Highlights From Our 2019 Vineyard Harvest

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

Biltmore vineyard supervisor Philip Oglesby
Biltmore vineyard supervisor Philip Oglesby

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

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

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

Quantity and quality

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

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

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

Highlights from Biltmore’s vineyards: 

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

Total: 177.5 tons on 44.6 acres

Highlights from our partner vineyards

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

Washington:

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

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

California:

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

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

Savor Biltmore Wines

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

Discover Biltmore Wines From Grape to Glass

How do we select the finest fruit for Biltmore wines? Here’s an overview of the process, from grape to glass!

Sourcing fine North Carolina vintages

In his book Lady On The Hill, George Vanderbilt‘s grandson William A.V. Cecil noted that “Asheville was about the same latitude as Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, and with an altitude between 2,100 and 2,500 feet, the fields of the estate would enjoy warm days and cool nights in the summer.”

While the climate of Western North Carolina is not nearly as predictable as that of the Mediterranean or other major grape-growing regions, when conditions are right, the fruit produced in our estate vineyards is exceptional and earns the Biltmore Reserve label for our finest North Carolina vintages.

To ensure we can meet the growing demand for Biltmore wines, however, we also look to our local vineyard partners in Polk County—a lower-elevation region just south of Asheville that experiences slightly warmer temperatures with less danger of late season frost damage.

Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore's vineyards on the west side of the estate
Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore’s vineyards on the west side of the estate

Beyond Biltmore

We also look to our west coast partners for the quality and consistency of grapes needed to handcraft our award-winning wines. Several times each year, Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak schedules extended visits to California to meet with our growing partners and select outstanding vintages for Biltmore wines. 

“Some of the finest American wine grapes come from the vineyards of coastal California,” Sharon said. “The terroir—the different combinations of weather and soil in each hill and valley—translate into the distinctive flavors and qualities that characterize the wines of that region.”

View of one of our partner vineyards in California
View of one of our partner vineyards in California

California’s Northern Coast

This large wine grape-growing region is located north of San Francisco, with a maritime climate that is affected by cool fogs and breezes from the Pacific Ocean. Some of California’s best-known American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Lake County, Napa, and Russian River Valley, are located here. 

“This AVA is an important one for our Vanderbilt Reserve series,” said Sharon. “We select grapes from outstanding partner vineyards for some of our most distinctive wines, including our Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2016, and The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County.” 

The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore's original collection
The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore’s original collection

California’s Central Coast

Stretching from San Francisco Bay south to Santa Barbara County, this region offers a warmer climate that still benefits from the cooling influences of the Pacific Ocean. We partner with vineyards from such prestigious AVAs as Arroyo Seco, Cienega Valley, Monterey, and Paso Robles.

“Some of the more unusual varietals we choose from partner vineyards here include Barbera, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Rousanne, and Tempranillo,” Sharon noted.

Washington

A wide range of grapes are now being grown in the fertile valleys of Washington, making the state an important producer of outstanding wine varietals. Vineyards are found primarily in the eastern half of the state that benefits from a dryer shrub-steppe ecosystem and the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. The state experiences long hours of daylight—approximately two more hours per day during the growing season than California—and milder, more consistent temperatures. 

“We are excited to be working with some great partner vineyards in Washington,” said Sharon. “We’re selecting a lot of excellent grapes for our American Series and Limited Release Series wines.”

Handcrafting our award-winning wines

While Sharon and her team handcraft the majority of our wines from start to finish at Biltmore’s Winery in Asheville, North Carolina, our Vanderbilt Reserve wines and Antler Hill wines are created in the particular region where they were grown. This painstaking process is overseen—from selecting the vintage and expressing the varietal character to aging the wine—by Sharon during her visits to California. 

“All our wines represent the Vanderbilt family’s legacy of gracious hospitality on which Biltmore was founded,” Sharon said, “and as Biltmore’s winemaker, I am committed to handcrafting our wines with the philosophy of keeping each one true to varietal character and consistent from vintage to vintage. Whether I’m at work in North Carolina or California or Washington, I’m focused on creating wines that reflect the quality of this family-owned estate and Winery.”

Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online
Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online

Discover our exceptional wines for yourself

Visit Biltmore’s Winery, purchase online, or find them close to home with our Retailer Locator.

Featured image: Ripe grapes being harvested in Biltmore’s vineyard

Discover Biltmore’s Working Winery

In celebration of North Carolina Wine Month in May, let’s discover Biltmore’s working winery where we handcraft our award-winning Biltmore wines.

Biltmore’s Wine History

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 Winery

Biltmore Winery Clock Tower at sunset
A Blue Ridge Mountain sunset behind the Winery’s iconic clock tower

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

Biltmore Winemakers

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 of wine production. 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 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 grapes in Biltmore's vineyard
Vineyard crews pick grapes by hand at Biltmore

“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.

Guests enjoying a wine tasting at Biltmore Winery
Guests enjoy complimentary tastings at the Winery

Cheers!

Join us at the Winery to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Savor complimentary tastings of more than 20 of our wines in the Tasting Room, take a deeper dive into our working winery with specialty wine experiences, or simply relax at the Wine Bar with any of our wines by the glass or bottle. 

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

Featured image: Biltmore Winery entrance in Antler Hill Village
 

Sip Biltmore’s Reserve-Worthy Rosé Wine!

If you think rosé wines are overly sweet or just a little too pink, think again—rosés are one of the hottest trends among wine aficionados at the moment.

For some enthusiasts, rosé wines might have been seen as a lightweight wine, not worth sipping or sharing.

That view is changing, however, as winemakers take rosé wines to a crisper, dryer level that may surprise you.

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Conservatory

Sip our new Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé Wine

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé Wine

Biltmore Winery cultivates a number of varietals in our estate vineyards, and each season we hope to craft Biltmore Reserve wines that reflect the distinctive terroir of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Grape harvest in Biltmore's vineyard

Harvesting wine grapes in Biltmore’s vineyard

“Last year’s harvest yielded enough Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for us to offer something special—a rosé wine, created from our estate-grown grapes,” said Sharon Fenchak, Biltmore winemaker.

Carefully Crafted North Carolina Wines

According to Sharon, the only wines considered for the Biltmore Reserve wine label are those handcrafted from grapes grown in Biltmore’s own estate vineyard and by our North Carolina partners. By law, wines with an appellation and vintage date must contain at least 75% of grapes from the specific region in the year noted.

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Rose Garden

Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018 in the Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden

“Our Biltmore Reserve Rosé 2018 wine is crafted from select North Carolina Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes,” noted Sharon. “We’ve coaxed beautiful color and subtle complexity from the fruit, creating layered aromas plus flavors of red berries, tropical fruits, and a hint of spice in this wine.” 
Rosé wines are perfect for outdoor entertaining all summer long.

Savor the Collection of Biltmore Rosé Wines

In addition to our new Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018, we also offer delightful options like Biltmore Estate Zinfandel Blanc de Noir—a vibrant and crisp rosé wine with sweet tropical fruit aromas. 

Our Biltmore Estate Dry Rosé is an elegant and refreshing wine with a subtle, fruit-forward bouquet followed by layers of delicate berry flavors. 

For a sparkling wine as delicious as it is beautiful, try our coral-hued Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir wine crafted from Pinot Noir grapes in the traditional méthode champenoise

Buy Biltmore Rosé Wines Online or at Local Shops

Purchase our rosé wines—or any of our fine Biltmore wines—at the estate’s Winery and shops, online, or through our Retailer Locator.