: Keep the party kid-friendly with plenty of Biltmore Sparkling White Grape Juice, available in estate gift shops.

Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée
Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée is a fresh twist on a classic dessert that’s perfect for your summer white party!

3. Pair a signature dish with white wine

Delight your guests with this fresh citrusy twist on classic Italian panna cotta with a surprising ingredient: goat cheese. With its characteristic rich flavor, creamy texture, and a bright pop of color, Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée is perfect for an indulgent summer white party treat!

Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée

Gelée

  • ¾ cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (1 packet) unflavored gelatin powder

Combine grapefruit juice, sugar, and gelatin powder in a small sauce pan. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Pour 1 ounce of the juice mixture into each of 6 (4-ounce) ramekins. Place the ramekins in the refrigerator to chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Panna Cotta

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 7 teaspoons (3½ packets) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 14 ounces goat cheese, softened

Combine heavy cream, sugar, and gelatin powder in a medium saucepan. Whisk well and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat. Add the softened goat cheese to the mixture and continue to whisk until completely smooth.

Divide the goat cheese panna cotta mixture evenly among the ramekins. Pour it over the firmly set grapefruit gelée and refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour.

Run a knife between the panna cotta and the ramekin to release and invert onto a plate. If the panna cotta won’t come out, turn it upside down and run hot tap water over the bottom of the ramekin for 30–60 seconds, then gently tap onto a plate

Tip: Crisp, sparkling Biltmore Estate® Brut with notes of citrus, strawberry, honey, and apricot is a perfect partner for Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée.

Man and woman toast with white wine at a summer white party in a vineyard.
Celebrate your summer white party with Biltmore Wines!

4. Celebrate your summer white party

Once you’ve chosen your location, selected the Biltmore wines you’ll serve, and created the perfect menu, what’s left?

Don your favorite all-white outfit and invite friends and family to join you for a wonderful summer celebration!

Cheers!

Biltmore’s Top 5 Most Naturally Romantic Spots

Biltmore Estate’s year-round natural beauty and long tradition of hospitality have earned its recognition as a romantic destination for more than a century. But with 8,000 acres to explore, it can be hard to pick the perfect must-see romantic spot to share with your loved one. 

Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a scenic date, or even proposing to your sweetheart at Biltmore, get inspired with this list of the top five most naturally romantic spots on the estate!

Tea House guest photo
📷 by @sasha_playz_musik

5. Tea House

Strategically set on the far west corner of the South Terrace, this romantic spot offers sweeping views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain vistas.

Tennis lawn guest photo
📷 by @jason.rosa

4. Tennis Lawn & Pergola

Tucked away between the Pergola and the Shrub Garden is the Tennis Lawn, an often overlooked “outdoor room” with a fairy-tale view of America’s Largest Home®.

Conservatory guest photo
📷 by @rongriswell

3. Conservatory

Indoor enchantment awaits in Biltmore’s Conservatory, a private tropical oasis that houses a wide variety of exotic plants beneath its grand glass roof. This romantic spot offers multiple greenhouses to explore with your sweetheart!

Bass Pond Bridge guest photo
📷 by @avidavlhiker

2. Bass Pond Waterfall & Trails

An easy stroll down our Azalea Garden path leads to rewarding views of our Bass Pond bridge, Boat House, and, of course, the Bass Pond Waterfall—a picturesque backdrop for many Biltmore proposals!

Lagoon guest photo
📷 by @georgebassen

1. Shores of the Lagoon

Perfect for a picnic or a pleasant stroll, the shores of Biltmore’s Lagoon offer a number of quiet, romantic spots with a marvelous view of Biltmore House in the distance.

The Inn guest room photo
📷 by @t_r_a_v_e_l_n_o_w

BONUS! One of our onsite lodging properties

An overnight stay on the estate offers the opportunity to wake up on George Vanderbilt’s magnificent estate with your sweetheart. Our four-star Inn, cozy Village Hotel, and private Cottages on Biltmore Estate each offer a distinct and memorable experience for your next romantic getaway.

📷 by Camryn Glackin; Couple enjoys a spring picnic in a field at Biltmore
📷 by Camryn Glackin

Romantic Spots on Biltmore Estate to Propose

If you’re planning to pop the question during a visit to Biltmore, consider this list of romantic and picturesque locations for your proposal:

