President-elect Donald Trump formally won the election with Monday’s Electoral College tally. Depending on your politics you may want to pop a cork in celebration – or just need a drink. In keeping with the news of the day and the festive holiday season, we decided to take a bottle of Trump champagne for a test-drive.
Yes, Trump wines are a thing. Trump Winery is situated on a 1,300-acre estate in decidedly presidential central Virginia, not far from James Monroe’s Highland and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The web site rotates a series of bucolic images and Jeffersonian quotes:
The president-elect’s son, Eric Trump, serves as president of Trump Winery. The bio clip on the web site notes he “was recognized by Forbes Magazine for their top ’30 under 30′ in Real Estate for 2012 and was the ‘Rising Star’ recipient of Wine Enthusiast’s 2013 Wine Star Awards. Eric also works fervently to aid children in need at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and founded The Eric Trump Foundation dedicated to the same in 2006.”
No mention of his dad.
So, onto our taste test. Longtime local broadcasters Vikki Locke and JaQuitta Williams – two ladies who know their bubbles – agreed to serve as our expert panelists.
Jeff Varasano, owner of Varasano’s Pizzeria in Midtown (which AJC food critic emeritus John Kessler once declared was the best pizza in Atlanta), allowed us to sip and film in his bar after we picked up a couple of bottles at Marietta Wine Market.
This particular bottle retails for $34 on Trump’s web site. (Note: We paid for everything consumed.)
Things started with a bang:
Vikki didn’t love it.
“It’s different. It’s .. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s yuuuge,” she said, finding it a little too dry.
JaQuitta enjoyed it, though.
“It’s sweet with a little bit of dry, a little bit of a bite on the end of it,” she said. “I love the sweet when it first hits my lips. When you first swallow it it’s sweet, and you think it’s going to stay sweet. It almost gives you the illusion of being sweet but it’s not.”
Only champagne is properly called champagne, of course; this sparkling wine made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes was created using the traditional French méthode Champenoise, far from France’s Champagne region. The tasting notes courtesy of the web site lined up pretty closely with our assessment: “The nose begins with green apple, brioche and slight pear. On the mouth there is crisp acidity with citrus notes.”
We all agreed it paired well with food. Manager Salvatore Abbate took a sip to render his opinion, and thought the brut had a satisfying finish that stood up nicely to Varasano’s pies with their signature charred, salted crust. Here’s his complete verdict – note his surprise when he discovers whose wine we’re drinking:
Incidentally, Sal is an Italian who came to this country about 10 years ago, and lives in America under resident status. He’d like to become a citizen, if he can figure out all the paperwork involved, he said.
“Life here is more appreciated,” he said. “More opportunity.”
Erin Scala, sommelier at Petit Pois and Fleurie in Charlottesville, Va., writes about wine for C-VILLE Weekly and at her blog, Thinking-Drinking. She wrote a very informative post about Trump wines earlier this year for the Washington Post, noting that Team Trump took over an existing winery:
“In 1999, the first vineyards went in the ground as Kluge Estate and set the tone for what would later become Trump Winery. For a greatly discounted price, in 2011, the Trumps bought the winery and its property from local socialite and entrepreneur Patricia Kluge after her business collapsed. Under the Kluge name, the vineyard’s wines have been served at the White House and even at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding rehearsal dinner.”
Scala’s take: Trump wines are pretty good, but she won’t include them on her restaurant’s wine list. “A welcome table is not one that pours liquid politics down your throat,” she wrote. “I wouldn’t be serving Clinton Chardonnay, Bernie Beer, or Cruztraminer, either.”
We gathered on Monday night to drink, not to talk politics, but how could we not? JaQuitta drew some parallels between the next president of the United States and the bottles bearing his name.
“It was sweet with a little bite on the end. For people who wanted president elect Donald Trump, perhaps they feel like he’s sweet. I just hope he doesn’t have the bite on the end,” she said. “It’s going to be an interesting four years to come.”