News & Releases from Philip Carter Winery

The Wines of Germany – Summer Cruise 2023 with Philip Carter

My journey through Europe continues as I explore another country slated for the Philip Carter led cruise down the Danube River from April 20-23rd 2023 with a look at the wines of Germany.  As you read through this article, you should be able to answer the following questions by the conclusion of your read:

1.       What percentage of German Wines are white?

2.       If a German wine has the name of a grape variety on a label, what’s the minimum percentage of that grape in the wine?

3.       If a German wine lists a vintage on a label, what’s the minimum percentage of that year in the wine?

4.       How many winemaking regions does Germany have?

5.       Name the three basic styles of German wine.

6.       What’s the average alcohol range for German wines?

7.       What does ‘Spatlese’ mean in English?

8.       What is Sussreserve?

Today Germany is a minor player on the world wine stage, but it features more than 1,400 wine villages and 2,600 plus vineyards.  Seems like a lot, but if you had to study German wines before 1971, you would have had to memorize over 30,000 different names!  A large number of people used to own very small parcels of land, leading to the exorbitant number of names.  In an effort to reduce confusion, the West German government passed a law in 1971 mandating that a vineyard consist of at least twelve and half acres of land (Philip Carter qualifies!).  The law decreased the number list of vineyards, but increased owners.

Germany produces only 2-3% of the world’s wine, and what it does produce is highly dependent upon weather.  This is because Germany in the northernmost country in which vines can grow, and 80% of this done upon hilly slopes, so harvesting must be done by hand.  85% of the wines that Germany produces are white.  The most important grape varieties are:

  1.        Riesling – this is the most widely planted and best grape variety produced in Germany.  If you don’t see ‘Riesling’ on the label the wine probably has little in any Riesling grapes in it.  If the label gives the grape variety, the wine must contain 85% of that grape by German law.  If it shows a vintage, it must contain 85% of grapes from that year.  Germany has been growing the Riesling grape since 1435.
  2.        Muller Thurgau – a cross between Riesling and Chasselas, it accounts for 13.5% of Germany’s wines.
  3.        Silvaner – this grape variety accounts for just 5% of Germany’s wines.

Germany produces red wines too, but that accounts for only 15% of their wines.  Red grapes don’t grow well in Germany’s norther climate.

Germany has 13 official wine making regions, but four of them are recognized as producing the best German wines.  They are:

  1.        Rheinhessen
  2.        Rheingau
  3.        Mosel (known as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer until 2007)
  4.        Pfalz (known as Rheinpfalz until 1992)

Rhein wines generally have more body than Mosels, which usually have higher acidity and lower alcohol levels than Rheins.  Mosels show more autumn fruits like apples and pears, while Rhein wines show more summer fruits like apricots, peaches and nectarines.  One quick way to tell the difference between a Rhein wine and a Mosel wine is to look at the bottle.  Rhein wines come in a brown bottle, Mosel in a green bottle.


The three basic styles of German wines are:

  1.       Trocken – dry
  2.       Halbtrocken – medium dry
  3.       Fruity – semidry to sweet


German wines tend to contain 8% to 10% alcohol, compared to an average 12% to 14% for French wines.  A common misconception about German wines is that after fermentation is halted, the remaining residual sugar gives the wine its sweetness.  This is largely untrue, most German wines are fermented dry.  German winemakers withhold a certain amount of unfermented grape juice from the same vineyard, varietal, and sweetness level.  This Sussreserve contains all the natural sugar, which winemakers add back to the wine after fermentation.  The finest German estates do not use the Sussreserve method, but do rely on stopping fermentation to achieve their specific wine style.


