Here's The One Trump Enterprise That's Actually Earning Major Praise
When President Obama bashed Donald Trump's wine at a March 12 Democratic Party fundraiser in Texas by asking, "How good can that wine be?," it begged the question: Well, how good can it be? As much as you may hate The Donald and his politics, you may have more trouble hating on the wine produced at Trump Winery. The truth is Trump's wine may be one of his best enterprises.
Of course, it's not technically his wine. It's his son's. Trump owns the winery land in Charlottesville, Virginia, while his son, Eric, owns the actual business. While Trump Vodka and Trump Steak may be busts, to say that that the Trump vineyard produces award-winning wine is no exaggeration.
Take its baby, the 2009 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc. As an Amazon best-seller, it's ranked fourth among the site's sparkling wines. More importantly among wine snobs are its industry accolades. The wine won 96 points Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, which uses a blind judging system. It also won gold at the The Fifty Best Sparkling Wine Competition; gold at Vineyard and Winery Management 'East Meets West'; 89 points from Wine Enthusiast Magazine; silver at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition; silver at the Decanter Awards; and silver at the Virginia Governor's Cup Competition. Multiple other Trump wines have racked up awards, too.
Kerry Woolard, general manager at Trump Winery, tells Bustle that wholesalers actually reach out to the company, which is a rarity for new wineries. Typically, new wineries have to hustle for attention because the competition in the industry is so stiff. The number of U.S.-based wineries has quadrupled over the past ten years. Apart from visiting Trump Winery and its website and ordering the wine directly from the company, you can find the wine in restaurants and wine shops in 25 states. Woolard thinks the winery's success has something to do with the Trump brand being "known for quality and luxury." Um, sure.
"There is no question that with the global brand recognition that we have been able to grow and make strides faster. It's pretty rare that wholesalers are coming after you wanting to represent your brand," Woolard says, though she admits that "having a celebrity brand doesn't always play well."
"There are so many novelty or vanity projects in the wine industry," Woolard explains. "It's typical for [celebrities] to slap a label on their whatever. The wines aren't always great. So, you almost have to work harder in a way."
What does help, she adds, is that "Virginia wine is definitely kind of a hot thing that's getting a lot of attention." Despite his many business failures, Trump may actually be at the right place at the right time with the wine venture.
Unless you're a knowledgeable wine enthusiast, you might assume all of the best stuff comes from France and California. But Virginia wine is gaining traction. Now, apart from history (you know, Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestown, Old Town Alexandria, etc.), Woolard says the biggest reason tourists go to Virginia is to visit wineries, breweries, and cideries — at least, she says, that's the word in the local tourism industry. The Charlottesville and Albemarle County area, the home of Trump Winery, claims more than 30 wineries alone.
Located about eight miles from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Trump Winery has complicated origins. Though the winery sits on nearly 1,300 acres (which is "yuge" compared to the average Virginia winery), Trump didn't simply buy a 1,300-acre plot of land. Trump bought the foreclosed Kluge Estate Winery over the course of 18 months. Trump purchased the first parcel of land in April 2011 and the last in October 2012. The winery opened in 2011 and events began in May 2012. The boutique hotel on the property opened in July 2015.
Other than wine, weddings are a big thing at the former Kluge Estate. Woolard estimates that the venue hosts about 50 weddings — which normally serve Trump wines — every year.
And if you think Donald Trump's politics have in any way hurt the winery, you're a loser (Trump's words not, mine). According to Woolard, sales are healthy. In a recent interview with PBS NewsHour, she claimed that sales have spiked 1,000 percent.
"There's no question that our business has increased since Mr. Trump started running," she says to Bustle. When asked about the effect of Trump's political views, Woolard says that "for the most part, it doesn't come up." She adds, "When it comes up, it's positive."
And Woolard says the rise of Trump Winery isn't just good for the Donald and his kin, but the entire Virginia wine world. "Today more people know about us than six months ago. It's a great thing for everybody in the Virginia wine industry," she says.
Brigitte Bélanger-Warner, director of sales and marketing at the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau, confirms that sentiment. Over email, she tells Bustle, "I believe that Trump's politics should be completely separate from his winery, which has been thriving since he and his team took over in 2011. Regardless of politics, Mr. Trump has injected new life into a dying winery, which contributes greatly to the economic prosperity of our area."
Vickie Gresge, owner of l'étoile Catering in Charlottesville, says she has catered several events at Trump Winery.
"I have heard comments from invited guests at events held at Trump Winery who mention that they love the space and wine. However, they say they do not like his politics," she tells Bustle.
Of course, you don't have to visit Trump Winery to pour yourself a big glass of your favorite wine (Trump label or not) and knock one back next time The Donald opens his big mouth. Chances are, Trump's sexist, racist, and all-around disgusting comments aren't going to get any better. So drink up!
Images: Trump Winery