Tag Archives: Biltmore Estate

Columnist readies himself for a huge project: Italian Wines

By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

The lifeblood of a newspaper is the advertising base, which enables it to be published. Jeff has done a superb job in gathering advertisers. In fact, he has done so well that there wasn’t room in the first few issues for my column. So this is the first of many for this year.

I wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and I hope your Holidays were everything you wanted them to be.

It is amazing that so much effort, time and love goes into something, which passes so quickly. I want to thank those who contacted me with questions regarding wine gifts. It was a pleasure for me to help you and I would appreciate some feedback as to how it worked out.

I have no idea where last year went. It seems that I was addressing my thoughts for the next year’s columns about a week or two ago. Last year, we covered many of the wineries in North Carolina in the three existing AVA’s, with a side trip to the Biltmore. In addition, there were specialty articles about certain types of wines and food pairings.

I am think about writing a column or two regarding how to taste wine, or An Introduction to Wine Tasting 101. In addition, I thought since we have spent so much time together on the East Coast and West Coast of the United States a journey abroad might be interesting. As I am particularly fond of French and Italian wines, I thought that I would write about Italy first. This not that I like Italian wines more than French wines but that most people are more familiar with Italian food rather than with French cuisine. So I will be better able to match the food with the wines.

Italy has a great wine making history, dating back before the Roman Empire. There are a large number of diverse wine growing regions from Alto-Adige (next to Austria and this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919) to Sicily, which is about as far South as you can go and still be in Italy. Even the island of Sardinia is producing noteworthy wines that can be found here in the United States. Although Sardinian wines still require a bit of searching out.

As there are so many regions producing wine in Italy, I intend to write about the regions that produce the wines that interest me the most. I will switch off and cover other topics from time to time. If your family came from a region in Italy that you might want to learn more about, send me an e-mail and perhaps I will include that area in my writings. There will be no particular order to the regions that I pick. It could be as simple as writing about the region that produced the most recent wine I might have tasted.

In addition, there are as many diverse local foods as there are wines — every region as its own specialties, indigenous to that region and rarely found elsewhere. There is a food and wine-matching truism, which goes something like this: ” If it grows near the vine, serve it with the wine.” I am looking forward to this year’s wine articles; I have a lot of recipes for Italian food. As they take up a lot of space, the recipe will be mentioned in the column but will be posted on the County Compass website.

There is a benefit given every year for the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation called “A Taste Of Coastal Carolina.” I have attended for about the last five years and have enjoyed getting a mini view of what the area’s restaurants and other food purveyors are offering to the public. I have spoken with Jeff, the editor and owner of the County Compass, and I will be meeting with one of the co-chair persons to see if the County Compass can help raise the standard of the wine being offered. More about this in later issues.

As the County Compass is now distributed in four counties, Pamlico, Craven, Carteret and Beaufort, this affords me a larger area to review local restaurants and other retailers offering wine and food. There is a new restaurant in Oriental opening on the site of what was once Scoots and then the Grill. It is called the Sea Shanty and is due to open in mid-March. I will be contacting the owner to see if we can get a preview of the proposed offerings both food and wine.

Dan and Diane Moses of Cravin Wine on Highway 70 in New Bern are hosting a Wine Tasting on Feb. 22nd at 6:30 p.m. There will be five wines presented (a Reserve Chenin Blanc, Le Atalaya Red Blend, Can Blau Montsant Rhone Blend, Altos Las Hormigas Malbec and Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet). Food pairings will be presented with each wine. The cost is $25 per person and reservations are required. The phone number is 252-514-2675.

As usual comment, suggestions or questions can be directed to justin@compassnews360.com

Wine guru for newspaper lays out ambitious agenda for the New Year

By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

The holidays pass quickly! I want to thank those of you who contacted me with questions regarding wine gifts. It was a pleasure for me, and I would appreciate some feedback as to how it worked out.

I have no idea where last year went. Last year, we covered many of the wineries in North Carolina in the state’s three American Viticultural Area, with a side trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. In addition, there were specialty articles about certain types of wines and food pairings.

