November 2007

Wine Talk: A Tour of the Biltmore Winery

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

This past summer, my husband and I decided to escape the Hilton Head Island heat and head to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. On our five-hour drive, we watched the outside temperature gradually drop to the mid-70s with no humidity and a fresh mountain breeze. We pulled onto the property, checked into the inn, and had a cocktail on a big back porch with the sun setting over the Biltmore Winery. It was spectacular.

We decided to start our Saturday morning by taking the winery tour. The winery was actually a working dairy, complete with milking stalls, converted approximately 20 years ago into a full wine facility. We toured the back dock where the grapes are pressed. In addition to grapes grown on the property, the Biltmore owns land in California where grapes are harvested and pressed before traveling in tanker trucks to be fermented in North Carolina. We walked into the winery from the crush pad and were amazed by the size of the stainless steel fermenters and beautiful oak barrels. We continued through the cold storage and into the tasting room.

The tasting room is one of the largest in the United States. One large room is divided by many tables where wine associates guide you through. You get a tasting mat and several glasses to determine which wines appeal to you most. One of my favorites, the Biltmore Viognier, was only available at the winery and soon to be sold out. It was clean, crisp with just a hint of honeysuckle and apricot. But there were several others that we liked which are available in the South Carolina market, including the Biltmore Cabernet Franc. This wine is usually highly rated and delicious, with hints of heavy black fruits with less vegetal characteristics than you would normally see in some Cabernet Francs. The Biltmore Pas de Deux is a wonderful sparkling wine with a little bit of sweetness on the finish. With its pink ballet shoes and pink foil cap, it would make a nice baby shower gift, or girls’ night out party wine. I was also impressed with the Biltmore Pinot Noir. Most of the grapes come from the Russian River Valley in California, so the wine is fruit-forward with hints of Bing-cherry and vanilla.

We had a wonderful experience at the Biltmore Estates. We visited the house on Saturday afternoon, which was also quite spectacular. If you are traveling there for the weekend, Biltmore guides suggest taking the wine tour on Saturday morning. Afternoons get quite busy with less chance for a one-on-one tasting.

In December, the Christmas festivities begin. The entire property is aglow with Christmas lights and candles, including a magnificent array of decorated trees and floral arrangements—a great place to celebrate the holidays and enjoy some amazing wines.

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