Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay

This wine was a media sample from Biltmore Estate

“Red Wine Diva”  So what’s in a name – besides part of your identity? 

I like to think that I have come full circle in the world of wine.  Just a few short years ago, I couldn’t even find a white wine that I would drink.  I tried!  I thought the next natural step from “white zinfandel” was to go to Chardonnay but I couldn’t find one that I enjoyed.  I was able to drink some sweet Rieslings, but no Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc and NO Chardonnay.

Then I discovered Century White from Biltmore Estate – lighter wine, semi dry and I loved it.  I actually bought it by the case. 

The next step for me was red wine.  I forgot about whites.  I had been hesitant to try reds because I thought they would be dry and bitter, but was I in for a surprise.  Not having the appreciation for wine that I do today, I don’t remember much about my first red except that it was a Pinot.  I was hooked!  So I went for years without even trying white wine, that is unless someone just insisted that I taste something they were drinking.  I just didn’t get it – how could they drink that stuff!

Then a friend brought a Chenin Blanc to the house one evening and even though she is a red wine person as well, it was way too hot outside to be sipping red wine.  A good chilled white wine really hit the spot but I still didn’t get too adventurous until the following summer – the summer of 2010.  Boy was it hot!!!  Too hot for red wine.  I had no choice.  So I embraced white wine; and you know, it wasn’t half bad.  As a matter of fact, I learned to actually enjoy and appreciate it; and even though I am the Red Wine Diva, I frequently choose to drink white wine – even Chardonnay.   

This Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay was crisp and clean with tropical nuances.  I picked up the refreshing taste of kiwi with a buttery finish.  Yep, the Red Wine Diva is drinking, enjoying and writing about “white wine!”

Varietal: Chardonnay           Price: $14.99

Stepping Into the Past to Sip Some Great Wine

A couple of weeks before Christmas, we had the pleasure of visiting Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.  I seem to have developed an affinity for historical land marks recently and since I had never been to Biltmore, I was thrilled for the opportunity to tour the mansion and try the wines.  The mansion is absolutely breathtaking (inside and out).    Biltmore is the most visited winery in the United States with more than a million visitors each year.  I truly believe that most of them were there the day we visited.  I was told by the Communications Director, Kathleen Mosher, that we would need to make reservations because Biltmore is so crowded during the Holiday season.  By crowded, I thought she meant there would be 200-300 people there.  My mistake!  There was more like 2,000 – 3,000.  The place was packed, even for a mansion.  It was so crowded that it was difficult to take notes as we walked through so I am going to let my pictures give you an inside glimpse of what Biltmore Estate has to offer.  When it warms up, I will go back and take my time strolling through so that I can actually take it all in  (and of course, I am sure I will need a resupply of Biltmore Wine).

I suggest that if you visit Biltmore, you rent a set of headphones so that you get the full background of each room on your self-guided tour.  You wouldn’t want to miss the intricate details of how and why various design features were chosen and which ones were out of necessity instead of design. 

George Vanderbilt had Biltmore built and officially opened the home to friends and family Christmas Eve, 1895 but construction continued for years.  Even though we perceive sustainability as a new concept, Biltmore was built with sustainability in mind and the family has always worked toward the Estate being fully self-sufficient.  “Biltmore is still family-owned, and we are passionate about our mission of preservation through self-sufficiency—a philosophy embraced before the first stone was ever put in place.”  (Bill Cecil, Great Grandson of George Vanderbilt and President of The Biltmore Company).


Pipe organs were very typical in homes of the affluent in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Rich leather was used to cover the walls in this dining room.

Banquet hall used for entertaining and holiday gatherings.  This room was used at  Christmas when the Vanderbilt family would invite all their employees to celebrate with them.  Each employee received a gift (as did their children) for the holidays.

If you look closely at the three-bay fireplace, you will notice the hand-carved stone mantle piece.  This was quite the undertaking, not just the craftsmanship that was involved, but mounting something of this magnitude on the wall.