An ‘Introduction to Wine Tasting 101’ is in our future! Since we have focused on wines produced in this country, a look at those abroad might be interesting. As I am particularly fond of French and Italian wines, I thought that I would write about Italy first. This not that I like Italian wines more than French wines but that more people are more familiar with Italian food rather than French cuisine. So I will be better able to match the food and the wines.

Italy has a great wine making history, which dates back before there was a Roman Empire. There are a large number of diverse wine growing regions from Alto-Adige (next to Austria and this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1919) to Sicily, which is about as far South as you can go and still be in Italy. Even the island of Sardinia is producing noteworthy wines that can be found here in the United States. Although Sardinian wines still require a bit of searching out.

If your family came from a region in Italy that you might want to learn more about, send me an e-mail and perhaps I will include that area in my columns. There will be no particular order to the regions that I pick. It might be as simple as writing about the region that produced the wine that I most recently enjoyed.

In Italy, there are as many diverse local foods as there are wines. Every region as its own specialties, which are indigenous to that region and are rarely found outside of it. There is a food and wine-matching truism: “If it grows near the vine, serve it with the wine.” I am looking forward to this year’s wine articles. I have a lot of recipes for Italian food. As they take up a lot of space, the recipe will be mentioned in the column but will be posted on the County Compass website.

Every year the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation underwrites a fabulous event known as “A Taste Of Coastal Carolina.” I have attended for the last five years and have enjoyed getting a mini view of what the area’s restaurants and other food purveyors are offering to the public. I have spoken with Jeff, the editor and owner of the County Compass, and I will be meeting with one of the co-chair persons to see if the County Compass can help raise the standard of the wine being offered at this benefit. Much more about this in future issues.

As the County Compass is now distributed in four counties ( Pamlico, Craven, Carteret and Beaufort ) this affords me a larger area to review local restaurants and other retailers offering wine and food. The Sea Shanty is a new restaurant opening soon in Oriental, where Scoots and later Broad Street Grill where once located.

I will touch base with the new owners to see if we can get a preview of the proposed offerings — both food and wine!

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Dan and Diane Moses of Cravin Wine on Highway 70 East in New Bern are hosting a Wine and Chocolate tasting on Jan. 25th at 6:30 p.m. Look for their ad elsewhere in this issue. There will be five wines presented (Prosecco, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, a Red Blend and a Reserve Porto). Chocolate pairings will be presented with each wine. The cost is $25 per person. Reservations are required. I think you will find the event to be quite enjoyable. Call Cravin Wine at 514-2675

As usual, please send your comments, suggestions, or questions to justin@compassnews360.com. I always look forward to hearing from my readers!

Dark wines evolve from juice that is almost always white! How?

 

By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville produces eight Rose’ and Sparkling wines ranging from dry to semi-sweet. I have tasted all, and I prefer the winery’s Reds over the Rose’. I do like sparkling wines, especially in more celebrated situations. I tend to drink a Rose’ in the warmer weather when the food being served calls for something more assertive than White.

Let’s start with the driest of the Rose’ and proceed to the sweetest. In truth, none of these wines are very sweet. They might approach the semi-sweet level.

Blanc de Noir means white from black. As almost all grape juice is white, a Rose’ and darker wines are produced by allowing the juice to rest on the grape skins. The longer the contact, the darker the wine. Rose’ wines are rarely tannic, or aged in oak barrels. This leads to relatively short-lived wines, to be consumed within 3 years of being bottled. Biltmore Century Rose’ is a relatively dry blend (Meritage) of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with a deep pink color and aromas of Blackberry and Raspberry. This wine sells for about $15.

The next wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir, which is slightly sweeter than the Century bottling but still fairly dry. This wine has citrus aromas with a Raspberry/Melon aftertaste and sells for about $11. The last Rose’ currently produced by the Biltmore Estate is a Zinfandel Blanc de Noir, fruity with balanced acidity, making it very refreshing. This is the sweetest wine of the three and sells for about $10.

