It was going to happen sooner or later. The frisson was inevitable and not unexpected, but it still hit me, at the Virginia Wine Festival at Bull Run Regional Park on the dreary day of September 17, when I saw this:
Virginia’s newest celebrity winery is of course not all that new. If you’ve been away for the past year, you may not have heard the story of Kluge Estate’s spectacular bankruptcy, how Patricia Kluge and Bill Moses sought unsuccessfully for a “white knight” to keep them in business, and then how The Donald swooped in to buy the winery at bargain basement prices when the bank took it to auction. Trump installed his son, Eric, to be in charge of “Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC,” and kept Kluge and Moses on to help run the newly rechristened Trump Winery.
They weren’t pouring Trump wine this month, of course. Eric and his crew will have their hands full making their first vintage with this soggy 2011 crop. (For readers not in Virginia, it has been raining now for 40 days and 40 nights.) Visitors to the Trump tent were given tastes of Kluge SP sparking wine (which was consistently quite good in my experience) and the Albemarle viognier, rosé and red blends. After all, there are only certain things one can change quickly in the wine business.
Trump hasn’t wasted time getting the word out, however. My copy of the October issue of Wine Enthusiast arrived the following Monday, and there on the cover was a full-page ad announcing the grand opening of Trump Winery, with a familiar photo showing the rolling hills south of Charlottesville in their autumnal splendor, with the winery and vineyards reflected in a pond in the foreground. The small print at the bottom of the ad – right below a web address that doesn’t work as of this writing – reads, “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”
That legal disclaimer isn’t fooling anyone, and certainly not the editors of Wine Enthusiast. Page 16 of the same issue carries an article titled, “From the boardroom to the barrel room: Trump relaunches Virginia’s Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard.” The article begins, “Real estate magnate and TV personality Donald Trump has added winemaking to his résumé with the Oct. 4 relaunch of the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard in Charlottesville, Va.” The photo accompanying the article is the same one in the ad, and is captioned “Kluge Estate” (oops!). The photo actually appears in the table of contents as well, though the image is reversed. So The Donald got his money’s worth with that pic. And it is a very nice photo.