An underground wine cellar.

Haunted Napa

October 11, 2019
History & Culture

Picture this: a crisp autumn evening in Napa. Friends, fire, conversation, and Cabernet to keep you warm. It’s the perfect setting to wind down after a day spent exploring the vineyards of Napa Valley—or, as Halloween draws near, to tell ghost stories and haunting tales. Napa Valley’s rich history has produced award-winning wines, famous winemakers, and inventive wine-making techniques. It’s also proven to be the background for paranormal sightings and ghostly rumors, so read on to discover haunted Napa...if you dare.

The stunning chateau at Beringer Winery is known for producing some of the region’s top wines and (as the oldest continually operating winery in California) for being one of the most haunted wineries in the area. The Rhine House, the centerpiece of the Beringer property, dates back to 1884 and used to be the residence of founder Frederick Beringer and his family. The story goes that throughout the years since his death in 1901, Beringer can still be seen walking the upstairs halls of his 17-room mansion and that objects in what used to be his bedroom have been moved or gone missing by an unseen hand.

 

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Explore the historic estate on our Collective Tour and ask about its ghosts—the Beringer estate keeps a record of its paranormal activity. 

Another highly haunted winery is Trefethen Winery, which was first founded in 1886. It’s one of the few wineries that dared to remain in operation during Prohibition, illegally producing and selling their wine. This illicit activity and contraband alcohol made the winery a target for thieves, and it’s said that one night a man was caught breaking into the winery and hung from a ceiling beam in the winery’s main building. To this day, people have reported feeling “a dark presence” in the room, and every so often a shadow can be seen swinging from the ceiling. 

The Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena is one of the legacy wineries in Napa and dates back to 1861. Patriarch of one of California’s legendary wine families, Cesare Mondavi, purchased the winery from its eponymous owner Charles Krug in 1943. Both of these legendary winemakers have passed on—and yet, a man’s laughter can often be heard by wine producers near the cellar. Is it Charles’ or Cesare’s? Who knows… See if you can hear it yourself on our Ambassador Winery Tour

 

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The Forbes Four Star-rated Napa River Inn in downtown Napa—one of our Wine Train hotel partners—is an exceptional place to stay and dine. Located in Napa’s historic mill district, the building itself dates back to 1885 and has a haunted tale that is just eerie enough for Halloween. Word has it that the wife of a baker who used to mill on the property has been seen roaming the hallways. Not only that, every once in a while the doors closest to the old mill will open and close with no one there—and the elevator has even gone up and down with nobody on it. Fact or fantasy? We’ll let you decide. 

Ghost Wineries in Napa 

As you ride through the Napa Valley countryside, you may see a number of ghost wineries as the Wine Train drives by. These wineries aren’t haunted per se but are relics of the pre-prohibition wineries and cellars that were closed but never reopened. The wine business was booming California, with hundreds of wineries in production when Prohibition began in 1920. By the time it was repealed in 1933, only 40 had managed to survive. Many of these beautiful old wineries were left abandoned and forgotten to history. These ghost wineries—stone structures standing stoically amid Napa’s verdant fields—are celebrated by local historians and some have even been reclaimed and restored. 

One such building is Greystone Cellars, which now houses a campus of the Culinary Institute of America, was once the largest stone winery in the world. The story goes that on foggy mornings a thin man with a long beard can be seen walking along the historic stone archway of the property. 

 

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What ghost stories have you heard about Napa? Have you ever seen something in the shadows or felt a paranormal presence while exploring one of Napa's historic cellars? Depending on what you believe, it could just be a trick of the imagination...or it could be the ghosts of California’s winemakers, millers, and former residents hanging around for a haunting—or just another glass.