As you can see, these Biltmore wines are quite affordable. Although made from different grapes the style is what allows all of them to pair with the following foods: Asian and Thai cuisines, Roast Turkey, Charcuterie (mixed cured meats such as dry sausage, prosciutto and various salamis), pork roast and pizza. These wines also taste pretty good with a Burger.

All of Biltmore Estate’s five Sparkling wines are made by the METHODE CHAMPENOISE, the internationally agreed upon designation for Sparkling wines not produced in the Champagne area of France. As a reminder Blanc de Blanc is white from white, and Blanc de Noir is described above.

I enjoy Sparkling wines as they tend to impart a certain psychological uplift to any occasion. Unfortunately, most people think that this style of wine is something that should be reserved for special occasions and holidays. I have a feeling that this is due more to monetary considerations. With the Biltmore offering its 750 ml Sparklers in a price range of $19-$25, these wines are affordable and can be presented in a variety of settings. However, I will discuss even more affordable alternatives later this month.

The first Sparkler is the Biltmore Estate Sec a dry presentation with undertones of strawberry. This goes well with shellfish and fresh fruit. It sells for about $25. The second is the Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs, a less dry offering with aromas of lemon, pear and apple. This pairs well with scallops, trout and spicy foods. It retails for about $23.

The next wine is the Biltmore Estate Brut with aromas of citrus, strawberry with hints of honey and apricots. This wine is wonderful as an aperitif, but also pairs well with crab and other shellfish. Retails at about $25.

The fourth wine is a Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir having a pink tinge and flavors of cherries and strawberries. This wine goes well with turkey, mahi- mahi , Brie cheese and pound cake. Retailing at about $25. The final Sparkler is Pa de Deux made from Moscato Canelli grapes. This is the sweetest of all the offerings with floral, citrus and Red Current aromas. This wine goes well with cobster, cheesecake and Crème Brule. This wine retails for $19, but is difficult to find outside of the winery.

As usual comments, questions or suggestions may be sent via e-mail to justin@compassnews360.com
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Some Biltmore wines taste better when young. Others need aging.

 

By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

Biltmore Estate in Asheville is the nation’s most-visited winery. There you will find some unusual wines! It is not that these wines are rare or difficult to find, but rather when the vines were planted they were not as well known as they are today.

The 2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc is a pale red wine with aromas of black pepper, smoke and cedar. This wine is used as a blending wine along with Merlot in the Bordeaux region of France. It pairs well with duck, wild game and especially with mushrooms. This wine retails for about $25.

Try the Limited Release Temparillo. Made from the premier grape in Spain, Temparillo was invariably the wine that I received whenever I ordered a Red during my visit to Madrid last year! This dark-blue black grape produces a ruby red full bodied wine with aromas of berries, plums and leather. With relatively assertive tannins, this wine can benefit from several years of aging in oak barrels. As you might expect, this wine pairs well with various tapas, pork and grilled/roasted meats. All of which are found in Spanish cuisine. This wine sells for $19.

Sangiovese- the name of this wine indicates how old it truly is. This name is derived from Latin Sanguis Jovis /Iovis(Jupiter) meaning Blood of Jove. The Romans had no letter “J” in their alphabet. This indicates the grape dates back to Roman times, or earlier. This red varietal is grown throughout central Italy but there are indications that it is being planted further North (Alto Adige) and South as far as Sicily. Originally used as a blending wine for everything from Chianti to Super Tuscans, it is now showing up on its own.

The aromas offered by wines produced from the Sangiovese grape can range from Strawberry, blueberry to violets with a hint of clove. This wine pairs well with grilled Italian sausage, herbed roast pork and minestrone soup. The wine retails for about $19.

Also consider wines known as blends or Meritages. Cardinal’s Crest gets its name from a ceremonial wall hanging at the Biltmore house, originally owned by the French statesman Cardinal Duc de Richelieu. This is a dark red medium bodied wine with aromas of cherry, black pepper and licorice. The wine itself is a blend of several varietals including Sangiovese, Syrah and possibly some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is ‘not vintage dated’ so you will see NV in capital letters on the bottle with no date.