As a result of the West German 1971 legislation, German wines fall two main categories:

  1.       Tafelwein – table wine, the lowest designation given to a wine grown in Germany, it never carries the vineyard name and rarely is exported.
  2.        Qualitatswein – quality wine, which then falls into one of two categories:
  •        Qualitatswein Bestimmter Anbaugiebiete – indicates a quality wine that comes from 1 of the 13 specified German regions.
  •        Pradikatswein – quality wine with a distinction, these wines may not be chapitalized (adding sugar before fermentation to increase alcohol levels)


Pradikatswein Levels

In increasing order of quality, price, and ripeness at harvest, here are the six Pradikatswein levels:

  1.        Kabinett Light – semidry wines made from normally ripened grapes
  2.        Spatlese – late picking, meaning that the wine comes from grapes picked after the normal harvest.
  3.        Auslese – out picked, meaning that the grapes come from a particular ripe bunch, which yield a medium to fuller style wine.
  4.        Beernauslese – berry picking, signifying that individual grapes are selected to create a rich dessert wine.  This wine is usually made 2-3 times a decade.
  5.        Trockenbeerenauslese – these grapes are dried (trocken), so they’re more like raisins.  These raisininated grapes produce the richest, sweetest, and most expensive wines.
  6.        Eiswein – concentrated wine made from frozen grapes left on the vine and pressed while still frozen.  According to law, this wine must be made from grapes at least ripe enough to make a Beerenauslese.


Dale Clemence

Assistant Wine Maker at Philip Carter Winery

For more information on the Philip Carter led wine cruise that travels through Austria, Hungary and Germany please click on the link below, e-mail [email protected] or call 877-615-7447.

Wine Cruise Info



Question Answers:

1.       85%

2.       At least 85%

3.       85 %

4.       13 regions

5.       Trocken, Halbtrocken, and Fruity

6.       Between 8% to 10%

7.       Late Picking

8.       When winemakers reserve grape juice and add it to the wine after fermentation

The Wines of Hungary- Summer Cruise 2023 with Philip Carter

This month I continue my exploration of the countries that will be visited on the Philip Carter led cruise down the Danube River from April 20-23rd 2023 with a discussion upon the wines of Hungary.  As you read through my blog, you should be able to answer the following questions by the end of the read:

1.       Name the three major white grapes and three major red grapes native to Hungary.

2.       Name three major wine regions of Hungary.

3.       How is Tokaj Aszu made?

4.       What are the four levels of Puttonyos wine?

5.       What is the name of the sweetest of the Tokaji wines?


The wine industry of Hungary traces back as far as the Roman Empire and it has thrived culturally and economically for nearly 1,000 years.  Tokay, its most famous wine, has been produced continuously since the sixteenth century, and Tokaj received the world’s first vineyard classification in 1700.  The reputation of Hungarian wine suffered a major decline under Communist rule from 1949 to 1989.  In that time, a state monopoly shifted production to bulk wine with little regard to maintaining or improving existing wine quality.


Since the fall of Communism, however, emphasis has returned to quality wines, with an influx of capital from Italian, French, and German winemakers.  The introduction of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris grapes, new vineyard techniques, and modern equipment have helped rebuild Hungary’s wine industry.  The famous vineyards of Tokaj received the first wave of attention, but investment has expanded throughout the country.


The main white varietals are:

Native to Hungary                            International

Furmint                                              Chardonnay

Harslevelu                                         Pinot Gris

Olaszrizling                                       Sauvignon Blanc

The main red varietals are:

Native to Hungary                            International

Kadarka                                           Cabernet Sauvignon

Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch)              Merlot

Portugieser                                       Pinot Noir

The country has 22 wine regions, seven of which you should know along with their most important wines:

Badacsony:  Olaszrizling

Eger Kekfrankos:  Pinot Noir

Somolo:  Furmint

Sopron:  Kekfrankos

Szekszard:  Kadarka, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon

Tokaj:  Furmint, Harslevelu

Villany-Siklos:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Kekfrankos


Tokaji Aszu

This wine, on par with French Sauternes and German Trockenbeerenauslese comes from Tokaj, a village in Hungary’s northeastern corner and one of the oldest wine regions in the world.  Aszu refers to the dried, shriveled, botrytized grapes used to make their wines.  Tokaji Aszu usually blends four grapes native to Hungary, primarily Furmint.  Throughout the fall harvest season, the grapes affected by the Botrytis Cinerea mold (or aszu) are picked, lightly crushed, and made into a paste.  Unaffected grapes ferment into the base wine.  Workers collect the aszu paste in baskets, called puttonyos, then blend those into the base wine according to the desired sweetness, measured in puttonyos on the label of all Tokaji Aszu.  The more paste buckets that go into the base wine, the sweeter the outcome.  Puttonyos wine has four levels:

