A Rose By Any Other Name

The Trump Winery Lineup
The Trump Winery Lineup

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy.
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

~ Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc
2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc

A little over years ago, I was invited to participate in #VAWineChat with Drink What YOU Like’s Frank Morgan and Trump Winery’s winemaker Jonathan Wheeler. The two sparkling wines, the 2008 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc and 2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé were both fantastic and the name on the bottle went mostly unnoticed.

2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé
2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé

Fast forward to 2015. I was asked again to participate in #VAWineChat, tasting four wines from Trump Winery. I immediately said yes, because I remembered how good the wines were two years ago. However, this time around, just the mention of the name Trump in social media outlets has caused extreme reactions on both ends of the spectrum. I was on the receiving end of some divisive, presumptuous tweets and I found myself in Facebook discussions having to defend my choice to taste the wines. I wanted to say, “It’s wine, for goodness sake!” Some assumed that because I tasted these wines and enjoyed them, I must be sending a message about politics. I was not. From what I have observed and read, some are buying the wines because they love the name or boycotting the wines because they hate the name, without having tried the wines. Has the name Trump trumped what’s inside the bottle? I hope not, because the wines, the livelihood of the winery employees, and the impact on local and Virginia wine tourism and economics are what matter most.

2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé and Blanc de Blanc
2008 SP (Sparkling) Rosé and Blanc de Blanc

Award-winning Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Vineyard and Estate until 2011), was planted in 1999 and is Virginia’s largest estate winery at 1300 acres with 195 acres planted.  In 2013, Wine Enthusiast awarded the 2007 SP (Sparkling) Reserve a score of 91 points, which is the highest rating ever received by a Virginia wine. The president of the winery is Eric Trump, who was named a Wine Enthusiast Rising Star in 2013, and is also a key fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through The Eric Trump Foundation. The general manager is Kerry Woolard, herself a star in the Virginia wine industry by her own right. Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler has worked for the winery since 2006 and brought with him winemaking experience from Sonoma and Monterey, California; Marlborough, New Zealand; and the Finger Lakes, New York. An estate winery would be nothing without a vineyard supervisor like Rafael Sánchez, who has been with the winery since 2004, and brought with him experience from Salinas Valley, San Joaquin Valley, and Paso Robles, California.

Our Tasting Packet
Our Tasting Packet

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, a few of us gathered online via Ustream and Twitter, while some met at Trump Winery for this most recent #VAWineChat. We were hosted by winemaker Jonathan Wheeler and Drink What YOU Like’s Frank Morgan. The winery sent those of us who tasted remotely a box of four sample wines along with a beautiful folder of technical sheets and even a tasting mat. This was by far one of the most organized tastings in which I’ve ever participated. I loved that Jonathan led the discussion while Eric Trump jumped into the conversation on Twitter. Frank, of course, was the consummate facilitator. As expected, the wines were very good. Below are my tasting notes.

2009 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc
2009 SP (Sparkling) Blanc de Blanc

2009 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Monticello, $24.00
This sparkling wine from Central Virginia near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a rich, creamy expression of 100% first-press chardonnay from Trump Winery’s best grapes. It’s weighty and textured in the mouth, with flavors of yeast rolls, tree fruits, citrus, and loads of juicy acidity. You would be hard pressed to find a vintage sparkling wine at this price that is so well made and delicious.

2009 SP Sparkling Rosé
2009 SP Sparkling Rosé

2009 Sparkling Rosé, Monticello, $28.00
Brut Rosé is always a favorite for me and this is no exception. Although only 8% pinot noir (92% chardonnay), the pinot noir characteristics shine. The wine is a pale salmon color and even the frothy mousse reflects some of the color. Bright, red berry fruits dominate the nose and palate. The mouthfeel is creamy and the acid is as lively as the bubbles. This is an amazing value for vintage brut rosé.

2014 Chardonnay
2014 Chardonnay

2014 Chardonnay, Monticello, $16.00
I’m not quite an ABC (All But Chardonnay) gal, but I have become particular about still chardonnay. Thankfully, this chardonnay is my style: stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic fermentation, a bit of sur lie treatment, and 90% stainless steel, 10% oak aging. This wine is almost clear in the glass with yellow edges. It’s fruit forward, yet round, with bright citrus and tree fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of spice, and lively acidity. What a steal at $16.00.