Cardinal’s Crest is meant to be consumed relatively young but will benefit from six months or so of bottle aging. Do not put it away for five years, as you will not be happy when you open it. This wine pairs well with hamburgers and other grilled meats. I have seen this wine offered from around $11.50 to $16. Do some research before you buy –
your wallet will appreciate the diligence!

The last wine for today’s column is called Century Red — a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese, which gives the wine an interesting taste profile. There is the softness and fruit forwardness of the Merlot combined with the assertive tannins of the Sangiovese. The wine shows aromas of cranberry, raspberry and a hint of smoke. The grapes were not grown in North Carolina but the wine was produced here. Due to its duality, Century Red pairs with a wide range of foods such as lamb served with a dried cherry sauce or short beef ribs braised in this wine with polenta and root veggies. Duck Montmorcey (cherry sauce) might be an interesting pairing. This wine retails for about $16.

Next week in a special pre-Thanksgiving column, we’ll recommend several items for that special meal!

As usual, if you have comments, questions or suggestions, please contact me via e-mail justin@compassnews360.com

A low-tannin Merlot makes excellent choice for the novice wine drinker


By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

all has been with us for about a week and my thoughts start to turn toward Red wines. Although tasty at any time of the year, I enjoy this style of wine in the Autumn and the Winter as they pair with the heartier foods that we tend to eat during these seasons.

While there are many producers of fine Red wines in North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate offers a fairly large number (about 21) of consistently good award-winning wines, ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon to Zinfandel. These wines are available in almost all of the supermarkets in Pamlico, Beaufort and Craven Counties. As usual, comparison shopping combined with the judicious use of the Internet can lead to savings.

The best way to experience the full range of wines offered by the Biltmore Estate is to go there; -take the house tour; and then go to the wine making/tasting facility.

On the several occasions that I have been to the Biltmore, I have sampled every Red wine offered in the tasting room. This includes the free samples that are offered as part of the tour and the Reserve wines, which must be purchased.

In wine speak, a Reserve wine is a declaration by the winemaker that this wine is the finest produced by an Estate, which justifies the higher prices charged for these wines.

The quality of the wine is true in almost every case but there have been a few wineries that have used the Reserve designation as a marketing tool to raise the price of their wine. It doesn’t take long for the wine drinking population to figure out what is going on by tasting the wine, or by reading about it from a reputable wine reviewer.

All of the Red wines produced by the Estate are of varying degrees of dryness. At this time, I know of no sweet wines being produced at the Biltmore. Red wine is not usually classified by sweetness because the vast majority are considered to be “dry.”

What comes into play is the nature of the underlying grape from which the particular wine is made and the amount of tannin present in the wine. It is the tannin levels, which cause the “dry” or “puckery” feeling in the mouth when the wine is sampled.

There is no particular order to the wines being presented but I will begin with two popular styles and then proceed to a pair of slightly more unusual wines.

The first wines are a Pinot Noir NV (Non Vintage) and a Reserve Pinot Noir 2009. The prices are $15.99 and $24.99 respectively.

The Pinot shows flavors of wild cherry, strawberry and vanilla while the Reserve Pinot shows Raspberry, Strawberry and Vanilla aromas from the exposure to some aging in oak. So for $9 what is the difference between the two wines? The mouth feel of the Reserve is more complex, with a longer finish (residual taste), more intense aromas and the wine is just more interesting than the basic Pinot.

Since they are made from the same grape varietal, these wines tend to pair with the same food groups. Both pair well with: veal, salmon, tuna, quail and other game birds. The Reserve — due to its more complex nature — will complement more difficult-to-pair dishes such as lamb, mushroom strudel, stuffed mushrooms, olives and duck or goose.

