Just a brief update here, on news that America Online founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean, are purchasing Sweely Estate winery in Madison County, Virginia, about a half-hour’s drive north of Charlottesville. The deal was signed in July but was kept on the Q-T because final regulatory approvals are still pending. No secrets are safe from gossip sleuth Amy Argetsinger of The Washington Post, however, and she broke the story in Wednesday’s editions.
It’s easy to think, “Here we go again.” Is this Kluge-Trump redux?
It’s premature to write off Kluge-Trump, of course, because the rechristened Trump Winery is only having its launch this coming week, and we ought to give it the benefit of the doubt, after all. But The Donald’s white-knight rescue of Kluge Estate has been characterized by some klunky missteps, including the unfortunate naming of the company as “Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing, LLC.”
The Cases, on the other hand, have been remarkably circumspect. Their publicist tells me they don’t want to comment for the record – except for the bare-bones statement they gave the Post – until the deal has received all regulatory approvals, which should be within another month.
I’m told their purchase of Sweely Estate has been an open secret in the Virginia wine industry, but that it was kept secret from the media for two months shows that the industry respects their discretion and welcomes their involvement. They’ve reportedly engaged some top-flight winemaking consultants to help get the winery back on track.
The Cases are fixtures of the DC-Northern Virginia community. They made their fortune here, and their Case Foundation supports efforts to spread community involvement through new technology. They are also reportedly avid wine lovers and supporters of local wines. It’s hard to think of their purchase of Sweely Estate as a passive investment. One suspect’s there is much more to this story. Stay tuned.