AWG Correspondent

James Houston

Trump Winery Photos

Trump Winery Review

Regions: Monticello AVA, Virginia

Reviewed: July 13, 2012 by James Houston
Published: July 17, 2012

Google “Kluge Estate”. What’s the first result?

Until 2011, Kluge Estate was the standard-bearer for Virginia viticulture, known for exquisite sparkling wines that caught critics’ attention and clued fine wine lovers everywhere into the potential of Vitis vinifera in the Old Dominion.

But owner Patricia Kluge, widow of the former richest man in America, was not immune to the tide of bad economic luck that hit us all in 2008, and had to divest many of her assets—including the winery, located in Albemarle County near Charlottesville.

Luckily, a good friend of hers was looking to buy. Donald Trump acquired the property in 2011, tasked his son Eric with management duties, and retained winemaker Jonathan Wheeler—the primary craftsman of the great Kluge sparkling wines.

Kluge Estate is now Trump Winery. It is an interesting period of transition for one of Virginia’s most renowned winemaking estates. What will the (arguably) best property manager in America do with the (arguably) best vineyards in Virginia?

When you walk into the tasting room, the Trump name is everywhere. While there is yet to be a wine released under the Trump label, there is branded glassware, wine gadgets, golf attire, even The Donald’s books. I thought of Mel Brooks’ line as the character “Yogurt” in Spaceballs: “Mer-chandising, mer-chandising, mer-chandising!”

Designed by architect David Easton, the wood-paneled space is wide, warm and dominated by a central 360° counter displaying food choices that go far beyond cheese and crackers. If gourmet cupcakes are your thing, you have carrot cake, mochaccino and other confections along with suggested wine pairings. On another side, you can create an assortment of fresh-cut cheeses from New York City curd mecca Artisinal. If you’re craving something more substantial, check out the small selection of seasonally-inspired salads, pizzas and sandwiches.

Hospitality manager Billy Koenig earned his stripes on the NYC restaurant circuit and ignores no details in creating a unique and memorable experience for Trump visitors. Though you can have a “conventional” tasting at one of the small circular wine tasting counters, try to occupy one of the many tables inside, in front, or in back. Select a flight that will be brought to you in small carafes for you to pour at your leisure. Then, order some cheeses and cancel your appointments for the next two hours.

The sparkling wines still bear the Kluge label and are the best on the east coast, maybe in America, full stop. Do not leave without trying the crisp, biscuity Blanc de Blanc, the Rose 2008 that bursts with fresh berries, and especially the Blanc de Noir 2008, a hymn to Pinot Noir that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with many French Champagnes.

The winery also produces the Albemarle label, with a Rose, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Bordeaux-styled red blend. All are solid and enjoyable, but sparkling wine is the undeniable star.

It has long been Donald Trump’s explicit goal to associate his name with luxury, and the acquisition of this property—the Krug of the east coast, perhaps—is another chapter in this story. Though the economic circumstances that led to Trump Vineyards existing were disheartening, Virginia wine lovers should look forward to what will come from this incomparable land being managed by competent hands.

Address & Contact Information: 3550 Blenheim Road Charlottesville, Virginia 22902. Telephone: 434-977-3895, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Sun-Sat 11:00-6:00.

Overall Rating:  

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