In 1971, George Vanderbilt’s grandson William Cecil first experimented with winemaking at Biltmore at his new North Carolina vineyard. From a harvest of French-American hybrid grapes planted within sight of Biltmore House, the inaugural vintage was bottled in the estate Conservatory.
Unsatisfied with the wine (it would later be dubbed “the crush of horror”), Mr. Cecil sought advice from experts in the field of winemaking at the University of California at Davis. Although the researchers were uncertain that vinifera cultivation was truly possible in western North Carolina vineyards because of general growing conditions in the region, they worked closely with Mr. Cecil to suggest new advances in grape-growing methods and technology.
Mr. Cecil continued his effort to achieve his dream of making wine at Biltmore by moving the vineyard to the west side of the estate and expanding to 150 acres of vinifera grapes. In 1977, Mr. Cecil traveled to France to persuade sixth-generation French winemaster Philippe Jourdain to oversee the development of Biltmore wines and to help build the future of what would become the Biltmore Estate Wine Company.
In the decades since, Biltmore has grown and tested numerous varietals. Six of them – Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot – have proven to be particularly well-suited for our western North Carolina terroir and the microclimate of the estate. We continue to evaluate other varietals in a special test vineyard behind the winery. In an effort to expand our portfolio and consistently craft the highest quality wine possible, we also partner with select growers in North Carolina, Washington State, and throughout California, including Sonoma and Napa.
Today, we continue to honor the Vanderbilt heritage of agriculturally based sustainability as well as Mr. Cecil’s legacy. We are proud of his vision and hard work that have created diversification opportunities in harmony with Biltmore’s mission.