The Vision Behind Biltmore Wine

Wine & Food 06/03/12

Written By Darren Poupore

When William A.V. Cecil, George Vanderbilt’s grandson, claimed his heritage at Biltmore, the company was losing a quarter of a million dollars a year and visitors were not exactly plentiful. Mr. Cecil was tasked with reviving the wonder of Biltmore while staying true to his grandfather’s original vision for the estate. He implemented a new mission statement: The preservation of Biltmore as a privately owned, profitable, working estate. With his vision in mind, he set to work making Biltmore into the magnificent estate he knew it could be.

As he addressed problems and areas for improvement, Mr. Cecil also spent much of his time looking at the potential held by the other areas of the estate. He kept circling back to one persistent question: “What’s more appropriate for a French château than vineyards and a winery?”

In 1971, very little was known about the science of wine production in the mountains of North Carolina. Mr. Cecil had the first vines planted just yards from Biltmore House, but was less than pleased with the final result of his first harvest. He pursued experts from several universities before teaming up with the University of California at Davis—a hub for pioneers of American viticulture. Mr. Cecil flew to France and enlisted the help of Philippe Jourdain, a sixth-generation winemaster. Together, this team began crafting Biltmore Wines.

Mr. Cecil and Philippe worked tirelessly in their efforts to develop vineyards and produce quality wines in pursuit of their dream. In 1981, they expanded the vineyards to 150 acres of vinifera plantings on the west side of the estate. Two years later, the Biltmore Estate Wine Company was established and construction began on a new Winery in what had been the estate dairy.

The new Winery opened in May of 1985 and was a momentous occasion in Biltmore’s history. Mr. Cecil proclaimed that this was “the most historic event since my grandfather had opened his estate to his family on Christmas Day ninety years earlier.”

Today, our vineyards hold six varieties of grapes and span more than 90 acres, our award-winning wines are available in retailers and restaurants across the country, and our winery is the most visited winery in the United States.

View a timeline of the history of Biltmore Wine »

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