So Donald Trump makes wines too. And pretty good ones at that going by the Brut Blanc de Blancs from Trump Winery that I tasted at the US Embassy New Delhi, where wines from Virginia were presented at an event titled “Virginia is for Wine Lovers” organised by Atul Khanna’s i2i Consulting.
I had missed out on an opportunity to try out wines from this beautiful state, located in the mid-Atlantic region of the east coast of United States, when I went to drop off my son at Virginia Tech, for his four year engineering programme. The natural beauty of Virginia completely captivated me and those rolling hills and quaint little towns full of history reminded me so much of Italy. Ideal wine country one would think. Well not quite, as wine growing conditions are far from perfect. Too much rain and high humidity in summers encourages fungal diseases while a short growing season poses a huge challenge for winemakers. We all know that fertile soil and moisture is bad for vine. The best fruit is produced when the vine is stressed.
Despite the vagaries of weather Virginia has a vibrant wine industry and ranks fifth in USA in the number of wineries and wine grape production. The number of wineries has leapfrogged to 250 from a meager six in 1979 and wine grapes are cultivated in over 385 vineyards covering an area of 3500 acres. The top 5 varietals produced are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Vidal Blanc & Viognier. Impressive figure indeed. But has there been a concomitant improvement in the quality of its wines too ? Yes in recent years their wines are making quite an impression, so much so, that Virginia wines have even made it to the table of the White House. Decanter magazine has called it “the next best thing in American wine” while Robert Parker has reviewed Virginia wines in the July issue of “The Wine Advocate” giving at least 60 wines a score of 90 and above. All this has been made possible by the huge technological advances in viticulture ever since wine making revived in Virginia in the last 40 years.
Incidentally it was in Virginia where America’s earliest vineyards were located and it was the third president of USA and the author of Declaration of Independence (1776) Thomas Jefferson who unsuccessfully tried to grow grapes at his Monticello estate. However he could not produce a single bottle of wine as the dreaded phylloxera louse killed his vines and there was no harvest. Vintners in Virginia have come a long way since then and Jefferson’s dream of seeing world class wines coming out of Virginia has become a reality.
Virginia wines which were presented in India at the US Embassy New Delhi were from Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Vineyard & Estate) in Charlottesville VA and Williamsburg Winery, the state’s largest winery well known for its wine called “Governor’s White”.
One of the wines from Williamsburg Winery was the 2013 John Adlum American Chardonnay named after the father of American viticulture Major John Adlum. A blend of 89% Chardonnay, 8% Viognier & 3% Traminette (a cross between French hybrid Joannes Seyve & Gewurtztraminer) it had a nose of citrus and tropical fruits, good acidity and a slightly creamy mouthful imparted by oak aging.
Two Shilling Red 2014 from Williamsburg Winery was predominantly Syrah (97%) with 3% Zinfandel. A lighter style; fruit forward every day kind of wine, what one would call a “picnic wine”.
Governor’s White 2014 was an off dry Riesling, in which the alcohol and residual sugar was well balanced making it very approachable. This is a style of wine making which has a lot of takers in India.
There were three labels from Trump winery which is managed by Donald Trump’s son Eric who oversees the entire operations from wine-making to marketing. The first was Trump Chardonnay 2014, which had bright citrus & pear notes with a subtle creaminess and vanilla hinting towards some oak. Trump Meritage 2013, a Bordeaux blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot & 11% Malbec was medium bodied with supple tannins and & a spicy sweet finish.
The last wine to be unveiled at the event was Trump Blanc de Blancs Brut made by Methode Champenoise using 100% estate grown Chardonnay grapes and aged 22 months on lees giving it a wonderful complexity. Sparkling wines from Trump Winery are the best among all produced in Virginia.
Since state regulations require that for any wine to be considered Virginia Wine 75% of winery’s grapes must come from within Virginia; this has given a huge fill-up to wine production and helped revive the rural economy. It has also made the state a premium east coast destination for wine tourists. Though we may not agree with Thomas Jefferson who said that “good wine is a necessity of life”, wine does help to make life better.
One sincerely hopes that Virginia Wines find a market in India.
By Lavina Kharkwal