Wine in the Time of Poverty

How Patricia Kluge’s vineyard reached beyond its means

Published in C-VILLE, 5/24/2011.

In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, one character asks another how he went bankrupt. “Gradually,” he says, “then suddenly.”

Patricia Kluge and her second husband, one-time richest-person-in-America, John Kluge.

In 2002, the Kluge Estate New World Red entered the world in an ebony trimmed wooden box designed by David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, a.k.a. Viscount Linley, son of Princess Margaret, nephew of the Queen and 14th in line for the British throne. There were only 289 of these beauties made, signed by the winemaker, naturally, but also by the winery owner, who saw fit to slap an embossed profile of her swollen head on every bottle. She also slapped a $495 price tag on the wine, by far the highest price we’re ever likely to see on a wine from Virginia.

Eight years later Kluge Estate Winery & Vineyard would be moribund, ending not with a bang, but with a fire sale. The New World Red, having long ago lost its royal trappings, would end its life being sold for $10.96 at a Downtown wine shop. Instead of being displayed in a custom case, customers were carrying it off by the caseload.
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