3 Puttonyos:  60 grams of sugar per liter

4 Puttonyos:  90 grams of sugar per liter

5 Puttonyos:  120 grams of sugar per liter

6 Puttonyos:  150 grams of sugar per liter

·         A French Sauterne has 90 grams of sugar per liter

·         A German Trckenbeerenauslese has 150 grams of sugar per liter

The sweetest Tokaj wines, called Essencia or Eszencia, contains 180 grams of sugar per liter.  Due to the high concentration of sugar, Essencia may take years to finish fermentation and then will have only an alcohol content of 2-5 percent.  It is a very unique wine and specialty of Hungary.


Make sure to be on the look out for our next blog post about the other regions that will be explored on the wine cruise!

Dale Clemence

Assistant Wine Maker at Philip Carter Winery

Question Answers:

1.       White: Furmint, Harslevelu, and Olaszrizling; Red:  Kardarka, Kekfrankos, and Portugieser

2.       The major wine regions of Hungary include: Badacsony, Eger, Somolo, Sopron, Szekszard, Tokaj, and Villany-Siklos

3.       Grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea are made into a paste.  Unaffected grapes ferment into the base wine, and workers blend in baskets of the noble rot paste according to the desired sweetness level.

4.       3 baskets, (60g sugar/liter), 4 baskets (90g), 5 baskets (120g) and 6 baskets (150g)

5.       Essencia


For more information on the Philip Carter led wine cruise that travels through Austria, Hungary and Germany please click on the link below, or e-mail [email protected] or call 877-651-7447.

Wine Cruise Info

’22 Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition Results


The Virginia Governor’s Cup®, one of the most stringent competitions in the US and is hosted by the Virginia Wineries Association (in partnership with the Virginia Wine Board and the Virginia Vineyards Association). In 2022, world-class judges sampled over 600 of the best Virginia wines from over 100 Virginia wineries.

This year Philip Carter Winery entered 2 of our best wines and both of our wines walked away with medals! We are thrilled at the recognition that our wines are receiving in our local community and from the people all over Virginia.

Congratulations to Philip, our winemaker Tony, and all of the Philip Carter staff!

2019 Cleve – Silver

2015 1762 – Silver

’22 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Results

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is currently the largest wine competition in North America. All wineries in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are eligible to enter the wine competition. Professional wine judges are sourced throughout the major wine regions in North America to offer a diversity of expertise to each judging panel. A major advantage to wineries entering the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the vast recognition and outreach of the award-winning wines including the published wine award special section of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

This year Philip Carter Winery entered 4 of our unique Virginia wines and all of our wines walked away with medals! We are overjoyed at the recognition that our wines are receiving not only in our home state but even on the west coast.

Congratulations to Philip, our winemaker Tony, and all of the Philip Carter staff!


2019 Cleve – Gold

2020 Shirley Chardonnay – Silver

2020 Sabine Hall Viognier – Silver

2020 Nomini Hall Cabernet Franc – Bronze


’21 American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition Results

The American Wine Society is the largest consumer-based wine organization in the United States. They have conducted this prestigious Commercial wine competition annually for over 40 years. This commercial competition provides national recognition for wineries among both consumers and wine industry professionals.

Judges for the AWS Commercial Wine Competition include both AWS-trained and certified judges and professional experts from all aspects of the wine industry. AWS judges have completed a rigorous 3 level course over a minimum of 3 years. This intense curriculum includes a disciplined approach to wine fault identification, component analysis, winery operations, viticulture, wine history and appreciation, and extensive wine evaluation and rating.

This year Philip Carter Winery entered 6 of our unique Virginia wines and all of our wines walked away with medals! We are overjoyed at the recognition that our wines are receiving not only in our home state but all over the country.

