George Vanderbilt: A Thoughtful Wine Collector

George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful wine collector, whether at home or abroad.

Taste and style were two hallmarks of his life, and both are reflected throughout Biltmore—his private country estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

Visually stunning and technologically advanced, Biltmore House is a testament to Vanderbilt’s vision.

A Thoughtful Collector

Discover Biltmore white wines for outdoor entertaining
George Vanderbilt’s legacy of gracious hospitality lives on with Biltmore wines handcrafted from grapes grown in the estate’s own vineyard or selected from trusted west coast partners

George Vanderbilt was well-known as a collector, travelling the world gathering art, sculpture, furniture, and books. He also enjoyed wine, frequently purchasing it abroad and bringing cases of wine back to his home in Asheville to share with his family and friends.

Vanderbilt’s gracious hospitality was legendary, and a visit to his home was characterized by the best in comfort, entertainment, and attention to every detail, including the wines that graced his table and delighted his guests.

Man in a suit examining the library of Biltmore wines in the Winery
Wine cellars don’t have to be stuffy–evaluate your space and your lifestyle for options!

Wine research at Biltmore

In 2008, wine consultant John Hailman visited Biltmore to look at Vanderbilt’s wine cellar and the vintages stored there, and to review wine-related notes and correspondence from the Vanderbilt era.

Having been a wine columnist for the Washington Post, with his work nationally syndicated for more than a decade, Hailman is considered one of the foremost authorities on wine. In 2006, he wrote Thomas Jefferson on Wine, an examination of Jefferson’s influence as a wine connoisseur and collector in the early days of the nation.

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

Through Hailman’s research, we now have a better understanding of George Vanderbilt as a thoughtful wine collector. Archival correspondence, notes, and receipts suggest that Vanderbilt was well-versed in wines, purchasing those he enjoyed sharing.

Vanderbilt was also a practical buyer, preferring high quality vintages at reasonable prices, such as wines from Chateau Pontet-Canet which is still in business today in the Bordeaux wine region of France.

“Good enough for anybody”

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Our handcrafted Biltmore bubbles make any occasion more special

Vanderbilt’s trusted wine purveyor Alexander Morten was known for his excellent taste and recommendations, and would have been a worthy provisioner for the Vanderbilt lifestyle. George Vanderbilt relied upon Morten’s suggestions and his outstanding contacts in the industry. In one letter dated February 14, 1914, Morten advises Vanderbilt on a particular vintage for an upcoming ball, suggesting:

“As to Champagne for a ball:- I can strongly recommend Pierlot 1906. This is a good, sound vintage wine, price $32.50, and is used almost exclusively by many of our customers for dances and entertainments of that ilk. If you have the slightest hesitation, however, I can recommend Pol Roger 1906; price $36. We also have Krug, Clicquot and Pommery of 1906 and 1904; but these are more expensive. The Pierlot is good enough for anybody.”

This letter is particularly poignant, as George Vanderbilt passed away in Washington, DC, just a month after he received this letter. We don’t know what type of ball the Vanderbilts might have been planning, but the preparations were apparently abandoned after Mr. Vanderbilt’s unexpected death.

“You have only to examine the amount and variety of crystal and stemware in the Biltmore collection—glasses for every possible occasion and type of beverage—to see the importance of wines and spirits as an integral part of dining and entertaining,” said Leslie Klingner, curator of interpretation.

Crystal glasses with George Vanderbilt's monogram
Delicate crystal glasses with George Vanderbilt’s monogram on the Banquet Hall table

“Knowing that George Vanderbilt collected and enjoyed wine—and served it to his guests—forges a very real and logical connection between the Vanderbilts and the wine business their descendants have developed and continue to nurture today,” Leslie said.

