As Mike and Ben were on their annual guys’ dive trip, I was treating my mother to a visit to Biltmore Estate for Mother’s Day. I’ve been to Biltmore at least a dozen times, and they manage to change things up so that I see something new every time.
During this visit, each of the dramatic rooms was filled with another kind of drama: costumes from films based on classic literature. The “Designed for Drama” exhibit included gowns worn by Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice, Nicole Kidman in The Portrait of a Lady, Uma Thurman in The Golden Bowl, and Carey Mulligan in Far from the Madding Crowd as well as Johnny Depp in Sleepy Hollow and Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes. It was fascinating to see the costumes themselves, and the decked-out mannequins made it much easier to imagine the Vanderbilt family and their friends inhabiting the grand spaces.
The exhibit was made even more special with showcases of first edition copies of the books that inspired the films from George Vanderbilt’s personal library.
While I’ve walked through the estate’s gardens on previous visits, the beautiful flowers took on a whole new perspective during this visit with the help of a macro camera lens. This fun iPhone accessory that allows you to photograph things in an up close and personal way.
My mother and I also visited the Biltmore garden shop for the first time and really enjoyed the variety of merchandise for sale there that isn’t available anywhere else on the estate. We wound up spending as much time in the gardens and greenhouse as we did in the mansion itself.
While a wine tasting is included in the price of admission to the estate, we splurged for a premium tasting featuring red wine and chocolate. Biltmore Winery’s resident expert, Les, is a former wine importer and an all-around entertaining guy. He shared his extensive knowledge with us as well as a few oenophile party tricks, such as shaking the alcohol out of a wine glass to clearly smell the type of oak used in its aging.
Les also had us hold our noses while we ate a jelly bean to demonstrate how much our sense of smell affects our sense of taste. Then he demonstrated the ideal way to pair wine with food; in this case, Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2013 with an estate-made milk chocolate and hazelnut truffle, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Franc Dry Creek Valley 2013 with a dark chocolate and strawberry truffle, Antler Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2014 with a dark chocolate truffle with pink peppercorn ganache, and Biltmore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon North Carolina 2015 with a double dark chocolate truffle. Divine!
Biltmore Estate has added onto the winery section of the property extensively over the past few years, adding additional family-friendly entertainment such as a model train village. This temporary exhibit is filled with charming wooden fairy structures modeled after real-life buildings, such as the New York residence of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Asheville never fails as a wonderful three-day getaway, particularly when you include a day at Grove Park Inn’s amazing spa like my mother and I did. We each enjoyed an aromatherapy massage and poolside luncheon before taking advantage of the sauna, whirlpool, and indoor floating pool complete with underwater music. I couldn’t capture any photos since no mobile phones are allowed, but that’s part of why the spa is so relaxing! It’s not cheap, but it’s a terrific addition to a girls’ getaway that will leave you relaxed, inspired, and dreaming of the turn-of-the-century elegance.