August 20, 2014

Philip Carter Winery

By Heidi Baumstark, Photography By Karly Pope

Corotoman and Fairfax warmly welcome guests to the Philip Carter Winery in Hume, Va. Corotoman, an American Mastiff, is named after the 17th century plantation of Robert “King” Carter, who was by far the wealthiest Virginian of his day. And little Fairfax, a Shih Tzu, is the namesake of the English lord who owned millions of acres in the Virginia colony. In 1702, Carter became the land agent for Lord Fairfax, collecting rent on his numerous properties, and amassed over 300,000 acres of his own across the colony.

There’s good reason these two creatures bear such historically redolent names: the winery’s owner, Philip Carter Strother, is a direct descendant of Carter.

A 12th generation Virginian, Strother’s winemaking find its roots deep in the Carter family tree. Two of Carter’s sons, Charles and his younger brother Landon, grew wine grapes in the mid-1700s at Cleve Plantation in Virginia’s Northern Neck, making wines from native and European varietals.

They were just following the law: passed in 1619, the 12th Act of the Virginia House of Burgesses required every landowner to grow and maintain at least 10 vines.

Charles Carter, chairman of economic development for the House of Burgesses, began to explore Virginia wine as an alternative to the region’s tobacco trade industry. In 1759, Carter began correspondence with Peter Wyche, chairman of the agriculture committee of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (now the Royal Society of Arts or RSA) in London, which offered premiums—or prizes—for profitable business enterprises in the colonies.

“Winemaking was oneof the endeavors encouraged by the Royal Society,” said Strother.

At Cleve Plantation, built in 1754 in King George County, Carter had 1,800 vines on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Carter’s wines won a gold medal from the RSA in 1762, which commended him for the “first spirited attempt towards the accomplishment of their views, respecting wine in America.”

A replica of the 1762 gold medal—along with a framed certificate dated August 6, 1763, recognizing Carter for his prized wines—hangs near the tasting room at Philip Carter Winery in Hume. It is signed by Francis Fauquier, who served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor from 1758 until his death 10 years later.

To resurrect the Carter name in today’s wine circles, in January 2008, Strother—an attorney who serves as general counsel to many Virginia farm wineries and handles land use and zoning matters—purchased Stillhouse Vineyard in Hume. He renamed the property to honor his family’s early winemaking history.

Symbolic of the 1,800 vines planted by Charles Carter at Cleve, Strother planted 1,800 vines on his 27 acres overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the General’s Wine and History Trail in Fauquier County.

In July 2009, the Carter family once again shipped bottles of wine across the Atlantic to the RSA. But this time, it was reds and whites from Strother’s Philip Carter Winery. Again, Carter wines were declared to have the same high quality sent in previous centuries.

“We want to provide a gracious way of life through wine, history, and culture. That is our focus,” Strother said. “We want to tell an important story of our involvement as a people with the history of our nation and wine since the 1600s.”

In addition to the daily wine tastings held at the winery, Mark Parsons, director of hospitality and operations at Philip Carter Winery, hosts periodic Vintage Virginia wine tastings where wine lovers can learn about the history of the Old Dominion through select wines. “It takes people through five centuries of wine making in Virginia beginning with the 1600s through the 2000s,” Strother said.

The winery is also host to seasonal wine dinners and other celebrations such as weddings, bat and bar mitzvahs, birthdays, anniversaries, retirement parties, and corporate events which are held in the grand Cleve Hall. Members of Carter Charter, the vineyard’s wine club, receive two different wines every other month. Guests can also arrange for a “grape to glass” vineyard tour, followed with a short walk to the production area and cellar. A detailed look at winemaking is followed by a private tasting of available vintages.

“We hope to promote a gracious culture of hospitality and a deeper understanding of Virginia’s rich wine heritage that every Virginian can be proud to share,” Strother said. And visitors will get a chance to meet royalty—Corotoman and Fairfax—even if it is just the four-legged kind.

Philip Carter Winery
4366 Stillhouse Road
Hume, Va.

Heidi Baumstark is a part-time reporter for a bimonthly newspaper covering western Prince William County and parts of Fauquier County, Va., where she specializes in writing history-related articles about the region.


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