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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Rise & Fall of Kluge Estate Winery

A sad situation in Virginia wine country via Wines & Vines.

Charlottesville, Va. -- There’s an old joke that the best way to make a small fortune in the wine industry is to start with a large one. Sometimes even having a pocket full of dollars doesn’t guarantee that a winery will make a go of it. That certainly proved to be true in the case of the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard in Charlottesville, Va.

Patricia Kluge and her husband, William J. Moses, started the winery in 1999, intent on establishing a world-class vineyard and making the winery one of the largest and most influential in Virginia. Located south of Charlottesville not far from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Kluge’s estate included 2,000 acres and a 45-room English-style “manor house” known as Albemarle House. Approximately 200 acres were planted in vineyards; the couple built an elaborate tasting room known as the Farm Shop and Kluge hired the internationally-known “Flying Winemaker,” Michel Rolland as the consulting winemaker.

The winery’s first release was the limited edition Kluge Estate 2000 New World Red, priced at a breathtaking $495 per bottle. Only 289 bottles of the wine were produced, each one signed by Kluge and then-winemaker Gabriele Rausse. At that time, most wine in Virginia was sold for less than $50 per bottle, and the release of a first wine from a new winery at such an exalted price created a lot of publicity for Kluge Estate. Later releases of Kluge Estate New World Red were priced considerably lower, the 2001 at $58 per bottle and the 2005 at $25. Wines & Vines’ most recent data show an annual production of 40,000 cases.

In 2007 Kluge and Moses went to Farm Credit of the Virginias and secured a loan for $34.785 million, ostensibly to expand the winery into both national and international markets. In October 2010, Farm Credit foreclosed on this loan and listed the assets of the Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard to be auctioned off, including:

• 907 acres in southern Albemarle County (including 164 acres in vineyard)
• The Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard Farm Shop and tasting room
• Offices and production buildings
• Six employee houses
• A 34,000 square-foot former carriage museum.


Read more at Wines & Vines.

2 comments:

Frank said...

Very sad indeed. Although the situation looks bleak, I am holding out hope that Kluge/Moses are able to some how settle this with the bank. I was there a couple of weeks ago, and they were having quite a sale on wine. Having Kluge sold off, is certainly not good for the Virginia wine industry (unless the buyer intends on keeping the winery together and continuing the winemaking).

Lets hope for the best for Kluge.

WineCompass said...

And it appears Sweely Estate Winery avoided a similar outcome: http://www2.dailyprogress.com/business/2010/nov/11/sweely-winery-foreclosure-sale-canceled-ar-647444/