10 August 2011

2009 Biltmore Reserve Pinot Noir

The Biltmore Estate is a mansion in Asheville, North Carolina built for George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862-1914). It's the largest home in North America, and the landscaping was done by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in Manhattan.

George Washington Vanderbilt II was the grandson of "The Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who founded the university that bears his name. (Lots of great memories competing at Vandy during my Quiz Bowl days. During a particular slice of life, I knew how to navigate a bunch of college campuses in the middle of the night: UT Knoxville, Georgia Tech, Washington University of St. Louis, etc.) Of course, I've always been interested in the Commodore's 1849 plan to build an Atlantic-Pacific canal through Nicaragua.

A vineyard was established in 1971, and due to the estate's draw as a tourist attraction, it's the most visited winery in the United States. I've previously reviewed one of their Chardonnays and was excited to try the Pinot Noir. The Chardonnay was grown and produced in North Carolina, while in this case the grapes came from California but the actual production occurred in the Tar Heel State.

With an aristocratic wine from a mansion, I'm pairing a lawn that needs a mow and a scruffy mutt that needs a good brushing. Yet somehow Wolfie put on a regal stance, as if to remind me that I'm the servant that brings him his food.

2009 Biltmore Reserve Pinot Noir
Russian River, California
$25, 14.5% abv.

This Pinot Noir has a fairly standard first impression of wild strawberries. But as it opens and develops, you get a touch of bacon fat and black cherry. The finish has a little cough syrup, which isn't a bad note--it implies a fruit character with bitterness and dark herbal aspects. If it's too prominent it's obviously a bad thing, but I like it in small doses. While a lighter and more delicate Pinot Noir would be a good match for salmon, I think this one would stand up fairly well with hearty meat dishes. I enjoyed it with smoked beef brisket.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.


fredric koeppel said...

even the scruffiest dog can conjure a touch of nobility when it's required.

Anonymous said...


Olmstead actually has a Memphis connection, as I believe it was his son who recommended to the city the development of Overton Park and provided the layout.

Benito said...


It's funny, isn't it? I've seen utter goofballs suddenly look like they stepped into a painting from one of the old Dutch masters.


Thanks for the note--park construction is a fascinating side of urban history that doesn't get the attention it deserves.