Our nation’s politics have gone sour, like wine left exposed too long to oxygen. A case in point: My column this week in The Washington Post Food section takes a look at Trump Winery, near Charlottesville. I conceived the article as an objective look at what Kerry Woolard, the general manager, and winemaker Jonathan Wheeler have done to improve the wines. After all, since Donald Trump bought the former Kluge Estate winery at a bankruptcy auction in 2011 and installed his son Eric in charge, the company has reinvested in the vineyards, constructed new production facilities, and refurbished several other buildings on the estate. And the wines have improved.
But it is impossible to look at Trump Winery without the filter of politics. Hours after I visited and spoke with Woolard and Wheeler, neo-Nazis and white supremacists held their torch-lit march across the University of Virginia campus. The next day, protests and counter-protests over a Confederate statue turned deadly. And a few days after that, the furor over President Trump’s reaction to the violence engulfed the winery when Trump bragged that it was “one of the biggest” in the nation.
It doesn’t matter if the wine is any good. (It is.) People will always judge it by the label, through a political lens. My column was posted at 8 a.m. Saturday; as I write this early Sunday afternoon, there are 46 comments. You can probably guess their tenor.
“If you gave me a bottle of trump’s swill, I’d pour it down the toilet.”
“I would give up drinking forever before I would put a single cent of my money into this guy’s pockets. The quality of the wine is totally beside the point.”
“No thanks. Don’t want one single drop.” Fair enough. No one’s forcing anyone to buy it.
“A drop of Trump wine will never pass my lips. Not to worry, there are a few other great choices that need not be boycotted.” True, that. There are plenty of wines to choose from if the name on the label makes you gag.
“Why is the Post showcasing a Trump product? Don’t help him profit commercially. Once again, you legitimize and normalize his craziness and threat to America. Poor judgment, Post.” Well, my editors did approve the subject. And I do write often about local wineries. And given that most references to Trump wines in the media — including the Post — treat them as dreck, just assuming because, you know, they’re Trump, I figured I’d write about the winery as a winery. But okay, you can disagree with that.
“I would think that Trump only purchased the winery after he found out they specialize in ‘white’ wines. I’ll bet, considering it’s origin, their Reisling is especially popular.” Would be funnier if Riesling was spelled correctly.
Some comments did get me a bit miffed, but not about politics. You can imagine my eyes rolling at these:
“There is only one thing worse that Virginia wine and that is Maryland wine.” This followed by more of the usual political stuff.
Another commenter, after saying she’d boycott the Post Food section for the Times because of my column, added this gem: “BTW, I live in Oregon, there are no better wines in the country home to the best Pinot’s ever! So to read about east coast wines is just, silly.”
Having professed my love for Oregon pinot noir in the column just two weeks ago, I appreciate her sentiment, even if her political ire affects her typing. But to say reading about East Coast wine is “just, silly” is the height of silliness itself.
I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind on politics, but I’d like to open some minds about wine.
I thought it was a good story for you to cover. While I, too, would not buy anything under his label, I was very interested on your take on its current status. My wife and I had been to Kluge and had bought and tried several of her wines. We had liked both the New World Red and the Rose’. I was sorry that she had to sell, but it was a bad bet on luxury housing at the wrong time. Thank you, Dave.
Dave, your article is honest, fair and balanced. I tried the one of the Trump wines before the election and it was quite nice. Wouldn’t buy it again though as it was more of a novelty. Check your quote: “There is only one thing worse that Virginia wine and that is Maryland wine.” A billionaire who owned a newspaper once told me “everyone needs and editor.” Thanks for your wine wisdom.
The savvy business move here would be to sell the wine in bulk to another winery for the next few seasons. The other side of “buying a wine by its label”.
I have visited about 100 Virginia wineries, on average they are quality wineries. The results from the investments they made in their wineries is evident, It is easy to generalize about a wine growing region when you have only tasted a few wines. If you visit a broad range of wine growing regions within a state, and take the time to speak with winemakers and principles a much more comprehensive analysis can be drawn. As for Trump winery, I can’t say enough good things about the winery and the key people at the winery. But of course I have taken the time to visit the winery several times, over a period of years to draw my conclusion. As a wine professional I draw my conclusions apart from the emotions many in the public make.