I attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony at the palatial Albemarle House Bed and Breakfast. The remodeled and repurposed neo-Georgian estate is located on the 1300 acre Trump property, near Charlottesville, on the southeastern slope of Carter’s Mountain. I should add that Donald Trump was also there. I will not characterize the event as a media circus, but local, state and national news organizations were represented. Yes, they all showed up at the opening of a bed and breakfast.
Albemarle House Bed and Breakfast
Okay... I’m not stupid. The purpose of the media attention was not lost on me. Donald Trump is a celebrity and a presidential hopeful. The media is chasing him around. I get it.
So anyway, almost as soon as the event ended, I began to see and hear accounts of Trump’s speech. I admit, he stayed on message. He is, after all, running for president. As you would expect, news organizations obsessed over the politics of the moment. That is what they do, so no real surprise there, but even wine blogs… Yes! Even wine blogs fixated on the speech. I think they may have missed the real significance of the event.
Donald Trump delivering his remarks at the Albemarle House grand opening. In the background, from left to right: Eric Trump, Todd P. Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture, Jane Dittmar, Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
Media assembled for the grand opening
The Trumps stepped in a few years ago and purchased a failing venture. Business acumen was not the previous owner's strong suit. The property was purchased for a fraction of its asking price, but it was in serious decline. It took tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars to resuscitate the winery, vineyards and estate. And it was not just any vineyard. It was and still is the largest vineyard on the east coast. I am big enough to admit that, like many, I was a little anxious after the Trumps took over. I had images of Disneyland on Carter’s Mountain. What took place, however, was one of the best possible outcomes for the Virginia wine industry.
Eric Trump took the lead on this venture and my hat goes off to him. The tasting experience under the previous owner was so dismal, that I visited once and never returned. Eric turned this around. The staff is poised, well trained and customer oriented. The tasting operation was extended to a back patio and lawn, which opens up to a spectacular view of the vineyard. Food service was added and a range of local-sourced menu items are now available. Attention was paid to every detail, but Eric Trump did not stop there.
The Trump property boasts the largest vineyard on the east coast.
Jonathan Wheeler was retained as the winemaker and sparkling wines are his superpower. The Trump sparklers can compete with any in the United States and possibly the world. All of the wines are first rate, but I also give very high marks to the red wines. The Bordeaux blends are particularly spectacular. Trump has become one of my go-to wineries when I am entertaining out of town guests and want to showcase Virginia wine.
The tasting room and wine may be what the majority of the public experiences, but there is more. The complex that once housed a collection of antique horse carriages has been made over as an event center and is considered Virginia’s top wedding destination. Now add Albemarle House to the equation, with ten luxurious guest rooms and a wide range of amenities. The entire Trump lineup offers an array of hospitality options designed to lure visitors to Virginia’s wine country. That, my friends, is not a bad thing.
The back patio a the Trump tasting room
In the end, all of the attention may pay big dividends. For an instant, Albemarle House and Trump Vineyards were in the public eye. They may have been in the background, but they were the venue. No matter what becomes of Donald Trump’s presidential bid, he and his son have done a huge service for Virginia wineries in the Monticello AVA and beyond. They may have purchased the property for a pittance (relatively speaking) and the capital outlay was intended to make a profit. Nevertheless, the impact of those investments will benefit every small boutique winery in the region and help spotlight Virginia wine.
So yeah, I attended the Albemarle House grand opening and like everyone in attendance I listened to Donald Trumps speech. Unlike the majority, however, I heard a very different message.