Grape expectations: Woody Lodge recognized nationally

Mirror photo by Walt Frank / Woody Lodge Winery in Ashville is flourishing under the ownership of Margie Keller (left) and her son, John Gailey Jr.

ASHVILLE — After a humble beginning, Woody Lodge Winery is receiving national recognition for its high- quality wines.

Owned by Margie Keller and her son, John Gailey Jr., two Woody Lodge wines — 2018 Dry Riesling and Black Pearl (Blackberry port-styled wine) recently received national recognition by winning Best of Category at the 2019 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association Competition.

Woody Lodge owners will receive their awards on Capitol Hill this fall and be showcased at the 2019 Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in California.

“I am still speechless. It is very rare to get two Best of Category awards,” Gailey said.

“There is no question Woody Lodge is on its journey to great success,” said Joe Dautlick of Patton, an American Wine Society certified wine judge.

The business on Route 36 just south of Ashville was founded by Keller and her ex-husband, Bob Keller, in November 2013.

“I like wine. I was making homemade wine and entering it in competitions. We were winning medals in all that we entered. American Wine Society judges recommended we open a winery. We thought about it and thought we would give it a try,” Keller said.

Woody Lodge started making four flavors of wine. Today there are 29 varieties.

Significant growth began in 2016 when Gailey, who was serving in the Army, became involved with the business.

“I started helping mom with the scientific aspect. I saw the potential where we could be in five years and are getting there three years later,” said Gailey, who was medically retired from the Army on Feb. 21, 2018, after serving more than 12 years.

“I don’t know his wine education, but he introduced a variety of innovative blends and treatments, consistent with modern winemaking techniques. This is when I knew this winery was destined for success,” Dautlick said.

Gailey became an owner of the business in January 2019.

Gailey said Woody Lodge needed to gain more name recognition.

Woody Lodge wines can be found in 50 locations — including grocery stores, restaurants and breweries. Additional retail locations are in Indiana and Smicksburg.

Keller admits she is surprised by the business’ growth.

“I am very much surprised. I thought I would open a small business to sell a little bit of wine and it would be my retirement job,” said Keller, who also is credit manager for the DeGol Organization and sells real estate for Coldwell Banker Town & Country Real Estate. “We wanted to grow slowly. We wanted to grow at a pace where we got comfortable with our product and production. When John came on board, that is when the business skyrocketed. He had the determination and ambition to push the business forward.”

“We have tripled our sales in the past two years,” Gailey said.

So far this year, Woody Lodge has produced about 8,200 gallons of wine.

“We anticipate producing over 15,000 gallons this year,” Gailey said. “Our busy season is just getting started.”

Woody Lodge recently added a 2,500-square-foot production building and a parking lot for 50 vehicles.

The winery, which sources its grapes from other vineyards, plans to start growing its own Concord and vidal grapes.

“We have cleared an area to plant our own grapes, which will make us the first commercial winery in Cambria County. It is huge; we have a goal to expand to 5 to 10 acres,” Gailey said.

Other additions are in the works — a high end wedding tent will be added in the near future.

“This will enable us to host weddings, corporate functions and other events,” Gailey said.

Woody Lodge is a true family business.

“We work so well as a family. We separate family and business. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. We work well together. Everyone sees where it is going and will benefit the family in the future,” Gailey said.

“Every family member helps. We have 10 full- and part-time employees. We consider our employees family,” Keller said.

Community support also has been very helpful.

“Support from the local community has been fantastic. People love coming up here. We stress our customer service; it is a warm friendly environment. We care and that helps. We are a disabled veteran and a woman-owned business,” Gailey said.

The future of the winery looks bright.

“The national recognition will be huge for us. It is an opportunity for us to showcase our wines and put Ashville on the map. I see us expanding outside the state as we are now on the radar,” Gailey said.

“I feel this winery is a monumental example of an amateur winemaker eventually, with intervention, gone commercially successful. Due to its ideal location on Route 36, the winery has optimal growth potential,” Dautlick said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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