Congratulations to Philip, our winemaker Tony, and all of the Philip Carter staff!


2020 Shirley Chardonnay – Silver

2020 Sabine Hall Viognier – Silver

2020 Gov. Fauquier – Silver

2019 Cleve – Silver

2020 Nomini Hall Cabernet Franc – Bronze

2019 Ten Vines Merlot – Bronze



’21 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Wine Competition Results



The Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association host an annual wine competition; the largest in the nation focused exclusively on the wines of the East Coast. The competition covers the 17 states from Maine to Florida that border the Atlantic including Vermont, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The event is held in late summer with professional competition judges hailing from all parts of the country and many facets of the wine trade.

This year Philip Carter Winery entered 5 of our unique Virginia wines and 4 of our wines walked away with medals! We are overjoyed at the recognition that our wines are receiving not only in our home state but all over the east coast.

Congratulations to Philip, our winemaker Tony, and all of the Philip Carter staff!


2019 Cleve – Gold & Best Other Red Vinifera Blend

2019 Tannat – Silver

2020 Nomini Hall Cabernet Franc – Bronze

2020 Rosewell Rosé – Bronze

Austria and Summer Cruise 2023 with Philip Carter

As you may be aware Philip Carter is leading a cruise down the Danube River from April 20-23rd 2023.  In preparation for this adventure, I’ve taken it upon myself to write about the wine regions that the cruise will be exploring.  First on my list is a review of Austria as several days will be spent in this region.  As you read through my blog, you should be able to answer the following questions by the end of the read:


  1. What are Austria’s four main wine regions?
  2. Name three major white grapes and three major red grapes that grow in Austria.
  3. What are the three major quality levels of Austrian wine?
  4. What is Austria’s great dessert wine?


Grape growing and winemaking in what is now Austria dates back to the fourth century B.C., but only in the past quarter century has the country earned a reputation for producing quality wines, specifically some of Europe’s most elegant and best-tasting white wines, both dry and sweet.  Its Gruner Veltliners and Rieslings pair beautifully with food, which accounts in part for the recent success of Austrian wines in America.  Both chefs and sommeliers agree that these wines work well with nearly any dish, from fish and poultry to most meats.  Austria’s wines also hold their own when paired with Asian spices.


The country contains four wine regions: Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, and Styria, all located along its eastern borders.  The Danube River and the fertile valley that surrounds it define the northern wine regions, including Lower Austria – which produces 60 percent of the country’s wine – and Vienna, one of the world’s most beautiful cities and the only major city to be a wine region.  The two most important of these regions, specialties, and their wine districts are:

  • Burgenland: (red and dessert wines) Neusiedlersee, Mittelburgenland, Neusiedlersee-Hugelland
  • Lower Austria (white wines) Wachau, Kamptal, Kremstal, Donauland


The main white varietals are:

  • Gruner Veltliner (accounts for more than 1/3rd of Austrian grape plantings)
  • AutriSauvignon Blanc
  • Riesling
  • Chardonnay


The main red varietals are:

  • Blaufrankisch (Lemberger)
  • St. Laurent
  • Pinot Noir


Austria largely follows the same criteria used in other European countries, specifically Germany, with regard to wine labeling, although it maintains even stricter control.  Grape ripeness and the sugar content of the fermenting must determines quality levels, the three broadest being:

  • Tafielwein
  • Qualitatswein
  • Pradikatswein


The Austrian wine board tastes and chemically analyzes Qualitatswein and higher levels of wine, giving consumers a guarantee of taste, style, and quality.  If a label lists a specific grape, the wine must contain at least 85 percent of that grape (US in only 75%).  If the label names a wine region, 100 percent of the wine must come from that region (US only 75%).  As with German wines, most Austrian wines are white, but, unlike German wines, most of Austria’s wines are dry, with higher alcohol and more body, resembling the wines of Alsace.  Graduation of ripeness indicates the amount of residual sugar left in the wine after fermentation.  In Austrian wines, it ranges from the very dry Trocken to the very sweet Trockenbeerenauslese.


