Discover Biltmore’s Working Winery

Discover Biltmore’s working winery this May during North Carolina Wine Month, and learn how 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 working winery

Biltmore Winery Clock Tower at sunset
A Blue Ridge Mountain sunset behind Biltmore 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 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.”

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

Biltmore Winemaker Sharon Fenchak

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 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.

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

Cheers to our working winery and our handcrafted wines!

Join us at the Winery to enjoy the fruits of our labor! Make reservations to savor complimentary tastings of our wines in the Tasting Room, take a deeper dive into our working winery with a Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting, 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.

Featured image: Biltmore Winery entrance in Antler Hill Village
 

Decanting Downton

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition ended September 7, 2020. Please enjoy this archived content.

In honor of hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition through September 7, 2020, we thought it would be fascinating to look at Downton Abbey—and Biltmore’s own history—through the lens of a wine bottle.

A thoughtful collector

We know that George Vanderbilt was a thoughtful wine collector in his own right, and he also relied upon the services of professional wine purveyor Alexander Morten who was well-known for his excellent taste and recommendations.

To learn more about the process of procuring and preparing wines in the late 19th century, we turned to Jeff Plack, business development manager for Biltmore Wines and a wine aficionado in general, to “pour out” what he knows about the subject.

Archival list of winter wines in Biltmore's wine cellar
March 12, 1913: list of wines in Biltmore’s cellar

The business of wine

“I love the fact that in the new Downton Abbey feature film–and in many episodes of the six-season PBS Masterpiece seriesthe characters were sipping wine at some point,” said Jeff. “Wine consumption was a direct measure of one’s wealth in that era and it was not unusual for large estates to have thousands of bottles in their cellars. At that time, the wines were mostly French.”

Jeff explains that Mr. Carson, the Crawley family’s beloved butler in the series, would have been largely responsible for the wines served at Downton Abbey.

“The family might have taken an active interest in wine,” Jeff said, “but the butler was generally the person who oversaw the supply and prepared the wines for the dinner table.

Decanting wines

Formal place setting on the Banquet Hall Table in Biltmore House
This formal place setting on the Banquet Hall table features six pieces of crystal, including a champagne coupe and a cordial glass for port or sherry

In one episode of the series, Carson is seen decanting wine using an interesting contraption.

“It’s appropriately called a decanting machine or cradle,” said Jeff. “The cradle holds the wine as someone turns a crank which slowly pours the wine out of the bottle.”

In the scene, Carson is using a lighted candle behind the bottle to help him see any sediment in the wine. This technique, along with a piece of muslin over the decanter, would help filter out impurities.

(Note: the featured image for this blog shows the decanting cradle in Mr. Carson’s pantry as part of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition currently hosted at Biltmore.)

The circle of wine

For wealthy households like the one depicted in Downton Abbey, the variety of wines consumed at dinner made a circle of sorts.

Glass and silver wine decanter
A delicate silver and glass wine decanter from the Biltmore collection

“Evenings would usually begin with port or sherry and possibly a glass of champagne as an apéritif,” said Jeff. “Each subsequent course of the dinner would be paired with a different wine.”

Mariporta dessert wine on a tray with glasses
Our Mariporta is a port-style dessert wine reminiscent of the ones the Vanderbilts might have enjoyed

According to Jeff, wine pairings were different than the ones we make today.

A common practice of the era was to serve a white Burgundy (generally a Chardonnay) with the first course and then a red Bordeaux with the main meal. 

“It was less about the science of which wines ‘go with’ or complement which foods, and more about wines that they preferred,” Jeff said. “For dessert, they would move back to something like port, similar to our Mariporta Red Dessert Wine, and then end with sparkling wine again; a happy circle of wine life.”

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

With modern winemaking techniques, we no longer need to use decanting machines and filters, and though we enjoy pairing wines based on qualities such as acidity and tannins, we also love complementing favorite flavors with wines we enjoy.

Savor Biltmore Wines

Join us at the Winery for complimentary tastings of our award-winning wines. You can purchase Biltmore wines at most estate shops or online. In addition, experience Downton Abbey: The Exhibition hosted in two locations on estate grounds, November 8, 2019–April 7, 2020.

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 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, 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.

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 North Carolina Rosé in the Walled Garden
Nothing could be finer than sipping our Biltmore Reserve North Carolina Rosé with all your favorite flavors!

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.