At WineCollective, we love Halloween! Thinking of wine in connection to my favourite holiday, visions of vampiric indulgence from gothic chalices came to mind. The campiness of this imagery is clearly the influence of too many silly movies, so I turned my thoughts to the one area of horror we have come closest to documenting. I’m referring, of course, to ghosts. It occurred to me that the rich and colorful history of wine would surely produce a spirit or two, perhaps even a haunted winery (can you think of a better place to spend Halloween?).
My search into the topic brought mixed results (these tales thrive best as personal anecdotes), and drew me persistently to California. Apparently, spooks in connection to wine populate the Napa Valley region where Ghost Wineries are found in abundance. These are old wineries, built between 1860 and 1900, before prohibition and the Great Depression stalled the emergence of great California wine. While some remain abandoned, and most have been converted for other functions, a few of these wineries have been restored to their original purpose.
Mansfield Winery (pictured above) is one of these, a restoration of the Franco-Swiss Winery built in 1876. It was acquired with a ghost story in the form of Jules Millet, one of the original founder’s nephew who was murdered onsite by a vengeful former cellar worker. It wasn’t long until the new owners were paid a visit:
“One dark and wet winter night soon after the Mansfields purchased the winery, they were dining with friends when Richard took the guys over to the winery for a little late night tour. As they wandered around with flashlights, one of the more tipsy fellows yelled out, “If you’re here, Jules Millet, knock three times!” Only their laughter broke the silence. But then the next night, six loud explosions — “pop, pop, pop, boom, boom, boom,” recalled Leslie — erupted in the bowels of their own home. Richard was away on business, so Leslie hid in the bedroom all night until the next morning when she discovered the source in her basement. “Every flashlight that [the men had] taken across the street — and only those flashlights — had exploded into a million pieces,” says Leslie. The exploding bulbs included that in a dive lamp able to go down to 300 feet; a C battery was also bent in half. “The ones that had not been taken across the street were just fine.””
Read more at Time Magazine:
The story, like many in the winemaking business, is merely a footnote to the more satisfying history of production… and it seems the Mansfields have learned to get along with their ghost. Of course, that hasn’t stopped paranormal hobbyists from reaching out to the other side. Check out the alleged EVP recorded onsite.
While the tale of Jules Millet does give one the chills, it lacks the disturbing and macabre twists the best ghost stories have to offer. It is a yarn suited to campfires but if you want an opera, look no further than the truly grotesque tale of death and madness in what is today known as the Vineyard House.
You might want to grab a bold red from your current wine package before venturing into this one…
It’s not for the feint of heart.
And there are many more! A true testament to wine’s longevity is its tendency, like anything that’s been around for a long time, to collect ghosts. If you visit a winery with rich local history, ask the staff or owners for their spooky stories. They’ll have them.