Don’t expect a hotel overhaul at the former Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard, which will reopen in September as Trump Vineyard Estates—the family’s first winery, run by the youngest of Donald and Ivana’s three children, Eric Trump. Winery employees Tim Rausse and Gregory Brun, former director of winery and vineyard operations at Kluge Estate, were on-hand during my recent tour. So was Patricia Kluge herself, now a salaried vintner for Trump. Kluge declined to comment but consulted with staff during my visit to Trump’s farm shop and pavilion.
One year ago this week, the daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton served the Kluge Estate Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling white, alongside a rosé to guests at her wedding rehearsal dinner. These days, the first bottles of sparkling wine to bear the Trump name are coming together. During the tour, I spotted one bottle—capped instead of corked, unlabeled, but bubbling all the same.
“It’s getting the Trump stamp,” says Mike Vergara, a Trump Organization employee, as we stood in the event pavilion where other Trump employees and advisors purchased the foreclosed Kluge properties at auction last spring for $6.2 million. The room’s wood paneling is gone, and the rustic antler chandelier will be replaced with crystal. Vergara says that the room will also feature custom mahogany mill work to showcase wines.
Much like the Kluge name, the “Trump” name carries a particular aesthetic and the scent of ambition. In April, Kluge told The Daily Beast that she hopes Trump will make her former winery estate “the most visited place in America.” Vergara says the vineyard’s buildings were “beautiful already, but true to the [Trump] brand, we want to make it a premier property.”
Eric Trump seconded the sentiment.
“Patricia had an incredible vision, and did very well in terms of building a brand and getting very highly rated wines,” he said during a phone interview. “She knows that business very well, we know the financing very well.”
At the farm shop, Project Manager Frank Sanzo showed off a new stone walkway and islands in front of the building. The same stone, imported from China (“very expensive”), forms a large new patio behind the farm shop, which will be accessible through new French doors. “When people come here, they’re going to enjoy the beauty,” says Sanzo.
Both Sanzo and Vergara have Trump-ed projects before—most recently, the 800-acre Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C. Sanzo, who has worked for the Trump Organization for more than a decade, was hired by The Donald to work on one of his homes. His green golf shirt bears the company name.
The farm shop will open in a matter of weeks, according to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Jason Greenblatt. During a video preview on his YouTube channel, Eric Trump remarks that the pavilion “will be used as a setting for thousands and thousands of weddings to come.”
Meanwhile, the Trump name stamps on. Three days after the Trump Organization bought the winery and vineyards, it registered the website domain “TrumpVineyard.com.” In early June, it also created Eric TrumpWine.com. The former Kluge offices, in the property’s carriage museum, are now Trump offices, although Eric Trump wasn’t there for the visit.
Presumably, there’s no way to stamp taste. I asked Sanzo and Vergara whether they are wine guys, looking for some tips on the Trump wines, which may bear a different name but come from the same stock as the Kluge wines. Sanzo said he was, but Vergara confessed that he is mostly a beer drinker. No tips.