  1. In a Horse-Drawn Carriage: Couples wishing for some privacy (and a very discreet driver) may take one of our horse-drawn carriages for a gentle journey through forests and pastures, and stopping at the top of a hill that features a stunning view of the back of Biltmore House.
  2. At the Statue of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt: After an easy hike to the top of the hill where The Statue of Diana stands, catch your breath and take in the majestic view of Biltmore House with sky and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. Then proceed!
  3. In the South Terrace Tea House: With its gorgeous views of Mount Pisgah and the southern end of Biltmore House, the Tea House is a charming, open-air structure.
  4. On top of Biltmore House: The guided Rooftop Tour takes you to the roof for up-close inspections of the home’s structure and intricate carvings. Don’t let the gargoyles and grotesques scare you. They’re harmless.
  5. By the Bass Pond Waterfall: This is a more secluded location, below the formal gardens. This location is great in springtime or during October when the leaves are changing colors.
  6. During a candlelight dinner: Our estate chefs create incredible meals using fresh ingredients grown right on the estate.
  7. On The Inn’s Veranda: Relax with your sweetheart on a grand outdoor veranda where the estate’s sparkling wine can be delivered for your big moment.
  8. Under the Pergola next to the South Terrace: This spot by Biltmore House is particularly romantic in springtime when Wisteria vines are blooming.
  9. In the Italian Garden: Pop the question by one of the semi-secluded benches in the Italian Gardens. The reflecting pools full of lily pads and other exotic blooms set a soothing tone for an early summer evening proposal.
  10. On a scenic picnic: If you like to bike or hike, you can pack a picnic, rent bikes or take one of our many hiking trails for an exciting adventure. Stop at the Lagoon to picnic and pop the question.

National Historic Landmark Designation Illustrates U.S. Heritage

Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina was officially nominated as a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1963.

The original landmark designation was based on the theme “Conservation of Natural Resources.” The description for Biltmore was:

At Biltmore, the George W. Vanderbilt estate near Asheville, Gifford Pinchot demonstrated for the first time in the United States that scientific forest management could be profitable and was, thus, good business practice. Another ‘first’ in forestry occurred here in 1898 when the first forestry school in the United States was opened, the Biltmore Forest School, headed by Dr. Carl A. Schenck. Nearly 87,000 acres of the estate’s forest land is now included in Pisgah National Forest. The building in which the school was conducted is owned by the city of Asheville and used today for offices.

Dr. Carl A. Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900*
Dr. Carl A. Schenck with Biltmore Forest School students, 1900. Image courtesy of National Forests of North Carolina Historic Photographs, D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, NC.

Beginning in 2000, Biltmore began an effort to expand the landmark designation beyond conservation to include the themes of architecture, landscape architecture, and social history, and to extend the period of significance to 1950 to include the contributions of Chauncey Beadle, estate superintendent, and improvements and significance of the Biltmore Dairy during those years. The Secretary of the Interior approved this expansion on April 5, 2005. 

Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle, 1948
Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle, 1948

Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s former landscape and forest historian and participant in the five-year project of gathering additional documentation for the expanded designation, said that Biltmore has to submit periodic reports to the National Park Service to describe any changes occurring to the property, including natural disasters and damage such as the floods and tree loss caused by Hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2005. 

He also noted that the building referenced in the original nomination is located in Biltmore Village.

“The office building at 1 Biltmore Plaza was where the Biltmore Forest School held its fall and winter classes for a number of years,” Bill said. “It was the first new, permanent structure completed in Biltmore Village after George Vanderbilt purchased the village in 1894, followed by the passenger train depot in 1895 and All Souls Church in 1896, all designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt.”

1 Biltmore Plaza in Biltmore Village, 1895
1 Biltmore Plaza in Biltmore Village, 1895

“Biltmore sold the office building to the City of Asheville in 1929, and leased the downstairs for corporate offices while the upstairs was used as a substation of the Asheville Fire Department.”

Biltmore eventually repurchased the building and currently uses it for office space.

The National Park Service lists more than 2,500 historic properties “that illustrate the heritage of the United States.” National Historic Landmarks include historic buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts, with each landmark representing an outstanding aspect of American history and culture.

Plan your visit to Biltmore today and enjoy the splendor of this National Historic Landmark.

Vanderbilt-Inspired Picnic Recipes & Tips

A picnic while visiting Biltmore is a great way to enjoy the pastoral views of the historic estate’s sprawling gardens and grounds, similar to the Vanderbilts and their guests over a century ago.

Make the most of your next picnic with these expert tips plus estate chef recipes for a Vanderbilt-inspired picnic complete with Biltmore wine pairings.

Pauline Dresser, Edith Vanderbilt’s sister, attending a picnic in Langrolay-sur-Rance, France, 1895.

Picnicking with the Vanderbilts

During the Victorian era, picnics were often elaborate, and creating a suitably “rustic” ambiance might require more effort than a formal banquet. Hampers full of special delicacies were carried to remote outdoor locations along with a bewildering array of china and glassware, chairs, cushions, ground covers, tents, sunshades, games, and amusements—plus all the children, pets, and any guests who happened to be visiting.

Picnic Island in the Lagoon on Biltmore Estate, circa 1900.

On Biltmore Estate, the Vanderbilt family enjoyed picnics at a special location known as “Picnic Island,” which you can see situated in the Lagoon. At Edith Vanderbilt’s request, a swinging bridge (no longer there) was added for easy access to Picnic Island and estate rangers ensured there was no poison ivy growing there—a task modern picnickers know all too well!

We also know that Mrs. Vanderbilt planned a picnic in May of 1915 on nearby Busbee Mountain, and we have multiple picnic baskets, metal serveware and food canisters included, in our archival collection.

