All 50 states have at least one winery, but California accounts for almost 90 percent of the wine produced in this country, explaining why its wines are the ones most often found in our marketplaces. Other states produce excellent wines but often in such small quantity it is not economical for distributors in Alabama to stock them.
In the past 40 years, International Wine Distributing in Birmingham has brought in wines from Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and New York, but sales were very weak, owner Charles Yeats said recently.
Further, as America’s wine culture grows so does consumer demand for locally produced wines, driving up prices and diminishing allocations to distributors in other states.
If Donald Trump has his say though, wines from his Virginia winery will soon be distributed globally. Last year The Donald snapped up a large portion of Kluge Estate and Vineyards from his socialite pal, Patricia Kluge Moses, in a mortgage foreclosure auction.
Patricia, once known as the richest divorcee in America, acquired her wealth through her marriage to media mogul John Kluge, Forbes magazine’s richest man in America in 1987.
John was 37 years Patricia’s senior, but he fell hard for Patricia, a former belly dancer and light porn star. The couple married in 1981 and built Albemarle House, a 25,000 square foot mansion nestled on 900 acres just down the road from Monticello.
Alas, the fairy tale romance ended in divorce in 1990. Patricia received an enormous settlement along with Albemarle House. She married former IBM executive William Moses and they set out to make a name for themselves by making world-renowned wines from Virginia.
Patricia hired the world’s foremost—and most expensive—wine consultant, Michel Rolland, to advise her. She built a top-notch winery with state-of-the-art equipment, but at the beginning of the current Great Recession there was not much demand for her wines.
She tried to sell Albemarle and property for $100 million with no takers. Sotheby’s auctioned off her personal furnishings and jewels, but it did not make a dent in the debt.
Ultimately banks foreclosed and Trump snapped up 776 acres that included the Kluge winery and vineyards for a paltry $6.2 million. He was not able to acquire Albemarle House, but he owns the front yard. He would have liked the house to become part of a resort surrounded by vineyards.
Trump hired his son Eric to manage his foray into the wine business but asked Patricia to stay on as VP of operations. After a year, she has been relieved of her duties. Both Trump and Kluge say there are no hard feelings. I figure we will see her next as a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
As for Trump wines, they are not available in Alabama, likely a good thing.
When I first wrote about the Trump acquisition, one reader tweeted he would rather slit his own throat than drink a Trump wine.
Email Pat Kettles at email@example.com