Graduations of Ripeness











Very Sweet







Ausbruch, one of the world’s great dessert wines, comes from the village of Rust in Burgenland and has a history that dates back as far as 1617.  On par with French Sauternes, German Beerenauslese, and Hungarian Tokay, it’s made with botrytized grapes, primarily Furmint. 


Make sure to be on the look out for our next blog post about the other regions that will be explored on the wine cruise!

Dale Clemence

Assistant Wine Maker at Philip Carter Winery


For more information on the Philip Carter led cruise that travels through Austria among other countries please click on link below, e-mail [email protected] or call 877-651-7447.

Wine Cruise Info!

Question Answers:

  1. Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, and Styria
  2. White:  Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay Red: Blaufrankisch, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir
  3. Tafielwein, Qualitatswein, Pradikatswein
  4. Ausbruch

Winery Closure 1/29/22

Due to snowy road conditions, to ensure the safety of our guests and staff, we will remain closed today January 29th, 2022. We hope to see everyone tomorrow from 11 am – 5 pm to enjoy some wonderful quiches for brunch. Make sure to make a reservation!

Adopt-A-Vine Update – Spring 2021


          My name is Tony McDonnell, if I haven’t met you yet, I am the Winemaker at Philip Carter Winery. I wanted to give you an update on what is happening in our vineyard right now.

           Something you might hear me saying a lot this time of year is “hope springs eternal,” a quote from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man.  With the first day of spring about a month away, this is a very optimistic time in the wine industry.  2020 presented some of the most unique challenges any of us have ever seen, the biggest of which was totally outside of our control.  Overall, I am very happy with the wines we produced in 2020, and it will certainly go down as one of the most memorable vintages of my career.  Keep an eye out for our 2020 “fresh wines” like Governor Fauquier, Rosewell, Sabine Hall, and the Ten Vines red blend, which were bottled within the last month and are hitting shelves soon.

           On Tuesday, February 16th, the vineyard crew and I made our first pruning cuts in our Chambourcin block, and just like that, we’re on to 2021.  Most of the 2020 reds (Petit Verdot, Tannat, Cab Franc, Norton) and Chardonnay will be allowed to continue to develop for a bit longer while we shift our focus to the vineyard.  In our area, grapevines typically break bud (start growing for the year) around the middle of April.  Between now and then, the crew and I have about 15 acres of vines to prune, along with a handful of other tasks.  Now is the time we make sure our trellis wires are tight, our adopt-a-vine signs are shining, and the vines are set up to give us another great crop.

           Pruning grapevines is hard work but has an almost therapeutic quality to it at times as well.  We cut the vines back, taking out the vast majority of last year’s growth, so they can focus their energy on growing new shoots, which will give us this year’s crop.  Grapevines fruit on a two-year cycle – in 2020 they developed buds, which will produce shoots and fruit in the year 2021.  Those new shoots will also develop buds in 2021, which will be our crop for 2022.  Our focus is on getting exactly how many buds we want and having them exactly where we want them.  What we cut off, we burn.  Old wood, especially once it’s no longer attached to the vine, can quickly become a source of contamination for the living plants.

           Outside of harvest, March tends to be our busiest month at the winery.  While pruning is the single biggest task, we also have to get ready for spring planting, typically done in May.  We are putting in close to three acres of grapevines this year, spread between the Philip Carter property and Strother Family Vineyards, our sight in Delaplane.  Cleaning up from pruning is a large undertaking in and of itself, plus we work to prep the grounds of the winery for the upcoming year – the recent wet weather conditions making this all the more important.  And of course, lest we forget, our wines in the cellar still need attention as they make their march towards the bottle.

           I am particularly excited about an event we are hosting on April 17th at Valley View Farm.  We are calling it our Spring Picnic, and we will be hosting adopt-a-vine and wine club members for a hike up to Strother Family Vineyards, and a discussion on all things viticulture with a picnic will follow. Be on the lookout for more details about the event coming soon. I hope to see you all there!

