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What is a Ghost Winery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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A ghost winery is a relic of the Napa Valley's thriving late 1800s winemaking culture. The Napa Valley is widely recognized today as one of the premier winemaking regions in the world, with a number of prominent wines and winemakers coming from this region of California. Many people are surprised to learn that the winemaking history of the Napa Valley long predates the infamous Judgment of Paris in 1976, when upstart California wines beat out a number of famous French wines in a blind tasting.

Wine cultivation in the Napa Valley really took off in the mid-1800s, with a huge number of wineries opening from 1860 to 1900 and making a range of wines. However, Napa's wine production began to falter in the early 20th century, first because of Prohibition, and then because of the Depression. Wineries also struggled with grape pests which decimated some harvests. Many wineries were forced to close their doors, and their equipment and facilities were allowed to decay until the 1970s, when the Napa Valley wine industry was rejuvenated, and some people made efforts to preserve the rich history of the region's wineries.

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A ghost winery can take two forms. The first is that of a working winery. A working ghost winery has often been substantially renovated, and it may resemble its 1800s counterpart in name only, with new equipment, aging caves, and facilities. A handful of working ghost wineries still have older vines in place, and some have preserved outbuildings and equipment from the 1800s as curiosities. Some also use the original wine caves to age and store special edition wines.

It is estimated that the number of working ghost wineries numbers in the dozens, including establishments like the Hall Winery, Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Ch√Ęteau Montelena, and the Franco-Swiss Winery near Saint Helena. It is possible to go on a guided tasting of Napa's ghost wineries, and such trips can be very interesting, for those who are interested in the history of California wines and California in general.

More commonly, a ghost winery is no longer a winery at all. Some private homes in the Napa Valley are actually converted wineries, as are some shopping centers and businesses. While these facilities no longer produce wines, traces of the past can sometimes be uncovered, especially in the case of renovations where the winemaking tradition of the site has been preserved. For example, some businesses located on the site of a ghost winery have retained wine barrels and pressing equipment.

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bluespirit
Post 6

I have not been to a winery yet because the process of it just doesn't seem too interesting to me. But I do enjoy history, so a ghost winery seems like it would be pretty interesting.

I have been to California, but only when I was a teenager, so I did not get to check out any of these Napa Valley ghost wineries, but I wish I would have just to see the old equipment and vines!

I think that it is great that they preserved and restored some of the old wineries as much as possible. The wine tasting part would be a plus too, especially since it seems like California wine is the most well-known

and popular wine in the United States.

It sounds like it would be neat to live or work at a remodeled ghost winery. Someone would never know what they might find or encounter over the years; there may even be ghosts still roaming around! One may also make quite a nice profit uncovering something from the 1800's!

PinkLady4
Post 5

You really have to appreciate those people who resurrected the ghost wineries in the Napa Valley. They retained as much of the original vine-making equipment as possible and put it to use.

And some nursed old grape vines back into production. Saving this bit of history and culture is great. I would love to visit one of these ghost wineries. I've visited a few modern wineries, but seeing a ghost winery in operation would be very interesting.

live2shop
Post 4

I guess some of the immigrants who came to America, and then crossed the country looking for the perfect spot for a vineyard, found it in the Napa Valley of California. They may very well have come from France.

Too bad their grape agriculture and wine making were interrupted by Prohibition and then the Great Depression. But it's a good thing that they left some of their culture behind for us to enjoy. Some of the wine making equipment and maybe even some old grape vine plants would be fun to see.

ceilingcat
Post 3

@SZapper - I didn't know that about Missouri. Usually when I think of United States wine, I think of the wineries in California.

Anyway, I think it's really neat that some of the ghost wineries are back in production. I've never gotten a chance to go to California, but if I ever do I would love to visit one. I think it would be especially neat to see one of the ones that still had the old equipment.

strawCake
Post 2

I think there might be some ghost wineries in Missouri as well. Most people don't know this, but before prohibition there was actually a really thriving wine industry in Missouri.

Obviously, prohibition killed it just like it did in California. However, it's been revitalized in recent years. A few years ago when I was visiting my grandmother I got to take a tour of a winery and they told us all about Missouri's wine-making history. It was very interesting.

gravois
Post 1

I wonder if there are any ghost winerys that have not been renovated or converted? I am thinking here of a ghost town that is just a winery. It has all the buildings and equipment and signage, there is just not a single sign of life.

A big part of me would like to visit a place like this. I have been to a few functioning winerys and I tend to find it kind of boring but maybe if there was a chance that a ghost would pour me a nice glass of afterlife Merlot I would feel more inclined to go.

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