Happy Birthday, Frederick Law Olmsted

Each April, we remember Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of the artful landscape surrounding Biltmore House.

Born April 26, 1822, Olmsted is often referred to as the “Father of Landscape Architecture in America,” and is best known as the designer of Central Park in New York City.

John Singer Sargent portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted
Framed portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent in the Second Floor Living Hall of Biltmore House

Olmsted’s early life

Prior to becoming a landscape architect, Olmsted was first a seaman, farmer, then a journalist and founder of The Nation magazine, which still exists today.

During the Civil War, he served as Executive Secretary of the U.S. Sanitary Commission (a precursor to the American Red Cross). Central Park, which he co-designed with Calvert Vaux, was his first landscape design although ultimately his firm completed more than 500 projects.

Envisioning Biltmore

Olmsted knew William Henry Vanderbilt, George Vanderbilt’s father, when they both lived on Staten Island, and the designer had already worked on several Vanderbilt family projects when George Vanderbilt approached him in 1888 to advise on 2,000 acres of North Carolina property he’d already purchased.

Mountain views at Biltmore
Mountain views from Biltmore House

“Now I have brought you here to examine it and tell me if I have been doing anything very foolish,” he reportedly told Olmsted.

Olmsted gave a frank assessment. He advised Vanderbilt: “The soil seems to be generally poor. The woods are miserable, all the good trees having again and again been culled out and only the runts left. The topography is most unsuitable for anything that can properly be called park scenery. My advice would be to make a small park in which you look from your house, make a small pleasure ground and gardens; farm your river bottoms chiefly and…keep and fatten livestock with a view to manure and…make the rest a forest.”

Collaboration with Richard Morris Hunt

Plans for both the house and landscape changed in 1889 when Vanderbilt and architect Richard Morris Hunt toured France together and the scale of Biltmore House expanded.

Archival photo of workers on the Approach Road to Biltmore House
The Approach Road, which Olmsted designed to achieve a “sensation passing through the remote depths of a deep forest,” only to have “the view of the Residence, with its orderly dependencies, to break suddenly, fully upon one.”

Olmsted wrote that he was nervous, not sure how to “merge stately architectural work with natural or naturalistic landscape work.” But the architect and landscape designer worked together “without a note of discord,” and Olmsted biographer Witold Rybczynki says that the landscape architect achieved something completely original at Biltmore: the first combination of French and English landscape designs.

Designing a masterpiece

Transitions between formal and natural gardens were important, as was the use of native plants, small trees and large shrubs, and color and texture year-round.

View of the Approach Road in spring
Today’s guests enjoy the beauty of the Approach Road that Olmsted designed

Biltmore would prove to be Olmsted’s last design. As he approached the end of his work on the estate, he said “It is a great work of peace we are engaged in and one of these days we will all be proud of our parts in it.”

He said Biltmore was “the most permanently important public work” of his career. More than 120 years after his work, we continue to benefit from his vision.

Experience Biltmore Blooms

To experience Olmsted’s vision at its most breathtaking, visit the estate during Biltmore Blooms, our annual celebration of spring. In 2020, catch our historic gardens at their most breathtaking from April 1–May 21.


Featured image: Portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by John Singer Sargent

Pairing Our Gardens with Biltmore White Wines

Looking for expert advice in selecting wines for spring entertaining? Be inspired by our playful pairing of our beautiful gardens with Biltmore white wines!

Biltmore Reserve Rose in the Walled Garden
Nothing could be finer than sipping our Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé in the garden!

Outdoor entertaining with Biltmore Wines

From patios to picnics to pool parties, here’s a basic tip on serving and appreciating wine outdoors in spring:

“Just follow the ‘20-Minute Rule’,” said Spencer Knight, Winery Tours Supervisor. “Remove white wine from the refrigerator 20–30 minutes prior to serving so the flavor profile has a chance to expand.”

Bucket full of Biltmore Wines
Put Biltmore wines on your “bucket list” for summer sipping!

According to Spencer, it’s also a good idea to return open wine bottles to a container of ice and water between refills, especially if you’re entertaining outside in warmer weather.

Pairing Biltmore white wines with our historic gardens

Biltmore wines provide great summer sipping
Enjoy Biltmore white wines by the glass or bottle this summer

In addition to pairing the distinct “personalities” of Biltmore’s historic gardens and grounds with our refreshing white wines, you’ll also find suggestions for white wine pairings with your favorite seasonal flavors.

Diana at Biltmore

Temple of Diana overlooking Biltmore House
Temple of Diana overlooking Biltmore House

This elegant site overlooking Biltmore House offers a classic setting that calls to mind Biltmore’s outstanding sparkling wines.

Brighten any special occasion with our Pas de Deux Moscatohandcrafted in traditional méthode champenoise to create fine, tiny bubbles.

This aromatic semi-sweet sparkler features the essence of orange blossom and flavors of wild strawberry and lemon. Enjoy with fresh fruit, chocolate covered strawberries, or cheesecake. 

Spring in the Shrub Garden

Olmsted planned colorful blooms for spring in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Colorful spring blooms in Biltmore’s Shrub Garden

Savor the beauty of Biltmore’s Shrub Garden—a picture-perfect pairing for Biltmore Estate Riesling as the wine’s fresh and fragrant style is reminiscent of early-blooming spring shrubs.

Beautifully balanced with sweet apricot aromas, light honey flavors, and a crisp finish, Biltmore’s Riesling makes a surprisingly savory companion to spicy Thai dishes as well as fruity desserts.

A classic wine pairing for the Walled Garden

White wisteria blooming in Biltmore's Walled Garden
White wisteria blooming in the Walled Garden

Stroll the paths of this grand garden and enjoy the sun-warmed stone walls that enfold you with tradition, much like the classic taste of our Biltmore Estate Chardonnay

Smooth and balanced with subtle floral aromas, crisp fruit flavors, and hints of oak, Biltmore’s Chardonnay shines when served with favorites including chicken and grilled vegetables, pasta with cream sauce, and even hard-to-pair fare like squash dishes.

Our Rose Garden paired with a special rosé

Roses blooming in Biltmore's Rose Garden
Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden in front of the Conservatory

Biltmore’s rambling rose garden is a perfect match for our Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé 2018.

Crafted from select North Carolina Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, our pretty-in-pink rosé blossoms with beautiful color, layered aromas, and flavors of red berries, tropical fruits, and a hint of spice. Enjoy with cheese plates and pizza. 

Pairing our Spring Release Wine with the Azalea Garden

Azaleas blooming in late spring
Azaleas blooming at Biltmore in late spring

The informal feel and bright colors of the Azalea Garden make it a natural match for our fragrant and food-friendly Biltmore Spring Release White Wine.

Handcrafted to capture the essence of the season, this is the perfect wine for warmer weather and picnics. You can also spice up spring by pairing it with zesty sausage and Indian food!

Enjoy Biltmore white wines this spring
Pair Biltmore wines with all your favorite flavors this spring

Savor Biltmore wines now

Whether you’re stocking up on favorite varietals or trying new ones, you can purchase Biltmore wines online or close to home through our Retailer Locator.