The next wines are Merlots — a basic and a limited release. There is no legal definition of ‘Limited Release’ but I would surmise that a wine designated as such would be from hand-selected grapes, a different clone than the basic Merlot, or perhaps an experiment. The prices for these are: $12.99 and $18.99 respectively.

At one time Merlot was the most popular Red wine in the United States mainly due to two characteristics. First, the wine is very fruit forward and they are low in tannins. Second, low in tannins makes the wine very easy for the novice wine drinker to enjoy. This is a wine that can stand by itself as an aperitif, but it also pairs well with a variety of foods.

As these two wines are made from the same grape type, they tend to pair with the same type of foods. The basic Merlot goes well with smoked cheeses, hamburger, grilled chicken and tuna. The Limited Release Merlot pairs well with rabbit, beef stew and dark chocolate.

The Limited Release Merlot, because of its complex character, can handle more intense flavors.

If you have comments, suggestions or questions, I can be reached via e-mail justin@compassnews360.com

Basic beauty of wine: Something for everyone in vast array of aromas, flavors


By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

As you may recall from a recent column, there are 12 whites produced by the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, representing six different varieties of grapes: Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier and Biltmore Century white, which is a Meritage (a blend).

While I mentioned the driest whites in the last column, the next group of wines – though still dry — are becoming slightly sweeter. This is a relative not an absolute term. None of the wines produced at the Biltmore would ever remotely approach the sweetness level of a “sweet tea”

There is one exception and that is a sweet sparkling wine produced by the estate.

All of the wines mentioned here have won Gold or Silver medals at various national and international wine competitions. It is obvious that Biltmore wines are created to high standards, but don’t forget that the appeal of a particular wine is an individual choice. A well-made wine may not be liked by everyone who tastes it.

The following wines pair well with rabbit (especially the dry Riesling), goat, feta cheese, and shell fish: Dry Riesling, Chardonnay Sur Lies (which means that it was aged on the sediment adding a certain complexity of flavor) and a Chardonnay-Viognier blend, which was released for the winery’s 25th anniversary.

All of these wines have good fruit flavors and some have a slight citrus taste.

The last group of white wines are sweeter, but no where near as sweet as some of the dessert wines being produced. These wines pair well with Chinese and Thai food, fresh fruit, stronger tasting cheese such as Gorgonzola and desserts like apple tart and crème brulee (a personal favorite).

Included in this group would be Chenin Blanc (with tropical flavor such as pineapple), Riesling (with fruit and flower flavors) and two interesting wines: Biltmore Century. a meritage of Riesling, Moscato Canelli and Gewurtztraminer; and, Malvasia — a sweet wine tasting of mint and orange blossom. This ancient grape was better known from the Middle Ages through the 1800s as Malmsey and merchant wine shops in Venice were known as Malvasie.

This was a very popular wine in its day.

Rose’ wines occupy an interesting place in the wine world. It is pretty obvious that White wines tend to be lighter than Red wines but Rose’ wines are pretty adjustable. If you recall, Blanc du Noir means ‘white from black,’ and as almost all grape juice is white, a Rose’ is produced by allowing the juice to rest on the grape skins. The longer the contact, the darker the ensuing wine will be.

The Rose’ style of wine can be produced with varying degrees of dryness and can range from quite dry to semi-sweet. This style of wine is rarely barrel-aged or tannic. This leads to a relatively short lived wine meant to be drunk while still young– usually less than three years after bottling.

Biltmore Century Rose’ is a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a deep pink color and is relatively dry with Blackberry and Raspberry aromas. The next wine, Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc du Noir, is a bit sweeter but still considered dry. This wine has citrus undertones with a hint of raspberry and melon on the finish.

The last Rose’ is a Zinfandel Blanc du Noir, which is the sweeter than the other two. Although none of these wines are sweet in the traditional sense. It is the taste relative to each other. The Zinfandel Rose’ is very fruit forwards and has good acidity for balance, which makes this wine quite refreshing.

