Trump Winery, inadvertently political, still draws students

A look at the prominent local vineyard

TOPSHOT - Trump brand wine is seen inside the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 23, 2016. AFP PHOTO / JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Josh Edelson (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images) JOSH EDELSON and JOSH EDELSON | Cavalier Daily

The Trump Winery’s tasting room opened to the public in 2011, and boasts of having one of the best — if not the best — views a Virginia vineyard has to offer. The winery’s 195 acres of grapes and 1,300 acre estate is situated less than seven miles from Grounds, which has made it a popular venue for students and locals alike to visit.

Despite sharing a name, the Trump Winery is not associated with the Trump Organization. Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump purchased the vineyard from Patricia Kluge in 2011, when the property was on the brink of foreclosure. He then gifted the property to his son, Eric Trump, who now independently owns and operates the vineyard under the company Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC.

Since July of this summer, Trump Winery has plans to plant an additional 15 acres of vineyards and expand the winery. Using estate-only grapes, Trump wines have won over 30 awards, finding particular success and popularity in the field of sparkling wines. Not unsurprisingly, the winery’s reputable products and high-profile name have a strong appeal to many U.Va. students.

“It’s just kind of cool talking to some of the people who have met Donald and worked with him and his son,” third-year Engineering student Ross Eastman said while visiting the vineyard. “Last time I was out here we were talking to one of the older women who worked here, and she said ‘Donald’s the best, he’s so nice, he comes in and is super kind to us, it’s great to work for him.’”

Third-year Commerce student Hunter Weis, a Charlottesville local, said he had been to Trump Winery once before. The open view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding rolling hills are part of the draw for him and his friends.

He said he has not noticed a particular influx of visitors to the area due to the election, but would not be surprised if the winery has had an increase in visitors since Trump’s presidential bid.

“I’m sure there are definitely some people though who see Trump Vineyard, and because everything’s going on want to come out and visit, so I’m sure they’ve gotten more traffic because of the election,” Eastman said.

The vineyard now has a small section of Trump campaign gear for purchase in the main tasting room. Some guests visiting the winery were sporting “Make America Great Again” baseball caps and posing with the newly installed “Trump Vineyard” sign.

A Trump win could raise questions over whether he or his son would distance their associations with the vineyard. As it stands, Eric Trump visits the winery “every four to six weeks,” third-year Commerce student Andrew Gallagher said.

In terms of the sales of Trump wine outside of the venue, Eastman believes that in light of the election they should be affected positively rather than negatively. Currently, Trump wines are distributed in 26 states across the country and exported to Canada, Scotland, India and Panama. Trump Winery has plans to further expand the wines’ distribution nationally and globally.

“I feel like it’s like buying from an Exxon,” Eastman said. “The name is already so established, it’s a true brand.”

The name recognition of the Trump brand may contribute to an influx of visitors to the Trump Winery regardless of whether Donald Trump wins the election. Eastman, who is from Houston, Texas, confirmed that when his family came to visit Charlottesville and wanted to visit a winery it was easy for his parents to recognize the Trump name and choose it out of the many in the area.

Only time will tell how much or how little the 2016 presidential race will cause any changes in Trump Winery’s clientele and sales.

Trump Winery General Manager Kerry H. Woolard did not respond to a request for comment. When asked, staff at the winery said they were unable to comment due to the vineyard’s press policy.

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