Savor Biltmore Wines

Two couples enjoying white wine outdoors
Enjoy Biltmore wines while visiting the estate or savor them at home

Be sure to visit Biltmore’s Winery and make reservations for a complimentary tasting of some of our most popular wines. Relax and enjoy our wines by the bottle or glass at the adjacent Wine Bar, then stock up on your favorite vintages at estate shops or online.

Featured blog image: John Singer Sargent portrait of George Vanderbilt paired with a selection of our fine Biltmore wines, including our Antler Hill series

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 six 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, make a reservation for your complimentary wine tasting to 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!

6. Immerse yourself in Van Gogh Alive

Van Gogh Alive exhibition
Explore our Van Gogh Alive exhibition now–March 5, 2022

This multi-sensory exhibition is a powerful and vibrant symphony of light, color, sound, and scent that compels you to leave the world behind and immerse yourself in Van Gogh’s paintings. Simultaneously enchanting, entertaining, and educational, Van Gogh Alive, created by Grande Experiences, stimulates all the senses and opens the mind.

Romantic date tip: Hold hands throughout this experience and “read” your partner’s thoughts through the contact.

Plan your romantic date at Biltmore now!

Couple on a romantic date at Biltmore
Plan your romantic getaway at Biltmore this winter

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!

Celebrate Our 125th Anniversary with Sparkling Wine

To celebrate our 125th anniversary, Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak created a sparkling wine to commemorate the occasion.

Here’s a brief history of the first Christmas event at Biltmore, and the seasonal spirit that inspired our new Biltmore Estate® 125th Anniversary Release Brut sparkling wine.

Biltmore’s first Christmas

Celebrate Christmas at Biltmore
The towering Banquet Hall Christmas tree has been a tradition for 125 years

On Christmas Eve of 1895, George Vanderbilt welcomed his friends and family to celebrate the holiday in his magnificent new home. The following account of “Christmas at Biltmore” was reported in The Times-Democrat newspaper from New Orleans, Louisiana, two days later:

Newspaper account of the celebration

Floral team members install garland
Garlands and greenery are still used to decorate Biltmore House

“For many days workmen were enhancing the splendor of the chateau with decorations appropriate to the Christmas season, under the direction of Mr. Vanderbilt. His suggestions have covered every detail, and a beautiful and elaborate scene was unfolded before his guests yesterday.

Decoration of the planthouse (Winter Garden) is the chief feature. The design called for an unobstructed view from all the approaches within the chateau, and the idea is thoroughly realistic. The exquisite charm of the enclosed garden is apparent at the first glance as the guests enter the main floor.

Winter Garden in Biltmore House
The Winter Garden decorated for Christmas at Biltmore in 2020

Above, from a symmetrical dome, fall great festoons of spruce and waxen holly, forming arching lines, while garlands of the same evergreens adorn each point of vantage. The effect is as if a vast green canopy had been erected under the span of the dome, the supports of which, also laden with green, serve as pillars of the canopy.

About the floor of the planthouse innumerable palms and ferns are arranged in such a way as to give all the natural effect of a garden in the opening of a tropical forest. That eye may not be wearied with one unvaried hue of green, many plants in full bloom are placed here and there in the planthouse, their color being used to the fullest advantage.

Enornous red berry wreath in the Library at Biltmore House
This enormous berry-and-ribbon wreath in the Library recalls the natural decor from Biltmore’s first Christmas celebration

The forests of Biltmore estate afforded a wealth of the desired foliage, and plants from a New York florist, who arranged the whole scene, and bushels of scarlet holly berries were ordered from the marshes of Eastern Carolina and were used in ornamentation of the chateau.”

The tradition continues

This year marks the 125th time that the halls of Biltmore House have been decked in honor of Christmas. As part of the celebration, Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak spent months developing our new Biltmore Estate® 125th Anniversary Release Brut.

Celebrate Our 125th Anniversary with Sparkling Wine

Biltmore sparkling wine in an ice bucket
Add sparkle to your celebrations with Biltmore sparkling wines

“This sparkling wine is handcrafted in the traditional méthode champenoise with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes selected from partner vineyards in California,” said Jill Whitfield, Senior Wine Marketing Manager.