As usual, comments, suggestions or questions can be directed to justinj@compassnews360.com

North Carolina host to nation’s most visited winery – Biltmore Estate


By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

A number of years ago when I was still traveling to California’s Napa Valley wine country, if I had been asked what winery had the most visitors, I would have picked Mondovi or Sterling in the Napa area.

It turns out that the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, has the most with about one million people visiting per year.

I am not sure if I have discovered all of the wines produced by the Estate (as many are only sold at the winery) and for a time there were some wines that were only sold at the Estate’s restaurant. Many of the wines are available via e-purchase at the Estate website and they are able to ship here in North Carolina and to other states.

Local grocery stores in Pamlico, Craven, and Beaufort counties carry a selection of these wines. Retailers usually offer these wines cheaper than ordering directly from the winery.

From a relatively small number of wines, the Biltmore now produces about 45 different wines ranging from a light citrusy Sauvignon Blanc to a hearty Syrah. The wines range from white, rose, red, sparkling and a number of blends (meritage). In addition, there are a number of Reserve wines being produced. The styles of the wines range from quite dry to semi-sweet.

The best wineries tend to attract the best wine makers and the best wine makers are never satisfied with the wines that they produce. They are constantly striving for a better blend or experimenting with new grapes. The Biltmore is no exception. Their wine list is continuously evolving. If you follow their history, you will see deletions and additions over the years.

For example, the Biltmore is expanding its production facilities on the West Coast as they anticipate bringing a retail presence to California, Oregon and Washington starting this year and continuing into 2013. In addition, they expect to be able to sell wines in all 50 states by the end of 2014 or the beginning of 2015.

The wine world is always in flux as certain varietals become popular and others lose their audience. Merlot and Chardonnay are great examples of this. Merlot has been replaced by Pinot Noir as the hot red wine of the moment. Meanwhile, Chardonnay is still relatively popular but the hot white wine is Moscato. This wine has the fastest growth rate of any wine variety in the United States. It is an easy wine to drink — relatively sweet and not too complicated with a clean aftertaste, which makes it attractive to new wine drinkers.

All of the various varieties and styles of wines produced by the Biltmore are designed to pair with food. It is not that these wines can’t be enjoyed on their own — they just taste better when presented with food that complements rather than clashes. Remember, the food pairings can be as simple as fruit, cheese, crackers and possibly some assorted cured meats, or a simply grilled piece of meat.

When you attend a wine tasting, the usual convention is to start with white wines and progress to wines with higher taste profiles, including sparkling wines and finally ending with fortified wines such as Port and Sherry, if they are offered. So in keeping with that tradition, I will begin by discussing the Biltmore white wine selection.

At this time, the Biltmore is offering 12 white wines although there are only six varietals represented, which are: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Viognier and the Century white. The balance is made up of Reserve wines, three styles of Chardonnay, and a meritage represented by Biltmore Century white. There is also a Century Red, which will be covered later.

As usual, comments, suggestions or questions can be directed to Justin@compassnews360.com

Low turnover among Winemakers leads to success at Biltmore

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By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

Many wineries produce good wine but The Biltmore Estate does it consistently. What allows them to produce excellent wine in so many categories? Is it a deep dark secret? Let’s take a look.

Some of the finest wines are produced from marginal soil conditions, which forces the vines to grow deeper or produce fewer grapes with a more intense flavor. The Biltmore Estate vineyards are located near the French Broad River. About 250 tons of grapes are harvested annually depending on the weather, and all of the grapes are picked by hand.

The wine yield is roughly 60 cases for every ton of grapes. As you might have guessed, the annual grape harvest at the Biltmore is not large enough to support annual sales. Grapes are carefully selected from premium growers in other parts of North Carolina. Other varieties are grown in California, especially Pinot Noir (very difficult to grow in our climate).

Although not all of the grapes are grown at the Estate, all of the Biltmore wine is produced there.

When the vineyards were first planted, French-American hybrid vines were the initial planting with vinifera or European stock following a few years later. Although the hybrids have a better yield (around six tons of grapes per acre), the European stock (vinifera) produces finer wine. Over the years, all of the hybrids have been replaced with the European varietals. This is part of the secret of fine wine year after year.

