Tucked into a converted dairy barn on the grounds of Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore Winery opened to the public in 1985. The first grapevines, however, were planted in the early 1970s by William Cecil, the grandson of George Vanderbilt, for whom Biltmore Estate was constructed. Biltmore Winery — Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company
Today the winery is open for tours and tastings, and a guided winery tour and complimentary tasting are included in the Biltmore Estate admission fee. The tour covers the winery’s history as well as explaining the production process. You’ll walk through a tunnel that runs underneath the winery and stop at the wine library, which houses one bottle of every vintage that has been produced here since the 1980s. At tour’s end, you can taste your choice of several of the Biltmore’s 45 wines in what was once one of the dairy’s milk parlors.
For those who want to delve into more wine detail, there are several specialty tours. And though they are offered year-round, these wine experiences are a perfect prescription to brighten up a gloomy winter day. Take the Red Wine and Chocolate Seminar, for example. You’ll see why this is such a classic combination once you sample local chocolates thoughtfully matched with an assortment of Biltmore’s red wines (tour is offered daily at 2pm and 4pm for $20).
Fans of sparkling wine can indulge in the Biltmore Bubbles Tour. You’ll learn how sparkling wine is made, from picking the grapes to bottling the bubbly. The best part, of course, is being treated to an exclusive tasting of each of the estate’s sparkling wines, crafted according to the French méthod champenoise. You’ll taste, among others, the award-winning Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs, the blushing pink Blanc de Noir, and the Biltmore Estate Brut, a balanced blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (tour is offered Friday-Sunday at 5:45pm for $18).
During the Holidays
The Christmas season is especially lovely at Biltmore, when the mansion is festooned in holiday finery. During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Biltmore House glows by fire and candle light, and twinkling trees adorn many rooms of the house as they did in George Vanderbilt’s day. The winery stays open late (until 8pm Sunday through Thursday, and until 9pm on weekends), so a stop there for a glass of wine makes the perfect end to an evening visit to the house.
Shopping is Sublime
If you’re looking for some Biltmore wine to take home, be sure to browse the wine shop. Here, you can purchase all of Biltmore’s wines, along with a treasure trove of wine-related gifts and Biltmore label food items, including dips, spreads and salad dressings.
Adjacent to the winery is the charming Antler Hill Village, a quaint collection of shops, an outdoor center and a demonstration farm. To wrap up a day well-spent, stop in Cedric’s Tavern for pub fare such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.
For more Christmas cheer in Asheville, check out the amazing gingerbread creations from the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn.