O ne of my favorite places to visit is the Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C. The largest private house in America, it is still vibrant and alive and inspiring more than 100 years after it was finished.
I love reading about how George Vanderbilt fell in love with the North Carolina mountains, eventually buying 125,000 acres and creating the first professionally managed forest in the United States. The grounds were landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York’s Central Park and many gorgeous parks in Chicago.
And the house is full of incredible artifacts collected by Vanderbilt. I have been there more than a couple dozen times, and each time I go I learn something. If you don’t know about Biltmore House you ought to read about it and visit. It’s fun every season of the year
What I especially like about the Biltmore Estate is their winery. Ever since the estate starting making wine in 1985, the Biltmore brand has been growing as the winery experimented and found what the public likes.
One of the wines they like the best is the Century Red. (The Century White also is popular.) It has become one of the winery’s best-selling wines because year after year it is a refreshing, pleasant drink that pairs well with food.
The Century Red is bursting with flavor, made in the Italian style of light, fruity wine. The layers of fruit keep unfolding as you drink it, blackberry, plum, cherry, with some vanilla and herbs. It is an easy to drink wine that is great by itself or with a variety of food. Though it is velvety and full of fresh fruit, there are plenty of smooth tannins to give the wine some backbone.
The winery designates the Century Collection “American” so it can use grapes from many different states. They grow grapes on the Biltmore Estate, but the winery has forged partnerships with growers around the country, including California and Washington State to bring in a steady supply of quality fruit.
All of these Sangiovese, Merlot and Zinfandel grapes come from California, specifically Cienega Valley, Sonoma and Lake County. Though the wine is designated non-vintage, the grapes for this wine were harvested in 2011. The wine spent 10-18 months in French and American oak barrels before it was blended and bottled.
The Century Collection started with the Century White, released in 1999 as a tasting-room only wine. It was so popular the winery made it a permanent part of the portfolio, adding a red blend a few years later.
The wine comes in beautiful etched-style bottles to celebrate the architectural elegance of Biltmore House (completed by George Vanderbilt in 1895), and the name commemorates the 100th anniversary of Biltmore.
I would serve the wine slightly chilled.
From: United States
Winery: Located in the historic Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., the winery is the most visited in North America. Though the 250-room chateau on the estate is 118 years old, the first grape vines weren’t planted until 1971, by George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil.
Cecil brought in a sixth generation French winemaker, Philippe Jourdain, to help find the right grapes for the property. The vineyard was expanded to 150 acres in 1981, and in 1985 a winery was opened in the estate’s former dairy barn, which had been designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of Biltmore House.
The current winemakers are Bernard Delille, and Sharon Fenchak, a University of Georgia graduate.
Grapes grown on the estate include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier. The winery produces about 15 varieties of wine each year, about 120,000 cases.
The locally grown wines can be very good (especially their sparkling wines) and the program using west coast grapes has some outstanding wines. One of my favorites is the Blanc de Noir, a rosé sparkling wine.
Activities at the winery throughout the year include barrel tastings, cooking demonstrations, food and wine pairings and jazz and blues performances. The winery is definitely worth a visit.
Goes with: Teri and I had the Biltmore Century Red with homemade chicken tacos and bean/cheese dip, a wonderful combination. The bright fruit in the wine matched the spice in the tacos and dip.
Many people prefer beer with tacos and other Latin food, but I love the way a fruity red wine lights up the palate. It’s a great pairing.
The Century Red (and the off-dry Century White) are perfect summer wines. You can take them on a picnic or to a backyard barbecue. The wines are priced so you don’t mind drinking them every day, either sipping on the back porch or while you tend the grill.