Donald Trump — The Next Robert Mondavi?
Donald Trump has not yet decided whether he wants to bid on America’s most-famous residential property — The White House — but on Thursday he picked up at auction for about $6 million the most famous winery in Virginia, Kluge Estate. Located just outside Charlottesville, it is but a few doors down from where one Thomas Jefferson also dabbled in vines before becoming the country’s third president.
That's Kluge as in Patricia Kluge who built a large winery and planted hundreds of acres of vineyards on her rambling estate in the Monticello AVA (viticultural area). It produced some very good wines before falling on hard times during the recent recession. Kluge and her husband, William Moses, have since been forced to sell both the wine operation and their home in a series of auctions.
Neither Trump nor Kluge was present at the auction, which took place at the property with past and future neighbors dropping by, but Trump told the media that he would love to have Kluge and Moses stay on to make wine, as their wine vision was better than his own. And, it appears, they may do so.
Although Kluge and Trump have known each other for decades, their divergent pasts could set up a rather obvious scenario. Trump is clearly a dyed-in-the-cashmere Republican, while Kluge, once married to America’s richest man, John Kluge, has long been a liberal Democrat fund-raiser and cause-backer. How long will it be before Trump can no longer resist telling Kluge, “You’re fired!”?
As is often the case, the bank allowed the property to be sold in parcels, and what Trump bought Thursday through the auction house J.P. King was Tract 3 of six tracts for sale; he had earlier purchased rights to the Kluge label. Tract 3 includes the Kluge winery and assorted support buildings on some 132 acres, including the original vineyards planted in 1999 and 2000. Other vineyards and vineyard equipment were not part of the bid. Neither was the Kluge and Moses residence, Albemarle House, which was still on the market at end of day — although Trump had earlier purchased its 200-acre “front lawn,” somewhat reducing the property’s curb appeal.
During the winery’s halcyon days, Kluge Estate produced some very good, if not yet great, wines including a delicious sparkling wine that was served on state occasions. For a while, the world’s most famous wine consultant, Michel Rolland of Bordeaux, worked with Kluge to improve its vineyard methods and to assemble its final blends of cuvées.
At day’s end, it was not clear whether Trump would continue producing under the current label (assuming that Kluge and Moses stay on) or whether Trump's name would trump Kluge's. Either way, should Trump one day win the White House, he won’t be celebrating with his own sparkling wine: His brother Fred died of alcoholism in 1981, and Trump is a teetotaler.