Va. socialite and winemaker selling country estate

In this June 1, 2010 photo, visitors look over a room displaying silverware for sale at the Albemarle House in Charlottesville, Va. Sotheby's auction house is holding an open house at the country estate owned by Patricia Kluge who is selling nearly all the art, furniture, lighting and other contents of the English manor and the home itself in her effort to downsize. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

June 5, 2010 6:45:55 PM PDT
Socialite and vintner Patricia Kluge says she no longer needs her inscribed Picasso platter, centuries-old Qing Dynasty clock, 19th-century Grecian harp and nearly all the other treasures in her English-style country mansion.

Collectors and curiosity seekers will have plenty to peruse if they buy a 620-page catalog of Kluge's estimated $9 million collection being auctioned by Sotheby's on Tuesday and Wednesday, or if they stop by for a preview that runs through noon Monday at Albemarle House in the rolling hills near Charlottesville.

People with more practical tastes also can find something among the 900 items to buy at the auction - including patio and garden furniture, wooden duck decoys or an eight-piece copper kitchenware set.

The exhibition also showcases the grand 45-room brick Georgian, which isn't up for auction and is being sold separately. Kluge acquired Albemarle House, its accouterments and 3,000 acres in the settlement of her 1990 divorce from billionaire media mogul John W. Kluge. The couple had been married for nine years.

Sotheby's International Realty has listed the estate at $48 million, reduced from $100 million last fall. The property also includes about 300 acres, multilevel English gardens and fountains, a swimming pool and a rustic guest cabin.

"I will not miss them as much as you think," Kluge wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I gave birth to all of it, so it's time we both moved on. I look forward to knowing that others are captured by the magic."

Kluge, 61, said she and her current husband, William Moses, are scaling back because they love to travel and are focused on running Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard. The couple now live at Glen Love, a five-bedroom, six-bathroom Colonial built two years ago on the estate grounds.

Kluge had hoped her 26-year-old son, John Jr., would live at Albemarle House and raise a family, but he prefers to live in New York, where he works for a global security think tank.

"So, I had to decide one of two things: One was to hold on and hope he changes his mind, making me in effect his caretaker, or live simpler and focus on growing our brands, nationally and internationally," Kluge said. "I opted for the second."

Kluge says Albemarle House, conceived with the help of architect David Easton and completed in 1985, had defined her for a time. It took on a persona of its own as she hosted lavish events for royalty, corporate leaders, celebrities, politicians and literary figures.

The event is Sotheby's first onsite sale in more than 20 years and is attracting an array of visitors looking for a piece of Kluge style, said Elaine Whitmore, the head of single-owner collections, who also has overseen the sale of the collections of late fashion designers Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene and Gianni Versace.

As they perused items in the library earlier this week, designers and antiques collectors Sally and Sandy Wood said they were excited about the opportunity to see the items in their natural setting.

"To see a piece in a house gives it soul," Sally said.

The Upperville couple examined a Renaissance-figure chess set and furniture in the library lined with shelves of leather-bound book collections, the pages of their hefty catalog marked with yellow sticky notes noting items of interest.

Among Albemarle House's showpieces is a nearly 200-year-old Qing Dynasty gilt-brass and enamel table clock valued between $600,000 and $1 million. Adorned with Chinese characters representing prosperity, the clock still keeps time.

A set of six Holland & Holland shotguns is valued between $330,000 and $500,000. Each is engraved with a different wildfowl scene, and the mahogany gun cabinet contains accessories and tools, as well as a folio of the engraving artist's original designs.

On display in Kluge's master bedroom is a George III mahogany bed made in the late 1700s, valued at as much as $50,000. It originally came from Hedingham Castle in Essex, England, and was commissioned for Elizabeth Ashhurst.

Also featured are several pieces from the collection of the late Virginia-born socialite and designer Nancy Lancaster, who pioneered the grand English country look in the early 20th century. Among the pieces are a pair of nearly 6-foot-tall George III giltwood palm-branch candle-arm wall lights valued at $50,000 to $70,000.

Sotheby's sold about $5 million of Kluge's jewelry in April, but additional pieces are up for auction as well as several designer gowns.

Kluge said there are things she won't part with, including her son's nursery set, the furniture from his teenage years and other personal items she wants him to have when he marries.

As for herself, she aims for "a new look and style that is more modern and chic rather than magnificent."