The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2013

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The Biltmore winemaking team, Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille, in the lab. Challenges and Opportunities PHOTO COURTESY OF BILTMORE WINES PHOTO COURTESY OF BILTMORE WINES One of the challenges Biltmore had to overcome in starting its wine program in the early 1970s was that not much was known about growing and producing wine on a commercial scale in North Carolina. Biltmore rose to meet that challenge by leading the charge for experimentation and research in the North Carolina wine industry. Western North Carolina weather conditions and climate were often less than ideal for growing the amount and variety of grapes Biltmore���s winemakers needed. Sourcing fruit became a necessity. Not being entirely reliant on one region or climate gave Biltmore greater lexibility at harvest and with vintages. So for more than two decades, Biltmore���s winemakers have partnered with North Carolina vineyards as well as some of California���s best growers to keep pace with increasing demand for Biltmore wines while maintaining consistency in quality. ���As our winemaking program has extended beyond our own borders, we���ve enjoyed an increasingly varied mix of terroirs in our winemaking tool box. The collaborative nature of overseeing the Biltmore winemaking program on both coasts ensures that we have all these different regions and lavor characteristics at our disposal. Because we source from so many, we can ind the best grapes in order to craft the best possible wines,��� says Sharon Fenchak, who with Bernard Delille, leads wine production at Biltmore. The expense of winery construction and the challenge of developing broad appeal for a winery in the mountains of North Carolina���an area that was certainly not on the wine radar in the 1980s���proved to be yet another hurdle in the establishment of Biltmore Wines. As Biltmore marketed the experience at its winery and helped familiarize guests with its wines in a beautiful and historic setting, lasting relationships and strong emotional connections were forged. These bonds were carried home and remembered long after visitation. In time, the winery audience thrived and was extended to many other states outside of North Carolina. Biltmore continues to build trust in its wine brand through the one million visitors who visit the estate and winery annually. (Napa Valley legends might be envious to learn that Biltmore remains the most visited winery in the country.) That���s one reason a diverse offering is so important to the Biltmore brand, winemaker Bernard Delille explains. ���Diversity is essential because we have so many customers, seeking so many different wine styles. But there is a limit to what we can supply from North Carolina,��� he adds. ���We always want to ind out what our customers like best; hence we have a vast line of products. Our range is very different from that of other North Carolina wineries, and also that of wineries in other states.��� Fenchak expands on that thought, understanding that the palate of many Biltmore visitors is known to be a bit sweeter than that of wine consumers in California. Offering wines with both North Carolina and California appellations ���makes us very unique,��� says Fenchak. Biltmore Partners Biltmore���s on-property vineyard is supplemented by several other North Carolina growers, all based within a ive-mile radius of one another in Polk County. Biltmore also partners with growers in California and several areas in Washington State. One of Biltmore���s longest partnerships is with ASV Wines, which the company has worked with��for close to 20 years.��ASV has multiple wineries and vineyards over different appellations. Other valued partners include Pietra Santa Winery in Cienega Valley, Tenbrink Vineyards in Solano County and several growers in areas of Sonoma, including Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley. Further north in California, Biltmore sources grapes from��Lake and Mendocino Counties. Biltmore���s newest supplier relationship is with Rack & Riddle Wine Services, also in Mendocino County. Sonoma���s Groskopf serves as a trusted warehouse facility for Biltmore. march 2013 / the tasting panel / 117

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