Remember Tarek and Michaele Salahi? They were the photogenic couple who crashed a White House state dinner in 2009. The following year, Michaele appeared in The Real Housewives of D.C. The Salahis have been described in the media as socialites, polo enthusiasts and vintners. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that the Salahi winery, Oasis, will be sold at a bankruptcy auction in Virginia on September 18.
Like many other things involving the Salahis, the truth about their wine venture is difficult to pin down, but here are some facts: Oasis Winery was founded by his parents in 1977. It was the fifth licensed winery in Virginia, and eventually produced close to 20,000 cases annually. Tarek worked at the winery from his teenage years onward and claims that his father, Dirgham, promised to sell him the operation for $1 in recognition for all his hard work and passion.
After his father became ill, Tarek assumed control of the winery. The wines won numerous awards, and Tarek served on the Virginia Wine Board. Like Patricia Kluge, he had a vision that Virginia was capable of producing world-class wine (he calls it “the Napa Valley of the East coast”). One day in 2006, Shaquille O’Neal turned up at the winery. He said that Tarek’s mother had listed the property, and that he was considering buying it. This kicked off an ongoing family feud and legal battle that was only temporarily suspended after an angel investor bought the property in 2007, with the intention of leasing it back to the Salahis.
Tarek Salahi denies that the winery is up for sale, although the U.S. Bankruptcy Court has scheduled the auction (given a choice of who to believe—Tarek Salahi or the Wall Street Journal—I wouldn’t have to spend much time agonizing over the decision). Now that he’s retired and has time on his hands, maybe Shaq wants to get involved again. Or perhaps Donald Trump will step in and buy this winery also, as part of an unannounced plan to become the Francis Ford Coppola of Virginia. Either way, it will be amusing to follow.