Sharing a latitude with Bordeaux, Northern California is one of the great wine regions of the world.
The noble art of viticulture permeates the very landscape of California, and fine wines have been produced there for well over three centuries.
Simply uttering the words “Napa” or “Sonoma” brings to mind rolling hills and lush greenery.
Families such as Beringer and Korbel have made vast fortunes
Of course, all that history also brings a bit of a dark side.
Any long-standing structure or establishment is a magnet for paranormal activity.
And in the highly competitive world of wine, there is a vast number of the sorts of strong personalities that are likely to stick around after their mortal passing.
Violent ends and unfinished business are all too common in California’s history, and the wineries are no exception.
It’s not surprising that vineyards have more than their share of hauntings of all kinds.
Here are ten of the most haunted wineries in California. It’s a good thing the tasting room is nearby.
You might need a drink after this one.
Table of Contents
- #10 – Mansfield Winery, Napa Valley
- #9 – Bartholomew Park Winery, Sonoma County
- #8 – Trefethen Winery, Napa Valley
- #7 – Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
- #6 – Beringer Winery, Napa Valley
- #5 – Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
- #4 – Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford
- #3 – Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood
- #2 – Korbel Champagne Cellars, Guerneville
- #1 – Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
#10 – Mansfield Winery, Napa Valley
What is now known as the Mansfield Winery was founded in 1876 as the Franco-Swiss Winery.
The establishment lay in ruins for nearly 100 years, since Prohibition, and has recently been restored.
The Mansfields have lovingly rebuilt the estate, calling it a “ghost winery” like the ghost towns of the Old West.
Ironically, an actual ghost is known to inhabit the place.
Jules Millet, former owner of the Franco-Swiss, was murdered in 1882.
Shortly after the Mansfields moved in, she made her presence known by exploding several flashlights that visitors had used to taunt her.
Thankfully, the new owners have made peace with her.
#9 – Bartholomew Park Winery, Sonoma County
This beautiful winery has in the past served many other roles.
It’s been a women’s prison, a hospital, and even a morgue.
Really, it would be more shocking if the place was not haunted.
Most commonly, the former prisoners sing hymns in the basement.
They may be mourning one of their number, whose body was found there during an earthquake retrofit in the 1970s.
The main building of the winery is also thought to be a gathering spot for those who have passed beyond, and they make themselves known in a variety of ways.
#8 – Trefethen Winery, Napa Valley
Trefethen Winery was first founded in 1886 under the name Eschol by the brothers Goodman.
Unlike many other wineries, this one kept operating during Prohibition, illegally producing and selling alcohol.
That was a dark and violent time, and when a man broke into the winery to steal some of the product, he was caught and lynched.
The bootleggers beat the young man and then hanged him from a ceiling beam in the main building.
Today, the would-be thief is often sensed as a dark presence.
Some have even reported seeing his shadow swinging from the ceiling.
#7 – Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley
This very well-known and well-loved winery was built on the site of a Pomo Indian reservation.
That always goes well!
The spirit of an American Indian man is thought to inhabit the place to this day, and there are many stories of his influence.
He has been seen on occasion, but more frequently takes a less obvious tactic.
The manager of the tasting room tells of a night she was working late, and her cell phone rang.
She ignored it, and kept working.
When she finished and checked to see who she had missed, she was shocked to see her own direct line as the caller.
The call really was coming from inside the house!
#6 – Beringer Winery, Napa Valley
If you enjoy wine, it’s a sure bet that you’ve had a glass or two of Beringer in your day.
It might surprise you to learn that the Beringer estate is well-known to be one of the most haunted wineries in California.
The Rhine House, where the original Beringer family lived in the late 19th century, is the center of the paranormal activity.
Moved or missing objects and inexplicable footfalls on the stairs are relatively commonplace.
The ghost winery founder Frederick Beringer has even been seen on occasion by the staff.
Today, the Beringer estate keeps an extensive file of all ghostly activity recorded on the premises.
#5 – Charles Krug Winery, Napa Valley
Located just north of Beringer, Charles Krug Winery is one of the very oldest in the Napa Valley.
Mr. Krug is often called the patriarch of Napa Valley viticulture, and was known to be quite a jovial soul.
He died peacefully in 1892, and the property was purchased some years later by the equally famous Cesare Mondavi, who has also since passed.
The pair seem to be having a fine time together in the afterlife, perhaps celebrating their legacy.
A man’s booming laughter is often heard in the main production area or near the cellar doors.
Paranormal investigators and winery employees are unsure if the laughter comes from Mondavi or Krug, or both.
#4 – Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford
The quaint town of Rutherford is home to two very old vineyards, both of which are very haunted.
Beaulieu is the more psychically active of the two, and an old man in a double-breasted suit sometimes appears in various rooms.
Visitors and Beaulieu staff believe him to be the ghost of Georges de Latour, who founded the winery in 1900.
He seems to be a kindly spirit, and makes no attempt to frighten or harm those who encounter him.
De Latour was rightfully proud of his accomplishments in life, and it is likely he simply enjoying the winery’s continued success.
#3 – Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood
Sprawling and pastoral, perfect for a picnic or hike, the Chateau St. Jean is also the birthplace of some of the finest wines in California.
Camilla Goff, one of the property’s original residents, died in the first part of the 20th century, and it is thought that her spirit has lingered ever since.
Camilla is believed to be a friendly spirit who merely watches and observes the comings and goings of tourists and winemakers.
She primarily inhabits what is now the administrative building of the estate.
The structure was originally the house where the Goff family lived, and is where Camilla spent much of her time.
#2 – Korbel Champagne Cellars, Guerneville
Founded in 1882, Korbel is today world-famous as producers of that sweet bubbly nectar we all know and love.
Korbel House is vast and palatial, with beautiful gardens and a brandy tower that looks like something out of medieval England.
The location has a long history of ghost sightings of all kinds, ranging from cold spots to strange floating orbs of light.
One of Korbel’s current owners loves telling the story of a cook who perished by her own hand in the 1880s, and still haunts the mansion to this day.
The spirits are so strong at Korbel that it was the filming location of “Altergeist”, a movie chronicling the misadventures of a ghost hunting team at a winery.
Ghosts absolutely haunt this place. Do they ever whisper in the night, “The champagne’s not Korbel!”?
#1 – Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
A beautiful late 19th century mansion, the Madrona Manor sits on a 280-acre vineyard and today functions as a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel.
Although original owner John Paxton intended it to be a winery, he never had the chance to bring his dream to fruition.
Paxton went so far as to plant grapes and purchase additional land around the estate, but he died in 1881. He left behind his wife Hannah, who remained at the home until her death in 1902.
Hannah’s spirit wanders the estate still, especially around room 101 and in the restaurant.
She has been personally seen by paranormal expert Jeff Dwyer, who wrote about her in one of his books.
It’s possible that she is reenacting her daily routine from life, or perhaps she is aware of her surroundings and is curious about the tourists and visitors.
Hannah is thought to be harmless.
A tour of California’s wine country is always a pleasant experience.
The romance and natural beauty of the region is wonderful to explore.
And of course, easy access to all that high-end wine doesn’t hurt!
Incorporating a little bit of casual ghost hunting into a trip to this region is quite easy, and makes for a fun discussion over a glass at the end of the day.
Just be careful not to overindulge and lose your wits, or you might be scared out of them!