Wine and spirits

These California ghost wineries live up to their name

More ghost wineries to visit

At Beringer Vineyards' stately Rhine House in St. Helena, California, nighttime workers often hear footsteps where there are no people. A translucent woman wanders the upstairs hall of the old Manor House at Stags' Leap Winery in Napa. And La Presencia haunts tank 19 in the Red Barn at Frog's Leap in Rutherford.

What these spirits have in common is that the structures they inhabit are also ghosts ― a designation loosely given to wineries operating in Northern California before the 18th Amendment banning the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" was ratified in 1919. Prohibition effectively killed most of them.

The ghost wineries are the skeletons in the industry's collective closet: Many were built, so to speak, on the backs of Chinese laborers, who erected the thick stone walls and toiled in the vineyards. They're also reminders of Northern California's first glory days, when "Napa" became an important wine credential in 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 (and functionality).

In October, if you're in the area, you can take a lantern tour of Ladera Vineyards on Howell Mountain (by appointment only; $50, including tasting; 150 White 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 the tour. INFO: Tour and tasting free; reservations required; 975 Deer Park Rd., St. Helena; 707/963-5411. -Megan Brady

Far Niente The tour includes the historic winery, new wine caves, and the Carriage House (with vintage cars). INFO: Tour and tasting (with seasonal cheese pairing) $50; reservations required; 1350 Acacia Dr., Oakville; 707/944-2861. -M.B.

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Frog's Leap Winery The winery, garden, and historic Red Barn are featured on this family-friendly tour. INFO: Closed Sun; tour and tasting free; reservations required for tour; 8815 Conn Creek Rd., Rutherford; or 800/959-4704. -M.B.

Mayacamas Vineyards A family-friendly tour covers both the old and new sections of the winery. INFO: Tour and tasting free; reservations required; 1155 Lokoya Rd., Napa; or 707/224-4030. -M.B.

Rubicon Estate Explore the winery, château, and museum on the Legacy Tour at the historic former Inglenook Winery. Taste five wines from director Francis Ford Coppola's rechristened label (previously known as Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery). INFO: $25 estate entrance fee includes Legacy Tour and tasting (for an additional fee, you can tour the vineyards and learn more about wine); reservations required; 1991 St. Helena Hwy./State 29, Rutherford; or 866/393-7787. -Anupama Oza

Schramsberg Vineyards At this sparkling-wine producer, pass by the historic winery and home (both are still in use) on a tour of the garden and historic caves. INFO: Tour and tasting $25; reservations required; 1400 Schramsberg Rd., Calistoga; or 707/942-4558. -M.B.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery The tour covers the winery, estate property, and offices (a Victorian farmhouse), all historic properties. INFO: Tour and tasting free; reservations required; 1902 Madrona Ave., St. Helena; or 707/963-0134. -M.B.

Spring Mountain Vineyard The winery, 1885 mansion, antique horse barn (now a museum), vineyard, olive grove, and the old and new wine caves are all part of the tour. INFO: Tour and tasting $25; reservations required; 2805 Spring Mountain Rd., St. Helena; or 877/769-4637. -M.B.

Storybook Mountain Vineyards Wine caves are the only remnant of the original winery. See them and the vineyards on a tour that includes a tasting in the caves. INFO: Closed Sun; tour and tasting free for groups of 10 or less; reservations required; 3835 State 128, Calistoga; or 707/942-5310. -A.O.

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