The Kellert Family and Gray Ghost Vineyards
A Brief Biography
A family owned and operated winery, Gray Ghost Vineyards is the dream turned reality for Al and Cheryl Kellert. A chemistry major in college, Al was first introduced to winemaking by a college professor who assisted him in his first fermentation experiment in 1969. Not long after, he met and married Cheryl, and a career transfer landed them in Virginia amidst the beginning of what would soon become the burgeoning wine industry in the state.
Years of studying, touring and tasting at wineries, while growing grapes and making homemade wine in their Washington, D.C. suburban backyard, led Al and Cheryl to pursue their dream in earnest. After two-years of searching for the perfect grape growing location, the Kellerts bought property in Rappahannock County. Amissville proved to be the ideal location for their venture as the former apple orchard possessed complex, fertile soils, while the Blue Ridge Mountains directly west helped shield damaging rains from a delicate crop.
The Kellerts moved in 1986 along with each of the meticulously transplanted 160 vines from their Northern Virginia neighborhood. The plantings continued for a number of years and Gray Ghost currently cultivates over 8,000 vines on 13 acres with such varieties as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Riesling, Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc.
While perfecting their winemaking techniques and renovating a 13 stall horse stable into a winery, Al and Cheryl sold their grapes to surrounding wineries. In 1993 the Kellerts retained their entire crop and thus the first vintage of Gray Ghost wines was born. And after years of work gutting and reconstructing the stable themselves, the winery opened in July of 1994. Subsequent vineyard and winery enhancements have included securing more property, an addition which houses an underground barrel room, renovations to the original winery structure and most recently an expanded tasting room.
But from the beginning, the Kellerts focus has been on producing the highest quality wines possible. And the results are evident. Gray Ghost wines are produced by using the gentlest care possible beginning in the vineyard and through the winemaking process. Every vine is personally pruned by Cheryl and every bottle that leaves the winery has been touched by Al in the winemaking and packaging process.
Since Gray Ghost’s inception, the winery has garnered hundreds of awards including numerous coveted honors of “Best of Show”, “Best Dessert Wine in the United States”, and “Chairman’s Best of Class” – all in renowned international wine competitions spanning from California to New York. In addition, the winery was named “Best of the East” four consecutive years by Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine for producing the most awarded wine in the country outside of California for Gray Ghost’s Adieu.
History of the Name
Why Gray Ghost? Second only to questions about winemaking comes this question concerning the naming of the winery and vineyards. Gray Ghost Winery and Vineyards is located at the very Southern end of what was known as Mosby's Confederacy in the Civil War.
John S. Mosby was commissioned by the Confederacy to command a small cavalry unit whose purpose was to provide valuable scouting information to General Lee about the Union Army's position and strength. In a short period of time, Mosby was operating behind the Union lines in Northern Virginia; raiding Union positions; and creating as much chaos as possible. By the end of the war, Mosby had attained the rank of Colonel and commanded about 400 troops.
Colonel Mosby has often been credited with extending the life of the Confederacy by over six months. General Grant felt compelled to withhold about 25,000 troops from battle with General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia due to the activities of the Mosby Rangers and during the fear that Mosby would eventually raid Washington itself.