It was a fitting start to October as Virginia Wine Month that the first day of warm, dry weather after the most dismal September harvest weather in memory, Tuesday October Fourth, was the setting for a picture book late afternoon ceremony in Albemarle County, home to the new Trump Winery and vineyards (formerly known as Kluge Estate Vineyard.
The occasion was the Grand Opening of the property (featuring over 1,600 acres of prime vineyards with winery, equipment and several thousand cases of labeled inventory for sale) under the new ownership and management of the Trump Organization. Donald Trump himself was on hand (via a branded helicopter), for a press conference, along with his son Eric, new head of operations at the winery (and Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions for the Trump Organization), and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and First Lady Maureen McDonnell, Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore, and former owners Patricia Kluge and Bill Moses.
Standing on a platform with the vineyard in the background to stage left, helicopter and pond in the background to stage right, Donald Trump opened the press conference by saying “I really think this will be one of the great wineries of the world.” He praised Mrs. Kluge and Bill Moses for building a reputation for products of high quality which represented Virginia well, and also in acknowledging Governor and Mrs. McDonnell as the leading ambassadors of Virginia wine. When asked if he knew New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had announced he would not run for president and whether he thought Governor McDonnell would make a good “second man” on a ticket, Trump replied “Governor McDonnell is respected all over the country and the world; he would not only make a good “second man” for any ticket, but a good candidate in his own right.”
Governor McDonnell was grateful in turn for the Trumps’ investment in Virginia (acknowledging as well their successful golf club on the Potomac River in Loudoun County). “The Trump name is synonymous with business success. We look forward to a marvelous and successful endeavor with the Trump management organization combined with Kluge wine quality.” The Governor pointed out that agriculture was Virginia’s largest business sector at $59 billion annually, and Virginia wine sales grew 11% over the last year, while the number of state wineries has nearly doubled just in the last five years from 120 to nearly 200 today.
Questions were then taken from the press. One reporter asked what kind of new development would take place on the premises; “Very high-end and low-key” replied Donald Trump, who “wouldn’t comment” on whether a hotel would be built, but was clear that any future development would be consistent with “whatever the community agrees to.”
“With respect, how do you expect to make money in this enterprise where Patricia Kluge failed?” asked another reporter. Donald Trump pointed out that he held no mortgage on the property but had paid cash; being free from the burdens of mortgages enabled the business to operate much more freely, he explained.
This reporter asked Mr. Trump what kinds of new products the public could expect, in addition to the existing line of Kluge Estate wines. At that point he deferred to his son Eric, who with Mrs. Kluge answered the question, though she made clear that he was “her boss.” “We are currently re-gaining market distribution nationally” for the existing Kluge brands, he explained. A new line of Trump wines will be unveiled in six months, says Eric, adding that they are now under “secret” development until then, as they examine various market segments. As the word spreads that the Trump organization has taken over the management and distribution of the Kluge brand, Eric says, the national wine press has been very interested in the story.
When this reporter asked if he would commit the Trump brand to being 100% Virginia wine, Eric Trump answered unequivocally “Yes.”
“Why Virginia and why now?” asked another reporter. “We see a great opportunity here,” explained Eric Trump, noting that Virginia is now where Oregon had been 20 years ago. Governor McDonnell added that Virginia is now the fifth largest wine producing state, and pointed out that in 2008 Travel & Leisure magazine had named Virginia one of the five most promising wine regions; “Watch out, California!” In addition, he noted that the ceremonies were taking place just a few miles from Monticello where Thomas Jefferson attempted to grow the European vinifera grape vines 200 years ago. “One of the great things about the Virginia wine industry is winery tourism,” he observed.
After refreshments had been taken, Patricia Kluge took the platform and gave a touching tribute to the work she and her husband Bill Moses had done, and to the Trumps for taking up the torch. “I feel like I gave birth to this place and I’m very pleased to see it handed over to someone I’ve known and liked for 30 years. It took him three minutes to completely get the potential for this operation; Donald is the wind beneath my wings. I think the whole Virginia wine industry will be the beneficiary of this relationship.”
Donald Trump gave a sense of new purpose and even challenge to his new operation by saying “We’re going to do something really terrific that hasn’t even been done in California; we’ll be producing an incredible number of wines and wonderful events here.” Added Governor McDonnell, “Putting the Trump label on wines from the Kluge vineyards is like a match made in heaven.” First Lady Maureen McDonnell shared how, in commemoration of the “Acte Twelve” of 1619, she and the Governor had planted chambourcin vines at the Governor’s Mansion, and she was looking forward to their first vintage, which would coincide with the bicentennial of the Governor’s Mansion.
At sunset, Donald Trump fittingly left the property in his branded helicopter, flying into the sunset, over the vineyards.