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Savor the Art and Science of Winemaking

Posted on 08/29/2018 by Jean Sexton

“The art and science of winemaking—for nearly 20 years, that’s how Bernard Delille and I described ourselves and what we’ve accomplished as a team,” said Sharon Fenchak, winemaker and vice president of wine production for Biltmore

A shared philosophy

“Our backgrounds were very different, with Bernard having begun his winemaking career in France,” said Sharon, “while my passion for the craft began while I was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Vicenza, Italy

Despite their differences, the two shared a philosophy of creating high-quality wines that are true to varietal character while still being food-friendly and approachable.

Biltmore winemakers Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille enjoy a glass of wine in the vineyard

Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille enjoy a glass of wine in Biltmore's vineyard

Raising a glass to retirement

When Bernard announced he planned to retire in July 2018, all the members of the wine production team wanted to handcraft a special wine that would commemorate their years of working together. 

“We knew it had to be outstanding,” Sharon said. “It needed to speak to all that we’ve accomplished as a team, and to reflect the distinctive direction in which we’ve developed Biltmore wines.”

Clusters of white grapes ripening in Biltmore's vineyard

Clusters of grapes ripen in the vineyard

Art and science in Biltmore's vineyard

For the wine itself, Sharon and the wine production team looked no further than the natural outgrowth of “art and science” in Biltmore’s vineyard.

When she joined Biltmore's wine production team in 1999, one of Sharon’s first projects involved a clonal selection initiative in the estate’s vineyards. "Clone" refers to a cutting or bud from an original varietal. 

“The vineyard team was working with Dijon Chardonnay clones,” said Sharon, “and we were looking for those best suited to the conditions of the estate vineyard. From a winemaking and viticulture standpoint, clones 76, 95, and 96 showed great promise, producing smaller, looser clusters of grapes with more intense flavors and aromatics.”

The 2017 harvest of these distinctive clones would result in the first release featuring them exclusively, and Sharon knew these grapes were the perfect ones for a signature Chardonnay in honor of Bernard’s dynamic career and their long partnership.

Winemakers' Signature Release North Carolina Chardonnay 2017 label

The commemorative Chardonnay label featuring Bernard's handwriting font at the bottom

Labeling a work of art

“For the label, we wanted something that illustrated the idea of art and science,” Sharon said. “The marketing team created a number of different concepts, from traditional monograms to some very fun graphics that had grape vines turning into the scientific formula for malolactic fermentation!” 

X marks the spot

According to Lisa Vogel, art director, the design finally came together with an X-shaped cross of the two winemakers’ names and a traditional wax seal featuring their initials in the middle. 

“Everyone admired Bernard’s beautiful penmanship,” said Lisa, “so we created a special font entitled Delille from his actual handwriting to further personalize the collaboration represented by the label and the wine inside the bottle.”

“It’s a remarkable Chardonnay with a compelling label,” said Sharon. “I hope that everyone who tries it truly savors the art and science of winemaking it represents—including the expertise of our vineyard team who nurtured and harvested the grapes and the care with which the wine production team handcrafts all our Biltmore wines.” 

Savor our wines by the bottle or glass

Although there is very limited availability for our Winemakers' Signature Release North Carolina Chardonnay 2017, you can purchase other Biltmore wines at the estate or online. Visit today for a complimentary tasting of more than 20 of our fine wines at the Winery in Antler Hill Village.

Featured blog image: Sharon Fenchak and Bernard Delille in the Biltmore Winery

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