Will Trump Put Virginia on the Wine Map?

By Posted on Apr 09 2011 | By

“The Donald” Could Become Force in Showcasing Old Dominion Wine Worldwide
In yet another reinvention of himself, Donald Trump purchased the Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard in Charlottesville, Virginia on April 7, adding “winemaker” to his renowned deal maker reputation.  Known worldwide for his magical investment acumen, the New York Billionaire is now poised to make a significant contribution to Virginia’s wine reputation.

Kluge Winery Barrel Cave

The unlikely appearance of Trump in Virginia’s “tasting room” was a result of his long friendship with Patricia Kluge, the driving force behind the creation of one of the largest wineries in the state.  Unfortunately, a bad economy and an overzealous business plan resulted in her dream falling into foreclosure last year.  Until a last minute agreement by Trump to ride to the rescue, it looked like Kluge would relinquish the keys to her wine cellar and move on.  Trump seemingly reversed those plans with a simple lift of the bidder’s paddle.

Trump’s winning bid of $6.2 million was an extraordinary bargain since the estate went on the market last year for $100 million and had an existing $28 million mortgage.  He said it was likely he would keep Kluge in charge of winery operations, one of the few areas in which he claims no expertise.

If the general understanding of the arrangement comes to pass, bottles of Trump wine might well be appearing in casinos, resorts, country clubs and restaurants worldwide—all owned by the financier.  His existing distribution network could provide dramatic exposure to what is currently considered a regional wine producing region.

The day following Trump’s coup, another auction was held at the winery itself to liquidate the assets as part of the overall estate settlement. The event was attended by both winery owners and farmers from around the state looking for bargain basement equipment.  The bidders were in for a surprise.

Bill Moses

Kluge’s husband Bill Moses, with his ever-present laptop, was accompanied at the auction by his stylishly dressed wife Patricia.  He repeatedly raised his bidder’s number 990 buying all of the top wine equipment and most of the bulk wine.  Within an hour it became apparent Trump was invisibly circulating the winery grounds pointing out what he wanted to keep and what he was willing to let go.  He kept most of the good stuff for himself.  Surprised?

I attended the auction and had an opportunity to observe the unique interaction between the auctioneers and the former owners.  It seems that Moses was never more than few feet from the auctioneer’s microphone as one piece of expensive equipment after another shifted from bank ownership into Trump’s hands.

Not often do major second chances in life occur as dramatic as this event.  It appears Kluge and Moses will continue to generate headlines in the Commonwealth’s wine industry in the years ahead.  If you didn’t get a chance to attend this unusual auction, take a few minutes to see how it unfolded in the video below.

All the best to Trump, Kluge and Moses.  Wine lovers everywhere will be waiting to see how the new venture plays out.

[vsw id=”Y1bfBnS6sik” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]


Categories : WINE ARTICLES