We have all heard stories, read books or seen movies that glorify the late 1800s as the age of American opulence. It was a period in history when horse-and-buggy carriages transported elegantly dressed guests to lavishly decorated ballrooms for dinner and dancing at the home of larger-than-life millionaires.
One of the hallmarks of that period was the prestigious Biltmore Estate Hotel and Resort built by millionaire philanthropist George W. Biltmore. The Biltmore estate was the place for the rich and famous of the period to congregate. Attached to the hotel was a winery that produced wine of exceptional quality for the prestigious guests that were privileged to be invited.
Today, the estate, hotel and winery still exist and are in full operation in Asheville, North Carolina. The estate can be visited by anyone wishing to witness the golden age of American history. It also is possible to witness some of the Biltmore’s grandeur by enjoying the wines, still made at its on-site winery, with your evening meal.
Just as a side note, it was the order of the day at the Biltmore Estate of old for white-gloved servers to change the silverware and the glassware after each course had been served. While opulence like that is rarely seen today, the current vintages of wines made and served at the estate are still available and can be purchased at the estate in person or online at their wine store.
Biltmore American Series Pinot Noir ($22)
The grapes for this wine were hand-selected from known California vineyards by the Biltmore vintners, then shipped to North Carolina to be made into an interesting and distinctive pinot noir. The first thing that caught my attention was the color, which is much darker than many of other pinot noirs made today. Next, I found the aroma and the flavor to be complex, multilayered and easily identifiable. The aroma is an ever-changing display of black cherry, blackberry and plum, with leather, coffee and clove in the background. The flavor is just as expansive as the aroma and features plum, blackberry and boysenberry, with just the right amount of oak. This is an excellent wine, with a long and full-flavored finish. In every meaning of the term, it is truly regal.
Biltmore Reserve 2020 Reserve North Carolina Chardonnay ($40)
This chardonnay has not been made with the standard, familiar California-grown fruit. The first anachronism with this wine is that the grapes came from vineyards located in the fine grape-growing region of North Carolina. Normally, the last statement would raise warning flags concerning the attributes of a wine not made from California-grown chardonnay grapes. The first sip of this wine will assure you that this is not only an excellent example of the variety, but it possesses everything that one seeks in a fine chardonnay and then some. For the second anachronism, the wine was made in the ancient and well respected method of being slowly fermented in oak barrels at low temperature and then allowing it to rest in other oak barrels for an additional 12 months prior to bottling. This assures that none of the delicate attributes of the wine will be lost or muted. The aroma is a cornucopia of summer fruits, with peach and apricot being the most obvious, along with a host of other summer white fruits in the background. The flavor introduces toasted coconut, citrus, rhubarb, strawberries and oak. In this case, the oak, a vital component of any chardonnay experience, has not been overdone, as it all too often is. This wine deserves every right to carry the Biltmore name and displays all the elegance and high quality that the name implies and stands for.
Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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