Gray Ghost Vineyards and Winery might possibly be the most recommended winery I’ve come to know. Because Gray Ghost is local to my area, I had waited to visit since I could do so without prearranged planning. Turns out that was like waiting to cash in a winning lottery ticket.
Get comfy because I’ve got a lot to tell (and show) you!
I’m celebrating a milestone of sorts: This is my 20th Virginia Winery Taste and Tour post! So I wanted it to be special.
As you may remember from my prior winery tours, any time I am fortunate enough to visit with the winemaker, I ask him or her to recommend the next Virginia winery I should visit. When I stopped by Narmada Winery (also located in Amissville), winemaker Judha Patil did not hesitate to suggest I stop by Gray Ghost. That sealed the deal for them being the selection for my celebratory 20th post!
Gray Ghost Vineyards – An Estate Winery
From the moment you arrive you are surrounded by vines, literally right to the gate. They have maximized the usage of the their 25 acre parcel, with 13 acres dedicated to growing 10 varietals. The vines line the gravel drive to the winery and tasting room, pushed to the edges of their rolling property.
Like Breaux Vineyards, Gray Ghost is an estate winery. This means not only are all of the grapes grown and harvested on site, the wines are produced (fermented, aged and bottled) there as well. From beginning to end they maintain control of pretty much everything but the weather! What you get is hand-crafted wine developed from meticulous attention and care.
Varietals Grown at Gray Ghost
Gray Ghost produces all five of the Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot. In addition, they have vines for Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc.
So what looks different in that list? Anyone who has followed my tours of Virginia wineries will find a common thread. Virginia (like anywhere else in the world) has a terroir that supports a finite list of varietals, and the successful production of even fewer.
It would be unusual to find Pinot Noir grown here. And for that matter, any Zinfandel or Grolleau to speak of.
What does Virginia do exceptionally well? Viognier, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Norton. Along with Chardonnay, these are the most commonly offered wines in the area. So finding that Gray Ghost went mostly its own way with their vines–while being so highly regarded–I was intrigued.
Let’s go inside and I’ll give you all the “juicy” details.
Gray Ghost Vineyards Wine Tasting
Some tasting rooms are like walking in to a department store on black Friday. Others are like a grand ballroom where you’re not sure where to go. Gray Ghost was like walking into the home of a dear friend. Warm, inviting, cozy.
Gray Ghost is a family-run winery, but they make you feel like you’re family, too. I was fortunate enough to have my tasting with owner and winemaker Al Kellert who provided the details of each wine as well as the history of the winery.
A former chemist, Al and his wife Cheryl purchased the current property in 1987 and established the vineyard, adding the winery seven years later. This makes Gray Ghost one of the oldest wineries in Virginia. And they’ve been doing it right since they started. With over 1,000 medals to their credit, they are consistently one of the highest regarded Virginia wineries in competitions from coast to coast.
And just how hands-on are the Kellerts? Cheryl still personally prunes each of their 8,800+ vines, and Al tends to every single bottle produced in the winery.
Both their tastings and bottles are among the most affordable I’ve found in the region. The $5 tasting included the following ten wines:
Whites: 2015 Chardonnay, 2015 Reserve Chardonnay, 2016 Seyval Blanc, 2016 Vidal Blanc, Victorian White (non-vintage stainless steel Chardonnay), 2016 Gewürztraminer, 2015 Adieu (Bonus dessert wine made of 100% late harvest Vidal Blanc);
Reds: Victorian Red (non-vintage blend of 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Chardonnay), 2016 Cabernet Franc, 2015 Ranger Reserve (Bordeaux blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Malbec), 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The price per bottle ranges from $17 to $30 with an average price of about $23. Glasses range from $6 to $10 with all but one in the $6 -$7 range. They also offer 10% discounts on cases.
Gray Ghost Wines
What a sensational tasting. Al offered great details of how he crafted each wine and the particulars of the year, harvest and production. But even further, you can hear the passion for what he and his family do on a daily basis. The particulars of just how long they left the grapes on the vine. Storms that came and went and how it impacted the harvest.
Winemaking is an art form. And the Kellerts are among Virginia’s premier artists. You get the sense they would rather produce one case of exceptional wine than gallons of it to garner a profit. Fortunately they are able to produce about 4,000 cases of the good stuff!
So, the proof is in the bottle, right? The highlights from my perspective:
I truly enjoyed the Vidal Blanc. A light floral nose with definitive honeydew melon on the palate and a little citrus on the finish. A summer wine, for sure. But you could bring this to Thanksgiving dinner and it will be the talk of the table.
Another standout was the Victorian White. This semi-dry stainless steel Chardonnay has 1.8% residual sugar. With absence of oak, you get a delicious mix of lemon and green apples with a nice lingering finish.
The Victorian Red became an instant fave. An interesting blend of Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, it presented cranberry and cherry from end to end. Pair it up with a nice roaring fire!
Best of all was their 2016 Cabernet Franc. The green pepper so typically characteristic of Virginia Cab Francs was replaced with cherry, raspberry and cinnamon.
The proof indeed! I purchased four bottles to go, the most ever for a visit to a new winery: Victorian White, Victorian Red, Cabernet Franc and the Seyval Blanc (it hooked me with its Sauvignon Blanc-esque notes of lemon and citrus). Also grabbed a glass of the Cab Franc for walking about.
Gray Ghost Winery Tour
Al was kind enough to give me a tour of the winery and barrel room post-tasting. Previously a thirteen stall horse stable, they converted the space into an immaculate production area.
In the barrel room, they conduct select reserve tastings and other events. The weekend I was there they were gearing up for a tasting of their Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.
One of the coolest features of Gray Ghost is their wine library. Having stored wines from every vintage dating back to their beginning, they amassed a fantastic collection. Three times a year they open four different wines in their library. What a great way to explore how their different wines are aging. Definitely on my to do list!
Back in the main facility, a large loft above the tasting room looks down on the tasting bars. You can easily find a cozy spot to share a bottle with friends and family. Or just for grabbing a glass and relaxing on a couch.
Take a look out any of the dormers for a view down upon the vineyard. Gorgeous!
The Grounds at Gray Ghost Vineyards
While maximizing the amount of vines they’ve planted on the property, they have maintained plenty of space for spreading out and finding a place to relax. Beyond having plenty of parking (always important!), they have park-like grounds to open up a picnic, a gazebo for shelter from summer sun, and acreage for the little ones to stretch their legs.
And to grab some awesome views of the vineyards and countryside, a deck on the side of the tasting room will give you great photo ops!
Who is the Gray Ghost?
Why Gray Ghost? Al and Cheryl noted their vineyards are located at the southern end of the Mosby Heritage Area. (If you’re a Virginian, you probably know the deal). John S. Mosby was a Confederate Colonel so deftly able to sneak into Union territory without being detected he was known to the Union Army as the Gray Ghost. Virginia wines with Virginia heritage!
Gray Ghost Vineyards and Winery
A little over an hour from Washington, Gray Ghost Vineyards will make for one of the best tastings you’ll find in Virginia. And some of the finest people you could ever hope to meet. Like me, you’ll wish it could’ve lasted all day.
Want to visit another winery with me? Check out my full list of winery and vineyard visits!