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What Will Trump Do With Kluge Winery?

Former owners and winemakers still employed; Trump plans expansion of Virginia winery

by Linda Jones McKee
trump vineyard estates
Donald Trump speaks to guests and the press while Trump Winery president Eric Trump (back row, from left) Patricia Kluge and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell listen. Photo by Linda Jones McKee
Charlottesville, Va.—When the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard went into foreclosure a year ago and was sold at auction, there was widespread concern within the Virginia wine industry that the winery might cease operation and create a surplus of grapes on the local market. Fortunately for the industry—and the former owners— that did not happen.

In April, Donald Trump, billionaire real estate investor, promoter and reality TV star from New York, purchased 776 acres of the former Kluge property at auction from the bank. Farm Credit of the Virginias had taken over the winery in December. The acquisition cost Trump $6.2 million, or slightly less than $8,000 per acre. At the time, he trumpeted, “This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!”

On Tuesday afternoon, everyone from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to local growers and winemakers was beaming as the Kluge property officially re-opened as Trump Vineyard Estates. At a press conference preceding an invitation-only reception, Trump, president of Trump Vineyard Estates, announced with trademark modesty, “We’re going to do something special here that will continue to advance the Virginia wine industry. We plan to produce incredible wines and champagnes (sic). This will be Virginia wine country, and we will be one of the great wineries anywhere in the world.”

Trump did not elaborate on any future plans for the property beyond planting more vineyards. He did acknowledge that he is currently in negotiations to purchase Albemarle House, the 45-room mansion formerly owned by Patricia Kluge and her husband, Bill Moses. “Our projects will be high-end and will involve a continuation of the vineyard. Anything we do here will be what the community wants, and we will work with the community and the governor,” Trump stated.

Wines & Vines was at the press conference, along with Gov. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen; Eric Trump, president of Trump Winery, and Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. Kluge and Moses were also on hand: Kluge will be general manager of Trump Winery and Moses will be CEO.

Gov. McDonnell recognized in his remarks, “It’s a great day for the wine industry and for the state.” He added, “Having the name and goodwill of Trump behind the wine industry will instantly create new markets for Virginia wine. The blend of the Kluge and Trump names will result in more tax revenue and more jobs in Virginia.” He noted that the economic impact of the Virginia wine industry was more than $350 million dollars five years ago, when there were only 120 wineries in the state; today there are almost 201 according to WinesVinesDATA.

Winemaking staff stays on
Eric Trump, Donald Trump’s 27-year-old son, told Wines & Vines that the winery will produce between 15,000 and 20,000 cases of wine this harvest. “Michel Rolland will continue to be our wine consultant, and Katell Griaud, who trained under him, is our winemaker.” Griaud, who was a winemaker-consultant in Rolland’s laboratory in France, was hired by Kluge in 2009 to take charge of the winery’s red wine program.

The wines now for sale at Trump Winery currently bear Kluge labels. According to Eric Trump, this inventory was purchased by Trump and will be sold through while Trump wines are being made and the labels designed.

How will Trump avoid the fate of Kluge and make a small fortune in the wine business out of a big one? Eric Trump answered that question directly: “Patricia did a great job, but you know, she spent a lot of money. We don’t have any mortgages on the property. We don’t have any of the things that stifle development.”

Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board marketing office, summed up the state wine industry’s enthusiasm about the opening of Trump Vineyard Estates: “This is exciting. Trump seems to be interested in recognizing what has been done and carrying it to the next level.”

Posted on 10.18.2011 - 11:10:07 PST
Trump is proud to point out that he does not have a mortgage on the property but he doesn't say that through the foreclosure and sale, many of the people that Kluge owed money to got stiffed. In our case -- packaging supplies for their bottlings. Patricia Kluge did not pay her suppliers, but now she is out of debt and has a fancy new job. Steve Galvan
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