I was perusing the wine section of my local Kroger, looking for the cheapest red I could find, when I saw a bottle selling for $26.59 with a label that read: “TRUMP.” Surely, I thought, it couldn’t be that Trump. Because this bottle was a local wine and why on Earth would Donald Trump come to Virginia to start a winery?
I looked it up and lo and behold, it turned out that there was a Trump Winery, purchased by Donald Trump in 2011, in Charlottesville. As it turns out, Donald Trump is my local winemaker, with his vines growing just an hour northwest of my house.
Could Trump’s wine be any good? Or was it “some $5 wine” like President Obama recently said? And could I drink it without letting my politics affect the tasting notes? I longed to find out for myself. So I took a day trip down to Charlottesville to check out the Trump Winery in person.
I was accompanied by my friends Andrew and Addison, both of whom work at the nearby University of Virginia. Andrew is a full-fledged wine connoisseur. We met in 2008 when we spent a semester in Europe studying humanities and literature. Before I went on the trip, I was a bit of a teetotaler. By the time I left Europe, I was anything but. Andrew was partly to thank (or blame) for that transformation.
Now, as a graduate student/teaching assistant, he has several memberships to Charlottesville wineries, cideries, and breweries–along with an extensive glass collection from his visits. Charlottesville has become a bit of a hub for wine in the past decade or so, and every time I visit Andrew, he takes me to another winery. Like the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tastings are always spectacular. Still, knowing what we know of Trump, it was hard to believe that the string of very pleasant wine outings would continue.
Before setting off, I was advised by my editor not to antagonize anyone with my politics while I was there, and to instead focus only on the wine — which is also how I get through Thanksgiving family dinners. So, that’s what I tried to do.
Trump Winery is nestled between Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, and Blenheim Vineyards, which is owned by Dave Matthews. In March, Trump stated that his winery was “right next to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial” (which is, of course, in Washington, D.C., but we can assume he meant Monticello) and said that Trump Winery was the largest in the eastern United States, which isn’t true.
However, per acre, it’s the largest in Virginia. And one claim that the Trump Winery made is true: all of the grapes for its wines are grown on its 1,300 acres, and it’s the only one in the whole commonwealth to do so. Other Virginia wineries have to buy grapes outside of their vineyards to produce their wines.
Andrew, Addison, and I arrived at the Trump Winery at around noon, which is an hour after it opens. It was a Saturday, so the crowds were heavy. My eyes scanned around, looking for someone I could pinpoint as a blatant Trump supporter, but all I saw were yuppies and an errant bachelorette party. It looked like a normal winery, similar to any of the others in Charlottesville–with the exception, perhaps, of its available merchandise.
For $12, you get six tastings: two whites, one rose, two reds, and one fortified wine. By comparison, a similar tasting at Dave Matthews’ winery right next door is only $6, so this is definitely one of the most expensive wineries to visit in Charlottesville.