These California ghost wineries live up to their name
At Beringer Vineyards' stately Rhine House in St. Helena,California, nighttime workers often hear footsteps where there areno people. A translucent woman wanders the upstairs hall of the oldManor House at Stags' Leap Winery in Napa. And La Presencia haunts tank 19 in the Red Barn at Frog's Leapin Rutherford.
What these spirits have in common is that the structures theyinhabit are also ghosts ― a designation loosely given towineries operating in Northern California before the 18th Amendmentbanning the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicatingliquors" was ratified in 1919. Prohibition effectively killed mostof them.
The ghost wineries are the skeletons in the industry'scollective closet: Many were built, so to speak, on the backs ofChinese laborers, who erected the thick stone walls and toiled inthe vineyards. They're also reminders of Northern California'sfirst glory days, when "Napa" became an important wine credentialin the world. Some wineries ― like Far Niente, Spotts-woode,and Ladera, in addition to the "haunted" ones preceding ―have been restored to their former grandeur (andfunctionality).
In October, if you're in the area, you can take a lantern tourof Ladera Vineyards onHowell Mountain (by appointment only; $50, including tasting; 150White Cottage Rd. S., Angwin, CA; 707/965-2445).
Enjoy both wine and history across the Napa Valley.
Bremer Family Winery See everything from harvest techniques to barrel aging on thetour. INFO: Tour and tasting free; reservations required; 975 DeerPark Rd., St. Helena; 707/963-5411. -Megan Brady
Far Niente The tour includes the historic winery, new wine caves, and theCarriage House (with vintage cars). INFO: Tour and tasting (withseasonal cheese pairing) $50; reservations required; 1350 AcaciaDr., Oakville; 707/944-2861. -M.B.