“It’s only Trump,” he declared by phone after the auction at the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. “Everything is Trump!”
Trump, who is suddenly running behind only Mitt Romney in one GOP presidential poll, is one of the country’s most recognizable businessmen. His skyscrapers, hotels and golf courses stretch from Honolulu to Manhattan to Dubai. Seven years ago, he launched a wildly popular reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” and reveled in delivering his favorite line to those who had failed to please him: “You’re fired!”
He made headlines in 2009 when he made his first foray into Virginia real estate, purchasing a 600-acre golf club along the Potomac River in Loudoun County and promptly renaming it the Trump National Golf Club.
In recent weeks, he has begun wheeling and dealing in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, buying up bits and pieces of the historic Piedmont properties once owned by embattled socialite Patricia Kluge. On Thursday, he beat out other bidders for Kluge’s 776-acre vineyard at far less than its appraised value.
“I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine,” Trump said. “This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!”
He said he is likely to keep Kluge, 62, who has won awards for her wines, and her husband, former IBM executive William Moses, on to run the operation.
“She has a great instinct for wine, which I don’t,” he said.
Kluge — a statuesque Brit who was once married to the country’s richest man — did not attend the auction at her former property, where a garden party atmosphere reigned. Her former neighbors and farmhands came to watch the proceedings, sipping sparkling water and noshing on tiny ham-filled biscuits as the auctioneer bellowed. Some of them even brought their dogs.
Later, Kluge declared herself “thrilled that Donald owns the company” because he has assured her that he wants to continue making wine.
“We are committed, and he is committed,” she said, “and great things are going to come from the Kluge Estate and for the Virginia wine industry.”
Kluge, whose divorce from billionaire media magnate John Kluge left her with $15 million, dreamed of making a world-class Virginia wine when she planted her vineyard in 1999. She spent lavishly on about 200 acres of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and other types of grapes and hired a famous wine blender, Michel Rolland, from Bordeaux, France, to mix her red wines.
At first, the investment seemed to pay off: Kluge sparkling wines and its blended reds won accolades and were served at the White House and at the rehearsal dinner for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding last summer.