VIRGINIA CORNER: Philip Carter Winery of Virginia | Fauquier County | Virginia

In our last Virginia Corner posting – October is Virginia Wine Month! – we discussed how close the Virginia wine industry has come to realizing Thomas Jefferson’s musing that “we could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Lately, we’ve tasted some very good Virginia wines, for sure. Among the most impressive have been from Philip Carter Winery, a family-owned producer nestled deep in the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont, in Fauquier County, roughly 60 miles west of Washington, D.C.  Philip Carter Strother, who established the winery, is a direct descendant of the storied Carter family, who were prominent landowners in colonial Virginia, and most notably Charles Carter, who was among the earliest pioneers of grape growing and winemaking in Virginia.

Just a while back we featured our very first Philip Carter discovery – the 2010 Meritage (click the link for our review) – a beautifully crafted Bordeaux-inspired blend of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  The 2010 Meritage was among the most expressive Virginia wines we had ever tasted, and it cast aside any lingering reservations we may have had about the potential for Virginia wines to be “doubtless as good.”  Thankfully, there was more of such goodness to come.  We recently had opportunity to taste two new Philip Carter releases – the winery’s flagship red wine “Cleve” and Port-style dessert wine “1762” – and found them, as well, to be of distinguished quality and character.

Philip Carter Winery | Cleve | Virginia Red Wine | $35 | 90 pts

Aromas:  ripe boysenberry; cured tobacco; cinnamon; cedar
Character:  dry; full-bodied; classic structure; firm but accessible tannins; medium acidity; toasty oak; lasting finish
Flavors:  blackberries; black tea; tobacco; black olive; touch of pomegranate; cedar/oak
Food Pairing:  sharp cheeses; barbecue/smoked meats; grilled fare; hearty winter stews


Cleve is named after Charles Carter’s colonial plantation in King George County, where he made wines from both native and European grape varieties he cultivated there.   The 2010 is an unusual blend of Tannat (a variety native to the Basque region of southwestern France) and Petit Verdot (a traditional Bordeaux variety), aged in French oak for 20 months before bottling.  Cleve is bold and expressive, offering aromas of boysenberries, tobacco, and spice followed by flavors of blackberries, tea, sweet cured tobacco, and black olive, all appended with a splash of tart pomegranate and framed by cedary oak.  It’s classically structured – by our palates more Old World than New World in style – with notable complexity, balance, and length.  It’s not long out of barrel, so it’s young and firm but nevertheless accessible – especially alongside robust foods.  We sipped it over a dinner of smoked meats and it was delicious.  If you’re eager to try it soon we recommend decanting it for up to an hour; if you have the patience to wait, it will reward for several years to come.  We were so impressed with the quality and character of Cleve that we have given it our first 90 point rating for a Virginia wine.

Philip Carter Winery | 1762 | Port | 2010 | $38 | 88 pts

Aromas:  fruit compote; black currants; dried mission figs
Character:  sweet and luscious, but not syrupy – a nice balance of ripe dark fruit and tangy acidity
Flavors:  ripe & dried black cherry & plum; dark chocolate; caramel; vanilla bean
Food Pairing: chocolates; fruit tarts; gingerbread & other spiced breads and pastries

At dinner’s end we opened another of Philip Carter’s new releases – the 1762 Port (v. 2010) – which is named for the year in which Charles Carter’s American wines were proclaimed to be “good wines” by an influential society in London.  The 1762 is produced in the fortified style of a true Port from the Chambourcin grape, a French hybrid variety grown throughout Virginia and prized for its intense purple color and flavors of black cherries and plums.  Philip Carter ages the 1762 for 20 months in used Bourbon Whiskey barrels, which impart warm caramel and vanilla qualities, and bottles it at 5% residual sugar.  The result is a dessert wine that is rich and mouth-coating but not heavy and syrupy, thanks to tangy acids that keep it refreshingly light on its feet for a wine of this style.  The 1762 is ideal for sipping in front of a cozy fire on a cool autumn night, and in our experience made for a delicious accompaniment to spicy ginger muffins.

Availability:  Cleve and 1762 are available at Philip Carter Winery, and if you live in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area they are well worth the scenic drive.  The winery and grounds are beautiful (especially in the fall), the staff are gracious, and there are many other Philip Carter wines to taste.  Philip Carter wines are handsomely bottled, and would be thoughtful holiday gifts for wineloving friends and family.  For more information on Philip Carter Winery, where you may find their wines locally, or how you may order them online, visit them virtually at 



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One Response to VIRGINIA CORNER: Philip Carter Winery of Virginia | Fauquier County | Virginia

  1. Vicki Portney says:

    Great article about wine that sounds like a must-try.

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