Be sure to pack Biltmore Wines for your next picnic!

Try these modern-day expert picnic tips:

Thank goodness today’s picnics are much simpler! By keeping everything quick and easy, you can enjoy the entire experience from start to finish—even without chairs and fine china. Here are a few tips from our estate experts.

  • Choose a location that offers a scenic view to take in nature’s beauty for your next picnic at Biltmore!
  • Slice a loaf of fresh bread and your favorite cheese into wedges (eliminates the need for utensils), then pair it with wine. Consider our refreshing Biltmore Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheeses or our Cabernet Sauvignon with savory smoked Gouda.
  • Bring along finger-friendly foods such as olives, nuts, and fresh veggies or fruit for a little extra texture.
  • Make a variety of sandwiches the night before. That way, you can be ready to picnic the next day with no prep. Sandwiches also mean you don’t have to bring many separate items—everything’s already combined into a tasty package.
  • Set the scene with a few special touches, such as fresh flowers or a favorite quilt as a picnic cloth.
  • A sparkling wine like our Biltmore Estate Pas de Deux Sparkling makes any occasion special—and won’t leave a stain if spilled on cloth.
  • Grab-and-go snacks or light bites from an estate restaurant or shop are also a great option for a memorable picnic at Biltmore without the fuss.

(Please note: Guests with estate admission, an overnight stay, or an Annual Pass are permitted to picnic on Biltmore Estate. If picnicking on the estate, outside food is only permitted in designated areas.  Outside alcohol and tailgating—including the use of tents, grills, multiple camping chairs/tables, and large coolers—are not permitted anywhere on estate grounds.)

couple enjoys a picnic
A picnic is a picturesque way to enjoy the great outdoors throughout the seasons on Biltmore Estate. 📸 by @camrynglackin

Try these Biltmore-inspired picnic recipes:

Whether you are taking in the views at Biltmore or relaxing at your local park, here are a few recipes and wine pairings our estate chefs recommend for enjoying your next picnic Vanderbilt-style.


Holiday Bacon Deviled Eggs

Pair with Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs

Serves 24

Ingredients:

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method:

  • Slice eggs in half lengthwise; remove yolks and set whites aside.
  • In a small bowl, mash yolks. Stir in the mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, mustard and pepper.
  • Pipe into egg whites.
  • Refrigerate or keep cool until serving.

Harvest Turkey Sandwich with Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard

Pair with Biltmore Pinot Noir

Yields one sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of focaccia bread, toasted
  • Small handful of fresh baby arugula
  • 2 slices of cooked bacon
  • 2 oz of sliced brie
  • 5 oz of smoked turkey, thinly sliced
  • Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard*

Blackberry-Whole Grain Mustard Ingredients:

  • 3 fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 oz Whole Grained Mustard

Method:

  • Prepare the mustard by mashing the berries and mix with mustard and set aside.
  • Toast the focaccia, spread the mustard on the top portion of the bread after it is toasted, place the turkey on the bottom, then the sliced brie and add the bacon and arugula and lastly place the top of the focaccia and serve.

Herb Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Pair with Biltmore Sauvignon Blanc

Yields about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, remove gills
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, cut in 6 pieces
  • 1 bunch asparagus, remove bottom two inches and discard
  • 1 red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 vine-ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Place oil, garlic, and herbs in a large mixing bowl and stir together. Add all remaining vegetables to bowl except portabellas. Toss vegetables with oil mixture.
  • On a separate plate, rub the portabella with some of the oil mixture on both sides of it.
  • Let vegetables marinate for 10–15 minutes at room temperature. Drain any excess oil off of the vegetables and grill each piece for 1–2 minutes on each side. If the grill flares up, remove more oil from the vegetables. Place vegetables on a platter. Can be served hot or chilled.

Smoked Mozzarella and Gemelli Salad

Pair with Biltmore Pinot Grigio

Yields 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound Smoked Mozzarella, large diced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese – grated
  • 1 pound Gemelli pasta
  • 1/2 cup spinach, julienne
  • 1 large red bell peppers, julienne
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon +2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method:

  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until just tender to the bite. Drain and shock in ice water. Drain again thoroughly and place in large mixing bowl. Add smoked mozzarella, parmesan, spinach, red peppers, red onion, and parsley.
  • In a separate bowl, assemble dressing by adding mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice, Tabasco, black pepper, and salt. Whisk together.
  • Add dressing to pasta mix and toss together gently, using a rubber spatula. Refrigerate until needed.

Mudslide Cookies

Pair with Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir

Yields 1 dozen large cookies or 4 dozen small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. chocolate, unsweetened
  • 1 pound, 8 oz. chocolate, bittersweet
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 8 each eggs
  • 1 pound, 8 oz. sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. cake flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound, 12 oz. chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. walnuts

Method:

  • Melt the chocolates and butter together. Beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
  • Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Dough will firm as it sits.
  • Scoop and bake at 325 F for 10–14 minutes.