Thursday April 7th, JP King, an auction company based in Alabama, auctioned off over 900 acres of land, which included the largest vineyard in Virginia, a winery, a carriage house, tasting room and farm shop, to attempt to raise money on the defaulted property. Former owners Bill Moses and Patricia Kluge owe some $35 million to Farm Credit on the properties.
After more than three hours (during which bids which had been settled were re-opened and combined with other for re-bidding) and the dust settled, the six lots were sold for the breathtakingly low price of $8.07 million, and were divided between representatives for Donald Trump and Sal Cangione, a real estate developer from Northern Virginia.
Representatives for Trump and Cangiano (who bid in person) were the only serious contenders in a battle that lasted several hours. Former manager of the operation, Bill Moses, was seen periodically slipping in and out of the room, in discreet discussion with representatives from Trump’s team. At 3PM, it seemed as if Sal had won the bidding for some $6 million and change (this reporter left, seeing no end in sight and lacking any “Absolut” to mitigate the tedium).
Trump ended up with the lion’s share of acreage (778) with the combined lots of 3/4 (containing the vineyard & winery and a cottage), and lot # 6 of some 647 acres including vineyards. Bidder 901 (Cangiano) took lots #1, 2 and 5, including the existing farm shop and tasting room and undeveloped land.
Neither Trump nor Cangiano have previous experience with commercial wine production. Mr. Trump’s organization had not responded to inquiries as to his interest in the property by post time, but Dave McIntyre, wine writer for the Washington Post who first broke the story of the winery bankruptcy last November,reported Trump as saying in his column that “I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine. This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million.”
Similarly, Cangiano was reportedly drawn to the auction “because it seemed like fun”, but he doubts he’ll be able to make wine, as he got no vineyards in the deal, as reported in The Hook online by Lisa Provence.
Will we see Chateau Trump replace Kluge Estate? What’s the nature of the relationship between Trump, Kluge and Moses, and how will that affect the future of the estate and its wines?
While Moses has acknowledged to the press that Patricia Kluge has known Trump for over 20 years, he declined to comment on whether Trump’s bargain purchase of the vineyards and winery was related to that relationship (Trump’s representatives have stated that they he wouldn’t be purchasing the property unless it made good business sense). Moses confirmed to this reporter that he and Kluge would be involved in managing the operation under Trump in some way but was vague: “Discussions are on going over the nature and extent of our respective roles.” As for product names, “It is still early in the process but we would imagine that the Trump name will be used as it should be because he is the new owner.”
What do YOU think the best name would be for a Virginia wine owned by Donald Trump? (“Trumpicello” was suggested by Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post). And what would Thomas Jefferson say about all of this happening in Monticello’s back yard, as it were?
For the next week, until midnight Friday April 22nd, this blog will receive and post naming suggestions. For the following week, I will invite readers to read the suggested Trump brands and e-mail in their votes for their favorite. The winner (as determined by readers’ votes) will be identified with their name and photo on this blog! This contest is sponsored by Wine Made Simple, a new specialty wine shop on Ivy Road just west of Charlottesville (see link at top of the page).