“It’s a wonderful wine with a touch of rose gold color and aromas of tangerine, yeast, strawberry, and honey,” Jill said. “The taste is refreshing and nicely balanced with tiny bubbles and hints of strawberry, mint, and Meyer lemon.”

Pouring Biltmore sparkling wine into a glass
Celebrate our anniversary–or yours–with the new Biltmore Estate 125th Anniversary Release Brut

According to Jill, this is an excellent sparkling wine to pair with charcuterie and cheese boards, fresh fruit, caviar, steak tartar, scallops, and angel food cake with strawberries.

Perfect for any occasion!

Couple drinking winter wines while they savor in place at home
Include Biltmore wines in your Valentine’s Day celebration!

“It’s also perfect for ringing in the New Year, or giving as a thoughtful gift of the season,” noted Jill. “And be sure to have plenty of our exceptional Biltmore bubbles on hand for your Valentine’s Day celebrations!”

Celebrate with Biltmore Sparkling Wines

There’s no better time to celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines than right now!

Biltmore sparkling wine in glass
Fine, tiny bubbles characterize Biltmore sparkling wines

Whether you’re honoring a college graduate, seeking a wedding gift for newlyweds, or adding a bit of sparkle to a Wednesday evening virtual happy hour with co-workers, Biltmore has the best bubbles–handcrafted in the traditional méthode champenoise–for tasting and toasting.

Sparkling wine fun facts

Winery host with Pas de Deux sparkling wine
Fun fact: all Biltmore sparkling wines are handcrafted in the traditional méthode champenoise

For centuries, sparkling wine has enjoyed a certain mystery and allure. It was so enchanting, in fact, that some called it “devil’s wine” due to the effervescent bubbles.

Today, we still love the magical bubbles and appreciate the romance surrounding this delightful wine, and here are the fun facts to prove it:

  • There are 90–110 pounds of pressure per square inch in a bottle of sparkling wine–that’s more than three times the pressure in car tires!
  • Only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can officially be called “champagne.”
  • The grapes traditionally used in champagnes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
  • Dom Perignon, a Catholic monk and avid winemaker, accidentally discovered sparkling wine when some of his wine re-fermented by chance. He thought it was ruined, but the rest is history.
  • There are an estimated 44 to 57 million bubbles in every bottle of bubbly.
  • The cuvée solution often contains spirits such as Cognac.

Serving and storing sparkling wine

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Our handcrafted Biltmore bubbles make any occasion more special

Sparkling wine may best be known as a celebratory drink, but we believe it’s the perfect everyday wine too. Whatever the occasion, enjoy your favorite Biltmore sparkling wine with these helpful tips:

  • Chill the bottle in the refrigerator prior to opening. The cold temperature helps preserve the bubbles when opening the bottle.
  • Sparkling wines are best when served at 33-40 degrees.
  • When opening a bottle of sparkling, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle. Loosen the cage and hold the cork. Gently twist the cork until you hear a whisper of a pop.
  • Holding a towel over the cork when opening will help catch any spills that may occur.
  • Double-check your glasses to ensure the glass is free from detergent residue. A perfectly clear glass allows you to appreciate the bubbles.
  • After opening, all sparkling wines begin to lose their bubbles, so it’s best to drink them as soon as possible.
  • To store an open bottle of bubbly, you can use a special champagne topper. These metal caps with a rubber seal keep the bubbles fresh for the next time you want a glass.
  • Most sparkling wines are sold ready to drink, so don’t hang on to bottles in an effort to further “age” the wine.

An array of Biltmore sparkling wine options

Biltmore sparkling wine in an ice bucket
Add sparkle to your celebrations with Biltmore sparkling wines

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines

When you’re ready to celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines, you can find them at estate shops, online, or close to home with our Retail Locator.