Monday, September 19, 2011

Vineyard Tour at Biltmore Estate Winery

Dennis Wynne (bearded man on the left) is the Biltmore Winery Vineyard Manager
I joined the staff of Horizons restaurant from The Grove Park Inn recently on their field trip to the Biltmore Winery vineyards.  I've been to the winery several times but have never taken the time to see the vineyards of the Estate.  So I tagged along with this incredible staff to see the vines and meet with the Biltmore Estate Vineyard Manager, Dennis Wynne.  Dennis was hired as the first Vineyard Manager and has decades of experience dealing with the challenges of vineyard management in North Carolina.  His knowledge of the soil and vines is amazing as well as his passion for what he does.  He loves to talk about it and to share that knowledge and passion with others.  The vineyards are not open to the public but the Estate graciously gives educational tours upon request.

Cluster of Chardonnay grapes
The Estate has 94 acres of vineyards which are located in a valley near the French Broad River on the west side of the estate. The first vines were planted in 1971. Varieties grown include Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. All grapes are picked by hand, with each harvest averaging 250 tons of grapes annually.  Additional grapes are selected from vineyards in Polk County, North Carolina as well as California.

One of the first Chardonnay vines planted on the Estate
The vineyard soil is clay loam and has been given a specific soil designation referred to as Biltmore loamy sand.  For those soil geeks out there, check out page 634 of the Soil Survey of Buncombe County, North Carolina create by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Polk County Cabernet Sauvignon grapes
After the vineyard we toured the winery and were able to see some Polk County grapes arrive.  Additional recent arrivals were new oak barrels both American and French.

The darker oak barrels are American and the lighter barrels are French
It wouldn't be a complete tour without a stop in the tasting room to sample several of the Biltmore wines.  Last year I attended 25th Anniversary celebration of the Biltmore Estate Winery which opened officially in 1985.  They have a long history of making wine in Asheville and will be here for us for many more years to come.  If you have never taken the time to visit the Biltmore Winery, it is time to do so.  As the most visited winery in the country with 800,000 visitors to the winery itself each year, the Biltmore is ready for you.  If you have tasted the Biltmore wine but is has been a while, again its time to do so.

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