Two of my favorite subjects are history and wine. Fortunately, these things intersect at Philip Carter Winery.
The founder of Philip Carter is a descendant of North America’s the first internationally recognized winemaker, who back in colonial days sent London’s Royal Society of Arts a dozen bottles of wine made at his plantation. Nobody is sure what type of grapes he used, but the Society thought well enough of the wine they awarded him a gold medal. Not bad for a beginner!
Club manager Kristel greeted me as I came in – and took great care of me for the next hour. The tasting room reminds me of a barn, only it’s also surrounded by about a dozen acres of vines. There’s plenty of seating both inside and out as well.
12 acres of vines is mid-sized by Virginia standards, but new vines planted at their sister winery at Valley View Farm will expand its acreage of vinifera. Most of their fruit is estate, with a small portion purchased locally. Although both locations source from the same vines and made at the same location, stylistically speaking the intent is to keep the two separate.
Two things brought me to Philip Carter. One was the recommendation of their former winemaker, Jeremy Ligon (now at Creek’s Edge). The second was a sampling of their signature blend – Cleve.
Calling me a Tannat fanatic might be an exaggeration…but not by much. Cleve is a 50/50 split of Tannat and Petit Verdot; my second favorite grape. I couldn’t tell you why putting two high-tannin grapes together works so well, but they seem to bring the best out of one another. Having had a sample of this once before, I was hooked.
I lucked out as Kristelle allowed me to sample much of their portfolio of wines. While I’m partial to reds – especially red blends – there was something on the tasting menu for all palates. This is one of the few places I’m confident I can bring friends regardless if they prefer sweet or dry wines.
What I tried:
2014 Chardonnay: Apple on the nose and palate; Kristelle explained this was a Chardonnay for non-Chard drinkers. I heartily concurred.
2018 Viognier: Soft as Viogniers go; no honeysuckle on the nose but I found it on the palate.
2016 Valley View (Chardonnay/Vidal blend): Semi-sweet. You can smell the Vidal in it, despite those notes being more subdued.
2016 Governor Fauquier (Vidal): Definitely on the sweet side.
2017 Nomini (Cab Franc): Light in color with some pepper notes.
Valley View Red (Cab Franc/Merlot): Light fruit on the nose but I could taste darker fruit…maybe even cranberry?
2016 Corotoman (Meritage): Must be Cabernet Franc heavy; definitely darker fruit notes.
2016 Cleve: Now we’re talking! 50/50 Petit Verdot/Tannat blend. Much smoother than I was expecting, especially with that chocolate pairing. Mushroom on the nose. My favorite of the entirely lineup.
Sweet Danielle (Vidal desert wine): Sweet (as expected) although the pineapple notes surprised me.
“1762” port-style: Very, very smooth. This brand has consistently been one of my favorites in the state. So good that on a previous visit I almost bribed a club member to buy it for me!