When the decision was made to start a commercial winemaking operation at the Biltmore, the grandson of George Vanderbilt, William A.V. Cecil, soon discovered that there was very little known in those days about growing grapes in western North Carolina. So he did what his grandfather did — he studied the problem and then went to Europe and hired the best winemaker he could find: Philippe Jourdain, a sixth generation wine master from Provence, who joined the Biltmore in 1977.

Under Jourdain’s guidance, the switch to the higher quality Vinifera root stock was begun as opposed to the hybrid root stock the estate had been depending upon. The switch was not without its own set of challenges and another French winemaker named Bernard Delille was hired in 1986 to assist Jourdain.

Delille was promoted to Winemaker in 1991 and is still with the Estate. His area of expertise is in sparkling wines.

Jourdain retired in 1995 and four years later Sharon Fenchak was hired and promoted to Winemaker in 2003. She also is still with the Estate. Ms. Fenchak concentrates on the development of new wines and technologies for growing grapes

Both she and Mr. Delille share the responsibility for overseeing the production of wine and where the needed grapes are purchased. As you can see, the low turnover in the Winemaker position has led to a continuity of focus, which allows the Estate to plan for the future without a lot of meaningless directional changes.

The best winemaking expertise in the world doesn’t allow an estate to produce good-to-great wine unless the quality of the fruit is maintained. For the last 30 plus years, Dennis Wynne has been the Vineyard Director. He received the Winegrower of Excellence award in 2008. He and his seven-person crew oversee the 94 acres of vines. To maintain quality is a year round task.

All 57,000 vines are hand pruned and tied. It is this kind of attention to detail, which allows the winemakers to produce award winning wines year after year.

As usual, I can be reached for your questions, comments or suggestions via e-mail Justin@compassnews360.com

North Carolina home to the most visited winery in the nation

Biltmore-for-website
By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

My last few columns have been devoted to the latest developments in the various American Viticultural Areas of North Carolina. No review of wine makers in our state would be complete without THE BILTMORE ESTATE. At 75,000 cases of wine per year, this estate does not have the largest production here in North Carolina but it does produce award-winning wines year after year.

In my opinion, The Biltmore has the most beautiful setting of any winery in the state.

For those of you who have visited The Biltmore Estate, you know what it is about. For the rest of you, I urge you to go. Not only is the Vanderbilt home an amazing experience by itself but combined with the opportunity to taste the wines and partake in the craft, antique and restaurant scenes in Ashville it can be a very rewarding for a three-day or longer adventure.

Although, there is something to do in every season, I am partial to the winter, especially around Christmas when the Biltmore house is decorated in the style of over a hundred years ago. I have stayed in a log cabin ‘in the bottom of a bowl’ in Asheville that makes you feel there is no one around for miles. Between the hot tub and the wood-burning fireplace, I never wanted to leave. Snow on the ground just made it more magical.

George Vanderbilt wanted to build a summer escape home much as his siblings did in Newport, Rhode Island and Hyde Park, New York. After visiting many places, he and his mother came to the Asheville area and fell in love with the scenery and the climate.

The original plot of land was about 125,000 acres with about 8,000 left today. Some 85,000 acres were sold to the Federal government to form the beginning of what is now the Pisgah National Forest. Work on the building was started in 1889 and the home was opened on Christmas Eve 1895.

Your first view of the main house is breath taking. The original concept as developed by George Vanderbilt was to imitate the working estates of Europe. The building is done in the Chateauesque style of construction. This meant that the building would look like a French Chateau and as much as possible, it would be self- sustaining. A working property with a dairy, herds of animals and flocks of birds together with vegetable gardening, forests and a village and church as part of the overall concept.

The house, about 175,000 square feet, is the largest private dwelling in the United States. It is comprised of 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces with an indoor pool, workout center and a 2-lane bowling alley. In addition, there are servants’ quarters and numerous specialty rooms such as pantries, kitchens and laundries, which enable the house to function.

