Obviously we went to the Biltmore Estate, the palatial home of George Vanderbilt. This estate encompasses 8000 acres. Just to drive from one area to the next is typically 3 miles of twisty idyllic roadway meandering through the woods. Being the naturally reclusive tourist that I am, I requested that we start our day at the furthest point out and work our way back to the front, which typically will help you avoid the crush of tourists. This being a Wednesday, it shouldn’t have been that bad anyway, but when we got to the Winery and Farm Village, as they so quaintly call it, we were one of only a handful of people on that part of the property. Ah, heaven!
Dave and I started our day by touring the Winery and partaking of some wine tasting. The winery is housed in what used to be the Biltmore dairy barns. Mr. Vanderbilt had at one time a very successful dairy and creamery on his estate. Since he had originally wanted his estate to be self sufficient, he had chosen to bring in dairy cows for milk and meat. His herd was so productive, he began to donate the overages to the local children’s hospital. After many comments on how his milk was of such high quality, he chose to begin selling to the general public, thus not only allowing the estate to be self sufficient, but to produce a profit. Now the only milking occurring on the estate is the milking of grapes!! Of the 58,000 vines on the estate only those vines that are deemed ready by the winemaster are hand picked and processed. We got to see the huge vats that are used for the fermenting and the casks used for aging, as well as the wine cellars on the property. Of course the tour dumps you into the wine tasting area where they give you a list of all their wines. Most are free to taste, but the limited editions and the champagne are available for a small fee. You are allowed to tasted 8 different wines. After about 5, Dave and I had had enough and were happy. We purchased three bottles, one of which Dave had really liked. Wow, he usually hates that kind of stuff.
From the Winery we moved on to the empty Farm Village. Woo hoo again! We got to collect a few eggs from the chickens and put them in the basket on a hook, just for that purpose. We saw the baby chicks and some more goats and two draft horses who were each 16 hands high and roughly 2000 pounds each. We pondered the thought process of someone who had decided to name one of the buildings designed to oversee bike rentals and trail rides “Outdoor Center” . Then we wandered over to the Historic Horse stable, where there were no horses, but lots of farm equipment.
Just as we were leaving, the parking lot was beginning to fill, so we decided to go to the Deerpark restaurant for something light and then we headed off to the Biltmore House for our 4:00 house tour. Arriving a bit early, we wandered the exterior and took hundreds of photos of the ornate carvings covering the outside of the building. The exterior of the building is made of limestone but the building’s foundation is constructed entirely of steel and brick. Considering it was begun in 1889 and finished in 1895, it’s pretty incredible how advanced the building is. It had electricity and phones and was powerd by a 15 kilowatt 12 volt generator, which if you think about it was awesome.
Our tour was good, but we were both surprised at how much information we thought would have been included, but was not. Still, there was quite a plethora of things imparted and we came away with our heads reeling with information. The house has 65 bedrooms, a bowling alley, a swimming pool that was lighted and heated (remember the time frame guys) had 5 refrigerators, an electric dumb waiter as well as an electric passenger car (elevator) which still runs. The stairs are all counterbalanced and built into the outerwalls so that they need no supports, there is a huge pipe organ in the great hall, paintings by Renoir and Whistler and more beautiful furnishings and artwork than you can imagine. Once we had spilled out of the exit, we needed to wander in nature again, so we went to see the 4 acres of gardens. If we thought we would be wandering simple beauty we were wrong. The gardens were extraordinary! I’ll try to post some of the pictures on here. (You aren’t allowed to take ANY interior photos at all, so all pictures will be exterior.)