           Additionally, if you are available, I invite you to join me on Facebook Live this Friday, February 26th at 6 pm for our upcoming Virtual Tasting. If you need the info about it you can find it here.

           Until then, Cheers!

Tony McDonnell

Winemaker, Philip Carter Winery

A Quick History of Cider

In American, raw apple juice that has not been filtered to remove pulp or sediment is referred to as “fresh cider” or “sweet cider.”  The term “apple juice” indicates the juice has been filtered to remove solids.  Fermented apple juice is called “hard cider.”  Worldwide, cider varies in alcohol content from less than 3% alcohol by volume (ABV), to 8.5% ABV or above in traditional English ciders.  New tax legislation passed by Congress in December 2015 brought U.S cider definitions into alignment with international standards, raising the allowable levels of carbonation and alcohol content and including pears as well as apples in the definition of (hard) cider.

The first recorded references to cider date back to Roman times; in 55 BCE Julius Caesar found the Celtic Britons fermenting cider from native crabapples. The people of northern Spain were making sidra before the birth of Christ. The Norman Conquest of England in 1066 resulted in the introduction of many apple varieties from France and cider soon became the most popular drink after ale. Cider began to be used to pay tithes and rents – a custom that continued later in America.  Cider is still very popular in England, which has the highest per capita consumption as well as the largest cider producing companies in the world.  Cider is also traditional in western Europe, including Brittany and Normandy in France.

Cider in America

Only 9 years after first landing at Plymouth in 1620, European colonists planted apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In Colonial America, cider was the most common beverage, and even children drank it in a diluted form.  In many places, the water was not safe to drink and most homesteads had an apple orchard.  Pressing and fermenting fresh apple juice was the easiest way to preserve the large fruit harvest.  In rural communities, taxes, wages and tithes were often paid in cider. It was also the basis for other products, such as vinegar, which was used to preserve fresh foods and for other purposes around the farm.

However, by the late 1800s, cider began its decline from the most popular beverage in the nation. Several unrelated forces combined to essentially wipe cider from the collective memory of America.  A major factor was the Industrial Revolution, bringing people from the farm to the city to live and work. Many orchards were abandoned, resulting in reduced production.  Unfiltered and unpasteurized cider did not travel well from farms to the new centers of population.  An additional element was the increased consumption of beer, especially in cities. Immigrants arriving from Germany and Ireland, and cheap grain available in the Midwest, led beer to replace cider in the popular market.

The most damaging factor for cider was the rise of the Temperance movement.  By the time Prohibition was enacted in 1919, the production of cider in the U.S. had slipped to only 13 million gallons, down from 55 million gallons in 1899. Over the next several decades, the once proud American tradition of cider making was kept alive by only a few local farmers and enthusiasts.  In recent years there has been a resurgent interest in cider making and today cider is one of the fastest-growing segments of the liquor industry.

Virginia’s cider scene has exploded over the past few years, boasting more than 20 cideries across the Commonwealth. Virginia is the sixth-largest apple producing state by acreage in the United States and cider is a rich part of the Commonwealth’s heritage. Cider styles vary from large bottle heirloom ciders to canned and draft cider. Virginia’s cider makers continue to make innovative beverages that honor their rich history while looking to new trends, tastes, and styles.  Virginia Cider Week is celebrated the second week of every November.   Stop by Valley View Farm to try our Virginia Apple and Virginia Dry ciders produced by the winemaking team at Philip Carter.

Cruise the Enchanting Danube River

SS Maria Theresa • 7 Nights • Passau to Budapest • April 23-30, 2023


The shimmering waters of the fabled Danube River flow through
the very heart of Europe. A veritable showcase of the best of
Central Europe, this journey is one any culturally curious world
traveler will love, featuring old-world capitals and charming towns
and villages rich in winemaking history. Join your exceptional
hosts from Barrel Oak, Molon Lave, Philip Carter and
Rappahannock Cellars on this magical journey. Learn about their
unique stories, taste their delicious wines and create lasting
relationships with your wine hosts and fellow wine enthusiasts
over intimate tastings and dinners; a truly exclusive experience!


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