No one knows how much it cost to build this home. However, estimates put the figure at around $10 million in 1889-95 dollars. Today, assuming you could find the craftsmen, the number would be closer to $300 million.

I will be writing about the Biltmore wines in the next few columns and the food that pairs with them. As usual, I can be reached for your questions or suggestions via e-mail justin@compassnews360.com

Grapes do better than silk at this Chatham County winery

 

By Justin Manjorin | Wine & Food Editor

In my last column, I mentioned Starrlight Mead but didn’t explain to you what mead is.

To me, Mead brings up images of the Middle Ages, knights, and Robin Hood. Basically, Mead is a fermented beverage, closer to wine than beer, but in the past it was often drunk out of the same type horns used for Ale.
In the simplest form, Mead is a product produced from honey, water and yeast. Mead can be made in styles ranging from dry to quite sweet.

For those of you who are curious, Starrlight Mead can be purchased from the Meadery and shipped within North Carolina only. Prices range from $16 to $24 and can be purchased in various levels of dryness and in some flavors such as Blackberry.

Let’s take another look at Haw River Valley, North Carolina’s newest American Viticultura Area, which is home to
Silk Hope Winery in Chatham County. Wally Butler, an ex-forester, planted the first vines in his yard in 1985.

Originally, he had no intention of being a commercial producer. He just liked wine. The Silk Hope Winery and Vineyard was founded in the year 2000. The name comes from the Quakers who originally settled in this area in the 1600s with dreams of making it big in the silk industry. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

While the acreage under cultivation for vines is quite small (about 3.5 acres), there is an interesting variety of grapes being grown at this vineyard. Some of these are: Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Norton, Vidal Blanc , Cabernet Sauvignon and Traminette. This not the usual selection of grapes, and the wines produced at this winery would be a challenge for any winemaker as they require special handling and blending to produce good results.

Silk Hope produces White, Red, Sparkling and Reserve wines. As usual, I will start with the whites.

Traminette-$12. This is a fruit forward tasting wine with some citrus notes and a dry finish. This wine will pair well with seafood and roast chicken.

Seyval Blanc-$12. While not as fruity as the Traminette, there are citrus notes along with some melon. A crisp dry wine; it is often aged or fermented in oak to add depth. This wine serves well as an aperitif and pairs well with goat cheese and pastas with white sauce.

White Chambourcin-$11. This off-white wine produced from red grapes (fermented with no skin contact) is a light pink in color with hints of strawberry. This wine should be served well chilled and pairs well with stone fruits and berries. Would also be good with roast chicken.

Red Wines are as follows:

Chambourcin 2010-$16. Wine made from this grape has a deep purple color and flavors of black cherry, smoke and some spice. The growing season for 2010 was quite dry, which led to an above normal concentration of sugar in the juice and an unusual depth of fruit flavor and aromas. This wine shows some Rhone Valley characteristics and pairs well with grilled meats from chicken to lamb. It also pairs well with chocolate and chocolate-based desserts.

Cabernet Franc 2010-$16. For a long time, the wine produced by this grape was often blended with other wines to increase color and fruit flavors. More wineries are bottling this varietal on its own with good results. As mentioned above, the dryness of this year allowed the grapes to achieve extraordinary ripeness. This wine is very fruit forward with a spicy finish and some tannins. This wine pairs well with strong cheese, and meats such as beef and lamb. Might be good with game.

Norton-$13. This is the oldest cultivated American grape. This hybrid was first developed by a Dr. Norton of Richmond, Va. around 1820. The actual origin of this hybrid is unknown. This wine has raspberry, spice and cedar notes with moderate tannins, which allow it to have some aging potential. A wine that pretty much will pair with everything but well with pasta and red sauce, game and grilled meats.

For the next couple of columns, I will be writing about the Biltmore Estate — the most visited winery in America. I have been there a number of times and never get tired of the building or the wines.

As usual, I hope to receive your comments or suggestions via my e-mail address justin@compassnews360.com