Monday, December 12, 2011

A New American Wine Producer – Donald Trump Winery in Virginia, USA

Picture: Donald Trump Winery Staff Pouring Wine at the 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville, USA.

Virginia's wine industry got a boost in October of this year, when Donald Trump formally opened his new winery - formerly the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard - in Virginia. I was not there but had gotten a first glimpse of what might come, when the Donald Trump Vineyard was one of the wineries pouring their wine at the Virginia Wine Festival.

The Wines of Virginia

Virginia has more than 200 wineries and 2,500 acres of vineyards. Over the past 50 years, Virginia wines have experienced a tremendous development - to elegant and balanced, mostly European vinifera-based wines. Virginia is the 5th largest wine producer in the US, following California, Washington State, New York and Oregon. But one should not loose sight of the fact that Virginia accounts for only about ¼ of a percent of total wine output of the US.

As far as white wines are concerned, the European vinifera grapes Chardonnay and Viognier are the leading varieties today. Increasingly they are made “naked” or with little oak only, with the objective of retaining natural acidity and freshness. Indeed, Viognier has been named as the official grape of Virginia.

Picture: Map of Virginia

For French-American hybrid varieties, Seyval Blanc is still popular, but resembles now the fresh and crisp wines from France’s South West. Vidal has become the backbone of the artificially frozen ice wine (cryoextraction), which I am not a great fan of.

As far as red wines are concerned, there was a shift in top Virginia reds from straight varietal wines to blends. And blends have gone from being dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with a significant amount of Petit Verdot. There is an increasing focus on neutral oak and clean, vibrant fruit, mirroring the evolution of Virginia white wines.

Tannat, Uruguay’ signature grape from the South West of France, is showing up in more Virginia wines, usually as a blend. The only red French American hybrid which has performed consistently well in Virginia is Chambourcin, which, with its bright cherry aromas and flavors, crisp acidity and low tannin, resembles the Gamay grape of Beaujolais.

Trump Winery

Donald Trump is arguably one of the US’s most recognizable businessmen. His skyscrapers, hotels and golf courses stretch from Honolulu to Manhattan to Dubai. But this is his first investment in the wine industry. “This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!” said Donald Trump. Trump paid in total about $8 million for the 770-acre winery and the equipment on it near Charlottesville at public auction in April of this year.

Donald Trump’s 28-year-old son, Eric, will run the winery. Former owner Patricia Kluge will stay on to assist Eric Trump, president of Trump Winery, and her husband former IBM executive William Moses will work part-time as a vice president of operations.

Pictures: Donald Trump Winery Staff Pouring Wine at the 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville, USA.

At the opening ceremony, Eric Trump shared his plans to construct new buildings at the vineyard, expand its product line and eventually get more acres under vine. At 220 acres, the vineyard already is Virginia’s largest.

Donald Trump said at the opening. "This will be one of the great wineries anywhere in the world -- not in this country but anywhere in the world."

Kluge Winery (1999 to 2011)

Kluge, whose divorce from billionaire media magnate John Kluge left her with $15 million, dreamed of making a world-class Virginia wine when she planted her vineyard in 1999. She spent lavishly on about 200 acres of vineyard area and hired flying winemaker super star Michel Rolland to assist her. Kluge’s winery was producing more than 30,000 cases and was distributed in 15 states. She lost the winery last year when Creditor Farm Credit Bank foreclosed on a loan of $34.8 million that the couple was not able to meet.

A Role for Claude Thibault?

Donald Trump mentioned the word Champagne. While respectable sparkling wines have been made in Virginia in the past, sparkling wines have been taken to a new level in Virginia by Claude Thibault, a one-time consultant at the Kluge Winery. His NV Thibault-Janisson Brut, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, which President Obama offered his guests at his first state dinner is as close as you can get to Champagne outside of France. Is there a new role for him in the Trump undertaking?

schiller-wine: As Close as You Can Get to (French) Champagne at the US East Coast – Claude Thibaut and His Virginia Thibaut Janisson Sparklers at screwtop Wine Bar.

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