Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2015 - 40
courtesy of the biltmore
He remembers when he was hired in 1983. William
Cecil, grandson of George Vanderbilt, had sold the
Jersey cows on the estate in 1982 and wanted to create
a herd of beef cattle. The dairy once used for the
Jersey cows was transformed into the winery.
George Vanderbilt envisioned the concept on his working farm.
peak, the estate has around 1,000
sheep each year.
"We produce a lot of different
wines," says Katsigianis. "With over
a million visitors a year we have to
have a wine for everybody."
As we travel dirt and gravel roads
on the west side of the estate, we
pass bee hives, vegetable gardens,
and fences that are oddly slanted - a
proven technique for keeping deer
from nibbling the produce. The deer
are somewhat spooked by the odd
angle and won't attempt to jump.
I'm surprised as we pass several
structures that remain on the property once used to house tenant farmers (see sidebar). Seeing these
buildings provides a glimpse into
the past as it makes me more aware
that Biltmore Estate needed hundreds of workers to fulfill George
Vanderbilt's vision as a self-sustaining farm.
The next stop is a greenhouse
filled with hydroponic lettuce that
will go straight to the plate at
Biltmore restaurants. A truck sits
outside emblazoned with the words
"Field to Table Biltmore" framed by
two forks: a pitchfork and a table
Stepping inside, I'm mesmerized
by the rows of tiny lettuce leaves.
The estate grows 18 different varieties of red and green microgreens.
They are also beginning to experiment with cucumbers and plan on
other hydroponic crops.
We soon travel to a barn with a
silver silo positioned beside it,
which serves as the canola production facility. They transform the
canola into biofuel and then feed
the spent meal to their livestock.
They maintain about 200 Angus
mother cows and have 600 to 700
yearlings and babies each year.
The cattle graze nonchalantly in
lush fields. From this vantage point
on the west side, you can see the
Biltmore House rising in the distance. The rural scene framed by
amazing opulence and wealth.
About six years ago they began
introducing a Japanese breed known
as Wagyu into the herd by artificial
insemination. The first Angus
Wagyu steers were harvested in
Animals on the estate are
humanely raised in a low stress environment without the use of growth
hormones or antibiotics.
Field to Table at Biltmore,
Chefs at Biltmore Estate battle it out
each February when they meet with
Ted Katsigianis, vice president of agriculture and environmental sciences at
Biltmore and vie for select cuts of the
Angus beef and lamb, among other
products raised on the estate.
"It comes down to compromise
between the chefs and what works
with their menus, but they all get
something," says Katsigianis. "For
example, the Stable Café is a lunch
place and sells a lot of hamburgers.
Bistro is more upscale so they'll get
the better end of the steaks. Cedric's
serves pub dishes, so they like the
lamb stew and that sort of thing,
which fits within the theme."
"Most estate raised products are features," he adds. "The reason we do that
is because of the volume. There's no
way to have it as a regular menu item.
As soon as you say, 'estate raised,' it's
They also produce about 200 eggs a
day, which are used at the Inn for the
breakfast buffet, Cedric's for the Scotch
eggs, and brunch at Deerpark. The Inn
also enjoys serving the quail eggs produced on the estate.
"We've also dabbled in free-range
pork. We've done some and it's been
successful. I think we'll expand that
program too," adds Katsigianis.
"Anything we can raise on the estate
the chefs just love - it's because of the
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