This was the Vanderbilt’s library – packed with literary works from all over the world; but even more impressive is the detail of the hand-carved wood railings, the sculpture over the fireplace and the mural on the ceiling.  George Vanderbilt, being influenced by his Mother’s cultural interests, learned to love books and art at an early age.

Trellised Breezeway for relaxing and sipping great Biltmore Estate Wines.

Wines we will be tasting for future posts: Biltmore Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Biltmore Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Biltmore Century Red.  (Already tasted: Biltmore Century Rose’).

NC Holiday Wine Project – Summary!

I love snow and the holidays!  Putting together the NC Holiday Wine Project was so much fun and the wineries that opted in (yes, they had to opt in!) to participate were great!  And, yes, I know I am a little late with this post, but I do want to take some time here and sum up the NC Holiday Wine Project.

So starting at the top:

NC Holiday Wine Project #1Raffaldini Vineyards featuring their La Dolce Vita.  Being a perfect companion for cheese and breads, this wine is actually great to have in the house year round to serve those unexpected guests.  Weighing in at 12.5% alcohol and retailing for $15 at the winery.

NC Holiday Wine Project #2: Grove Winery presented the Halbrotroken version of their Traminette.  This light elegant wine pairs well with the Holiday feast from appetizers to dessert and is mild enough to never overpower your turkey.  This wine weighs in at 12.5% alcohol and retails for $14.99.

NC Holiday Wine Project 3Laurel Gray Vineyards always features a special Holiday wine label on their Encore, a raspberry infused red blend bottled under the name for the Holidays.  This post was a lot of fun to work on as I used frosted glasses rimmed with chocolate – sounds like a great idea for a special Valentine’s evening as well!  Encore weighs in at 12.5% alcohol and retails for $17.

NC Holiday Wine Project #4Shelton Vineyards  participated in the Holiday Wine project by featuring their port.  A true aperitif, this Oporto Style port  weighs in at 18% alcohol and is a real bargain at only $16.

NC Holiday Wine Project #5Iron Gate Winery is another of those wineries that offers up a special Holiday wine.  This year was Blessings, a raspberry infused Pinot Noir with 4% residual sugar.  Blessings weighs in at 9% alcohol and retails for $12.85.  (This wine was a media sample from Iron Gate.)

NC Holiday Wine Project #6Raylen Vineyards presented their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine stands in a class all its own as it won the prestigious title “Best in Show” at the North Carolina state fair this year.  This wine is great to just sip by itself but it also pairs really well with ham and pork anytime of the year.  This Cab weighs in at 13.5% alcohol and retails for $15.99 at the winery.

NC Holiday Wine Project #7Shadow Springs Vineyard took a different approach to the holidays with something we can appreciate all winter – Merry Mist. This wine is infused with just a touch of orange and has 3.5% residual sugar.  To create a mulled wine, all you need to add is a cinnamon stick and a cozy fire to sit in front of.   Merry Mist weighs in at 12.5% alcohol and retails for $14.

NC Holiday Wine Project #8: Biltmore Estate had several recommendations for the holidays from bubbly to semi sweet to bold dry wines.  For the Holiday Wine Project, I sampled their Century Dry Rose‘.  (This wine was a media sample from Biltmore.) For those that read my blog regularly or follow my tweets, you know I LOVE a good rose’ so this was a real treat.  By far one of the best rose’ wines I have had.  If you like rose’, I highly recommend that you try this one.  The Century Dry Rose’ weighs in at 12.5% alcohol and retails for $14.99 at the winery.

NC Holiday Wine Project #9:  The final wine that was featured in the Holiday Wine Project was La-Vinia from Cauble Creek Vineyards.  La-Vinia is made from North Carolina’s native grape, the Muscadine (this one was the Carlos variety) and is sure to please anyone who prefers a bold but sweeter wine.  La-Vinia weighs in at 13% alcohol, has 4% residual sugar and retails for $15 at the winery.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to sample all the wines that I had at home for this project, but each will eventually get its own blog post up soon enough.  I want to thank all the wineries that chose to participate in the NC Holiday Wine Project.  Without you it would not have been possible.  Thank you!

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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