Winery Makes Comeback Under New Ownership

November 19, 2012

It's been just over a year since the Trump winery reopened after it was purchased from the bankrupt Kluge estate. While there were all kinds of concerns about a gaudy Trump property coming to Central Virginia, the staff there says it's not about standing out.

When Donald Trump bought the Kluge estate and winery, there was the obligatory fanfare that comes with a Trump acquisition. But as wine makers squeeze grapes to prepare the 2012 vintages just over a year later, there is a new attitude throughout the property.

"As a team, it's very nice to be able to walk around when the team thinks like you and wants the same things and same objective," said winemaker Kattel Griaud.

There is little flash, glitz, or glam. Instead, it's a new approach to making wine. Under Kluge ownership, there was a focus on volume, but under Trump, it's a different strategy.

"In the past we had focused on producing and the market not keeping up with it, and that's what failed under the previous owners. And I think now we're on quality, and when we get to a time when we can sell each case we make we'll go quantity," said winemaker Johnathan Wheeler.

There is another surprising change. It's not the Trump vineyard trying to stand out, but instead, to fit in.

"I think a little bit coming from the old owners, we were kind of restricted as far as what interaction we had with other wineries, and I think we are trying to open up now, and just because we are from Trump doesn't mean our neighbors can't come over and ask a question or borrow something that they need," said Wheeler.

Immediately after the property was purchased, Trump winery joined the Monticello Wine Trail, a group of area wineries that team up for wine making and marketing expertise. The labels are new too. Instead of claiming the Virginia American viticulture area as the place where the grapes grow, it now shows the hyper-local Monticello viticulture area.

"I think there is a big potential here. I noticed like Jonathan says the vineyard is getting older and older, and I'm happy with this vintage, and I see the potential more and more year after year," said Griaud.

While wine production is certainly important, it's not the only pressing issue at the winery.

"When a property goes into distress for a few years and then in the interim when it was owned by the bank very minimal stuff was being done, so there is a lot of deterioration to several of the buildings and even the condition of a lot of the property," said winery employee Kerry Woolard.

That is the focus of improvements on the 1300 acres: not new buildings, but fixing and upgrading existing ones. They have a new bar in the tasting room, a new patio, and a new view, and people are noticing.

"We are definitely getting more people than, historically, we've ever had in terms of visiting the tasting room and so I think people are coming out and curious and seeing what we have to offer," said Woolard.

It's all in an effort to be a part of the area, and show Central Virginia it's not necessarily all in the name.

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