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Donald Trump is no stranger to superlatives.
During a news conference after his victories in the Michigan and Mississippi primaries in early March, the billionaire presidential candidate burnished his business credentials by pointing to an array of products that bear his name, including bottles of Virginia-made wine from Trump Winery, just south of Charlottesville.
"It’s the largest winery on the East Coast," Trump said.
The Republican frontrunner added that he owns the winery "100 percent." Trump did purchase the 1,300-acre vineyard in 2011 where the winery is based and turned over the management to his son, Eric.
A legal disclaimer on the winery website says the GOP presidential candidate doesn’t own the winery. The venture is a limited liability corporation, and its owners are not a matter of public record.
That point aside, let’s move to the focus of this Truth-O-Meter: Is the winery really the largest on the East Coast, as Trump claimed? We emailed his campaign three times seeking backup for the statement but didn’t hear back. So we began our own investigation.
First, we contacted the Virginia Wine Board, a panel created by the Virginia General Assembly to promote state wineries and vineyards. Annette Boyd, the board’s director, said Trump Winery has planted 200 acres of vines. By that measure, called "acres under vine," Boyd said Trump Winery has the largest vineyard in Virginia.
The Trump Winery website, citing the same 200-acre figure, also says it’s the largest vineyard in the state. It additionally claims that it’s the largest "vinifera vineyard" on the East Coast, referring to a species of grape.
But the website never goes as far as Donald Trump did in making an unconditional claim that the winery is the largest on the East Coast. He’s made that statement a number of times.
Several wine industry analysts told us that when calculating a winery’s size, the best measure is not the acreage of vines that have been planted - it’s the volume of wine produced. By that standard, wine experts told us there’s no way Trump Winery is the biggest on the East Coast.
"That’s not correct," Michael Kaiser, spokesman for the National Association of American Wineries, told us about Trump’s claim.
In fact, by that measure Trump Winery is not even the largest in Virginia. The Trump Winery produces about 36,000 cases of wine each year, according to Boyd. The top producers in the state are the Williamsburg Winery and Chateau Morrisette in Floyd County -- each making about 60,000 cases a year, Boyd said. Barboursville Winery in Orange County, meanwhile, makes about 37,000 cases a year, Boyd said.
It’s not hard to find wineries along the East Coast that make even more. Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, N.C., produces about 390,000 cases of sweet wine a year, Dave Fussell Jr., Duplin’s president, told us in an email.
Duplin, on its website, claims to be the "largest winery in the South." Its grapes come from more than 1,000 acres, the vast majority from farmers who grow them off-site.
The Biltmore Winery in Asheville, N.C., says on its website that it produces about 150,000 cases of wine a year.
Lastly, we wondered whether there are wineries on the East Coast that have more grapes than Trump Winery’s 200 acres of vines. The answer is yes.
The Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York says it cultivates 250 acres of grapes (and makes 50,000 cases of wine a year). The vineyard manager at Pindar Vineyards on New York’s Long Island said in a November 2015 interview that its vineyard has more than 300 acres of grapes. Pindar says it makes 70,000 cases of wine a year.
Trump said that Trump Winery is the "largest winery on the East Coast." It’s not, regardless of whether you measure it by acreage of vines or the production of wine.
We rate Trump’s statement False.
Donald Trump’s news conference, March 8, 2016. (his winery comments are just over 11:30 into video).
Trump Winery, "Our history," accessed March 15, 2016.
Trump Winery, "Legal," accessed March 17, 2016.
Email from Elaine Lindholm, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, March 10, 2016.
Interviews with Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board, March 10 and March 17, 2016.
Interview with Michael Kaiser, director of public affairs at the National Association of American Winery, March 15, 2016.
Interview with Carl Brandhorst, president emeritus of the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association, March 15, 2016.
Emails from Dave Fussell Jr., president of Duplin Winery in Rose Hill, NC., March 16-18, 2016.
Daily Beast, "Trump wine is built on an acre of lies," March 10, 2016.
Politico, "Trump’s week of errors, exaggerations and flat-out falsehoods," March 13, 2016.
Email from Ken Schrad, spokesman for the Virginia State Corporation Commission, March 10, 2016.
Interview with Whit Winslow, executive director of the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council, March 17, 2017.
Email from Whit Winslow, March 17, 2016.
The Daily Progress, "Trump gets Kluge mansion, now owns entire estate," Sept. 28, 2012.
The Daily Progress, "Trump seeks to buy Kluge House," Feb. 16, 2011.
The Daily Progress, "Trump continues to stump at official unveiling of boutique Albemarle hotel," July 14, 2015.
Newsday, "Second generation comes of age," Oct. 3, 2005.
Wagner Vineyards, "Wagner vineyards estate winery history," accessed March 17, 2016.
North Fork Promotion Council, "Pindar Damianos, second generation North Fork Wine Family, on the industry’s rise and future," Nov. 25, 2015.
Donald Trump tweet, Dec. 17, 2014.
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