COPYRIGHT 2006, Michelle S Lentz
The Biltmore Estate is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen in this country. It’s well maintained and spacious, perfectly set amongst the picturesque North Carolina mountains. If I lived in Asheville, I would use the Biltmore Gardens as my gym. I could walk through the gardens for hours.
The winery has several tours, two restaurants, a large tasting room and gift shop, and a reserve tasting bar. Our food at the Bistro arrived cold, so they comped us the entire meal. I was impressed. However, the wines at the restaurant (Biltmore, of course) were incredibly marked up, especially in comparison to what you could buy next door in the gift shop.
Overall, we thought most of their wines were overpriced for what you got. They offer around 40 wines, and we tried 22 of them. My personal opinion is that they are over-reaching. Why offer 40 so-so wines when you could offer 10 quality wines instead? I always advocate quality over quantity.
We ended up purchasing 2 bottles of their sweetest sparkler, the Pas de Deux. I enjoyed it and we
purchased one as a gift as well. The ballet shoes on the bottle helped
sway me, as I’m a former dancer. We also purchased another sparkler,
the Blanc de Noir Brut, which I really enjoyed I thought it was smooth
and velvety. We purchased two of the Chateau Reserve wines, including
the Cabernet Sauvignon (dark cherries, well balanced) and the Claret
(subdued pepper and cherry). Those are all non-vintage wines. We
purchased one vintage wine from the California vineyards – the North
Coast Syrah, which was peppery but well-rounded. I believe it is our
choice for the Wine Blogging Wednesday dinner. All of these wines were
only available to taste for a price, at the Reserve tasting bar.
I was incredibly disappointed in their Cab Franc, which I had read about. I thought it was acidic
and had an unpleasant kick to it. Most of the wines were dry and they
seem pretty proud of their dryness. The winery guides and pourers will
certainly remind you of it a lot. At the general tasting bar, you
receive 8 free tastings per person from a list of their wines. This
includes a Reserve Chardonnay, which was surprisingly drinkable and not
too oakey, when you first enter the room and collect your glass. Most
of their wines are basic blends and table wines. You can find a lot of
them in local stores. We can purchase the low end wines at the Party
Source near us. I won’t though. Those wines were disappointing. I
couldn’t find a single white I enjoyed, and even the viognier failed to
meet any of my expectations.
We took a behind the scenes tour, where we learned about their
filtering processes and their winemaker. Apparently they have an old
"traditional" French winemaker who insists on only making traditional,
dry wines. His assistant is a young girl from UPenn’s viticulture
program who wants to "bend to popular demand" and make bigger, fruitier
wines. Should be interesting to see how their competing styles pan out.
We also saw pallets stacked high with granulated sugar. Yep – the same
thing I use in cookies. They add this to their wine to raise the
alcohol content and add sweetness to their utterly dry wines. I had
never heard of this process, called chaptalization, and I even emailed Mark
to find out more about it. The tour was interesting, although I wasn’t
impressed with our tour guide. He was a college student who was
slightly cocky, turned 21 two months ago, and passionately advocated
boxes over both screwcaps and corks.
At the end of our tour, we were given a tasting of three Cabernet
Sauvignons: the standard, the Chateau Reserve, and the Chateau Reserve
pulled from a barrel 2 days earlier. I really enjoyed the barrel
tasting, as it had vibrant flavors that were missing in the other two.
We had a great time at the Biltmore Estate and Winery, purchased 5
wines, and then piled into the car for the 4 hour drive to Chapel Hill.
If you want to know more about the Biltmore Estate wines, shoot me an email. We took notes on just about everything we tasted. Photos of the Biltmore can be seen here.
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