2014 Meritage
2014 Meritage

2014 Meritage, Monticello, $20.00
This pre-release sample is very young, but should come together with more time in the bottle or some decanting, should you decide to open it sooner rather than later. It’s a Bordeaux-style blend (40% merlot, 35% cabernet franc, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 3% malbec, 2% petit verdot) that exhibits a softer side of red with its 13% ABV. It’s medium ruby in color with medium body and fine tannins. The nose and palate are delighted by flavors and aromas of blackcurrant, black cherry, bitter chocolate, and coffee, with a warm, spicy, tart cherry finish. This is a whole lot of wine for $20.00.

No matter which side of politics you find yourself, these wines are worth trying and tasting. The Trump Winery story is one of crafting high-quality wines from locally grown grapes and supporting the local economy. Make your decision whether to buy or not buy based on how the wine tastes, not the name. That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Cheers to the wines and the people that make them!
Beth

Same Sex Meritage: The Proof “Cause Wines” Work by Josh Stein

Same Sex Meritage Release Party at WineStyles Belmont, Chicago, IL
Same Sex Meritage Release Party at WineStyles Belmont, Chicago, IL

Same Sex Meritage is a wine pledging a portion of revenue to Freedom To Marry, their partner in the movement to ensure legalization and acknowledgment of same sex marriage in the United States. This California Meritage rivals its Old World inspirations by staying stylistically true to the philosophy that blended wines bring out the best from the grape better than the components alone. The price of the wine is $25/bottle. (source: Same Sex Meritage’s Facebook PageTo purchase Same Sex Meritage, visit this link: http://steinfamilywines.com/same-sex-meritage.aspx

“Hi, Josh. I’m Matt Gold. I’m happy to work with you on selling Stein Family Wines in Illinois. I have just one request. I have this idea for a wine no one will help me make…”

That’s how Same Sex Meritage, and now, coming in time for Valentine’s, Same Sex Moscato Rosato, came to be. Matt tried for several years to find assistance to make his idea reality to no avail. I was busy trying to balance multiple jobs, multiple careers, twins, a house, and a marriage. But without the time in the wilderness, the subsequent collaboration wouldn’t have gone as well and as smoothly as it has. Matt wouldn’t have had the in-roads with Freedom to Marry to trust us to deliver on a product and overall design which would only add to the movement’s momentum, and I wouldn’t have had the experience nor vendor connections to move so quickly on this project.

That phone call was fourteen weeks ago. In the intervening time, we’ve validated a business model, one which substitutes community value for surplus profits in our equation. Profit itself is neither a positive nor a negative—it’s all in what you do with the extra generated from the production cycle that determines its consequence. If you bank it for yourself, that produces a zero-sum game, with winners and losers. If you invest it into the future, into the community, allow it to become an engine of positive growth, then you produce open-ended increased opportunities and sales. Door after door, whole hallways of doors, Willy Wonka-fashion, have opened to us with Same Sex Wines because we were willing to put others on an equal level with ourselves in this fashion.

Happy drinkers of Same Sex Meritage in Florida!
Happy drinkers of Same Sex Meritage in Florida!

The response has been nothing less than breathtakingly phenomenal, and the reason why seems to me to be very simply expressed if not an easy idea to come to terms with: it’s all in the short game versus the long game. You can try to make whatever you can now. Or you can try to help people and along the way try to pay your bills. When folks know you’ll be around for a while, the relationships tend to develop rather differently. When they know you look through more than dollar signs at the world, refusing to put on green-colored glasses, if you will, then they are much more willing to voluntarily help you make the world better. Too much of today’s commerce only puts the emphasis on “just good enough” and “minimal viability” and “return on investment,” and that simply isn’t how you build anything of any size or shape and call it sustainably supporting the community.

I’m proud to work for and with nonprofits which understand commerce is the way forward, the way to demonstrate a different aspect of acting upon and within the world, one which generates ever more social and monetary profit because the end goal isn’t just to benefit our company. I’m humbled at the consumer and trade response we have gotten, the individual notes of gratitude for producing a wine with this name–untasted, unscored, just because it exists in the world–that have been beyond anything else in my eleven years of the wine business. You’re reading this guest blog post for the same reason—because ideas do have power, because the time is now to show whom you do and do not support, which policies you do and do not feel are civil and just and right for our children’s and communities’ futures.

While the rest of the back story and the tale of the subsequent bunch of weeks is an interesting one, one you can read more about at samesexmeritage.com and steinfamilywines.blogspot.com, it needs to be understood as a case study within this context of 21st-century commerce or else the success of what we’ve done won’t be as meaningful. Same Sex Meritage isn’t just another wine—it’s a very different way of doing business.

Thank you for your time, for your eyes, and for your efforts on behalf of strangers in spreading their message of hope and positive change. Cheers to a happy, safe, and fully equal 2013!