Elegant sips from Virginia’s largest vineyard.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Don’t judge a book by its cover—or, in this case, don’t judge a winery by its pink-tied, combed-over celebrity owner.
When I pulled up to Trump Winery I was expecting to see a gauche, ostentatious behemoth of a winery. A gold dome would not have surprised me. I found a rather humble abode that looked, well, normal. I had to look around for a sign to verify that I was in the right place.
Forget what you think you know about celebrity wines. This label deserves its numerous awards: 91 points, Wine Enthusiast; winner, Monticello Cup; best in class, Vineyard & Winery Management; Rising Star Award, Wine Enthusiast; Top 10 American sparkling wines, Gayot; Gold, San Francisco International Wine Competition; and best in class, Jefferson Cup, to name a few.
Trump Winery is located a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland in Charlottesville, Va. Its 195 planted acres make it Virginia’s largest vineyard—a distinction I’ll bet pleases ‘The Donald.’
All the vineyards are planted with vinifera varietals. Trump Winery makes sparkling wines in the traditional méthode champenoise way and grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes for this purpose. For still wines, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier are grown (for whites) plus Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec (for reds). All bottlings are vintage wines (that is, the label indicates the year in which the grapes were grown and harvested).
Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler, who grew up in New York, worked at wineries in Finger Lakes, N.Y., Sonoma, Calif., and New Zealand before joining Trump Winery. “Sparkling wines are my specialty,” he says, “It’s how I got my start as a winemaker. But since working here I’ve graduated into the vineyard, too. It’s a great thing here because I’m basically making wine in the vineyard.” After all, high-quality fruit is essential in order to produce high-quality wine.
“We grow all of our own grapes,” he says. “It’s a quality control issue. We know how we want them and so we grow them ourselves. We’re so invested in the vines and give them what they need so they give us what we want.”
“We have a lot of different micro-blocks and we’re really conscious of what we’re doing in the vineyard and how it will affect the wine,” he says. Some varietals are difficult to grow in Virginia, including Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. “Other grapes will back them up,” says Wheeler. “It’s why we make blends, which give me the ability to play in the lab a bit.”
Trump Winery currently bottles eleven different wines and Wheeler, for one, thinks that’s enough…at least for right now.
“It’s a booming industry,” he says. “People are drinking more local wines.”
One sip will have you clamoring for more.
Trump Winery Tasting Room
3550 Blenheim Rd.
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
- Open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Odds of Encountering Children: Slim but possible—only 21+ can taste. We saw no youngsters during our January visit. Stop to taste when school is in session for the best odds of an adults-only experience.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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