So I’ve covered my general feelings about the Biltmore House. But as I mentioned, there is much more to the estate. And for me, any trip to the Biltmore always includes a trip to their winery. For example, I’ve been to the Biltmore twice and only visited the house once. But I’ve hit up the winery both times. And had extremely different experiences.
The first trip to the winery was on an early August morning. We had gotten there before they opened in hopes to grab the last 2 spots on a winery excursion tour. More on that here. But after having a wonderful experience with the staff, we decided to continue on with the normal winery visit.
We made our way through the gardens and cellar, enjoying the leisurely walk up to the tasting room. Since it was before noon, there was hardly any other visitors in sight. Up in the tasting room, we were able to walk right up to one of the many counters and have an in depth discussion with one of the pourers as we tried wine after wine. Because you can have as many samples as you want. And they are all included.
Yes. You read that right. Free wine.
Now there is a tasting room where you can pay to sample the more expensive wines (and if you are a true wine aficionado, you may want to splurge for this) but for me, the wines in the main tasting room were amazing. Who knew I would like a Gewurztraminer or a Tempranillo ? But I did.
I’m sure the pourer starting to give us the wary eye as we continued to sample as other couples came and left. I stared at them incredulously. Hello!!! Free wine! Why only try 2?? There are like 20 on the menu? And why come if you don’t like wine? This doubly amazed me. But I guess when you pay an entry ticket to the Biltmore, you make sure to try the wines regardless.
After sampling the wine, you can then peruse the adjoining shop to purchase any of the wines you tried or to pick up any other knickknacks that might strike your fancy. By the time we left the winery, we were both pleasantly tipsy and happy.
My second trip to the winery was not as enjoyable. We came back to the Biltmore to tour the house and decided to hit up the winery afterwards. It was also three weeks before Christmas which meant that the crowds were thick. The meandering stroll up to the winery was not a nice walk but a congested line of bodies. Since we had already visited the winery, we knew the trick. If you don’t care to see the informational placards along the main entrance, walk around to the back of the winery and enter from the shop side. From the gift shop, there is a separate entrance and line into the tasting room. And it is much, MUCH, shorter. But be prepared to wait (our shorter line still had a 30 minute wait). This time the tasting room was packed. It was hot (and stuffier than when we visited in August). People were angrier. And when we did get a spot at a tasting counter, we got many dirty looks for trying more than 4 types of wine.
But we pushed their judgy glares aside and got down to business. There were new types of wine on the menu and I needed to try them all! We stumbled through their names, making nicknames for the ones that were hard to pronounce. I made notes about the ones I liked in the booklet (“Smells weird but tastes good.” “Amazing!!!” “Classic.”). Our pourer was a little more standoffish but then he had 6 other couples to try to appease. And we were the couple that would not go away. But hey! if I waited in line for 30 minutes and paid to get onto the estate, I’m going to try me some wines.
After sampling as many wines as wanted, we headed back into the zoo…I mean gift shop. I had to push past people, say “excuse me” multiple times, and fight to get access to shelves and items. It was hectic and crazy. People were in full christmas shopping mode. They would take no prisoners.
But I threw myself into the fray and braved the crowds. I grabbed the bottles I needed (yes, it’s a need kind of thing, not a want), stopped by a cash register (thankfully there are many) and bolted.
The experiences from one to the other was like night and day. One was leisurely and one was hurried. One was calm and the other insane. And while I think this is somewhat caused by the Christmas crush, I also think it was due to the times of day. The Biltmore Winery is busy in the afternoons. Most people visit the house first and then make their way to the winery.
So if you have no qualms about drinking in the morning, then head to the winery first. Get there when it opens. The experience will be calmer, gentler, and more relaxing. You can drink in peace. Then, after you are pleasantly tipsy, make your way to the house.
[title type=”special-h3″ color=”#555555″]Know of any other good places to grab some free wine?[/title]