Minutes before top Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s helicopter landed on the grounds of the Trump Winery in southern Albemarle County on Tuesday, July 14, a soft breeze rustled the grapevines on the 1,300-acre estate and, in an occurrence that might have seemed eerily symbolic to some of Trump’s critics, the American flag flanking the front door of the former Patricia Kluge-owned mansion-turned-B&B suddenly toppled.
In the midst of his somewhat brazen 2016 presidential campaign, the elder Trump was in Albemarle County to celebrate the grand opening of Albemarle Estate—a bed and breakfast owned by his son, Eric, and situated at Trump Winery, which Eric says is the largest winery on the East Coast. And while Trump praised his son’s accomplishments opening the B&B and producing what he calls “the finest wine in the world,” he could only lay off of his political agenda for so long.
“Sometimes it helps to have a terrible reputation,” Trump said about bidding for the large chunk of property where Albemarle Estate and Trump Winery are now situated. He recalled that few people bid against him at the auction and boasted that he paid only $6.2 million for the land, before turning his sights to the Albemarle House, which was originally on the market for $100 million in 2009. After he bought the land that surrounded the house, he bought the roads that lead up to it, effectively rendering it unsellable to anyone else. He eventually negotiated the price of the house down to $6.5 million.
“That’s what our country should be doing,” he said, referring to his own negotiation. He mentioned that the U.S. is currently $18 trillion in debt and noted that the government pays “a fortune” to lobbyists who make bad deals.
And on his son’s big day, The Donald was sure to add that he proposes taking back jobs from foreigners, forcing American corporations to relocate their out-of-country factories to domestic soil and putting Americans back to work in their own country. Calling Ford’s proposed investment of $2.5 billion into two factories in Mexico, and Apple’s manufacturing products in China “unfair trade,” Trump didn’t mince words. “It doesn’t help us,” he said.
The Trumps gave guests complimentary flutes of sparkling Trump wine and invited them inside to tour the 26,000-square-foot, 45-room mansion while a pianist filled its lower level with soft tunes. The hotel has 10 bedrooms with five located in the main house, four in the pool house and one in a luxurious log cabin that John Kluge once called his “thinking room.” The rooms, which range in price from $399 to $699 for one night and one person, include a fully stocked gourmet mini-bar and a marble-finished bathroom with Trump Spa Bath Collection amenities. Meticulously manicured English-style gardens surround the estate.
The B&B was made possible by a 2012 Albemarle County rezoning law that went into effect just four months prior to Trump’s purchase of the mansion, which made it easier to open B&B-type dwellings in rural zoned areas. Trump Winery’s manager, Kerry Woolard, moved into an apartment in the mansion to satisfy the county’s live-on-site requirement.
“It’s palatial,” Tricia Traugott, the author of local wine blog Charlottesville Uncorked says about the space. “This is like something you’d see in Bavaria at one of King Ludwig’s castles.”
The younger Trump is just as excited to open his estate as the guests are to tour it.
“We have truly poured our heart and soul into this property,” said Eric Trump, who was recently named in C-VILLE Weekly’s 2015 Power Issue. “We’ve had the time of our lives working on this together.”
And as Eric took his dad to the upper rose garden terrace of the estate, the elder Trump congratulated his son, shared a couple oohs and ahhs with a few guests and then was overheard giving what sounded like fatherly advice to his son. “Are you going to paint this white or not, Eric?”