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Ghost wineries are those wineries that were built between 1860 and 1900, the initial wine boom in Napa Valley. It’s estimated that there were hundreds of wineries in the region but prohibition forced all but a few to either change crops to stay profitable or close down for good. These wineries, especially those that were abandoned, have taken on many different faces today. Some have succumbed to the wear and tear of the years and elements. Others have been converted into various other buildings such as shops, restaurants, or even private homes. The rest of the ghost wineries have been renovated. Some of these have been converted into state-of-the-art wine producing facilities while others have been renovated as a purely aesthetic and historical reminder of the way things used to be. Most excitingly, some ghost wineries have been restored to their former glory and are functioning the same today as they did over 100 years ago.
While there aren’t real spirits in our ghost wineries, there is a sense of pride and history that is unique to Napa Valley. The memories of a time when the frontier held hope for all who came. For those who sought out a fertile land in which to carry on their family traditions in winemaking or to practice their love of wine that was discovered in Europe. For those who worked tirelessly for something they loved. For Napa Valley.
The Hall Estate is a fantastic example of a ghost winery that has become something new. It was originally built in 1885 and operated as The Bergfeld Winery and changed hands many times until prohibition ended. After prohibition it was operated again under the Bergfeld Winery name until 1994 when it became Edgewood Estate. In 2003 it was purchased by the Hall family. Now, the Hall family has built a new state-of-the-art facility. The old winery is still on the grounds for those who would like to see it, but the Hall family has the distinction of being the first winery in the state to be LEED (Leader in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. It’s a combination of old and new, past and present.
Perhaps my favorite example of ghost wineries would have to be the Franco-Swiss winery built in 1876. By the 1880s, it was producing over 100,000 gallons of wine a year but like nearly every other winery in the country, it shut down during prohibition. It later was converted into a perlite factory and then fell into disrepair for years until it was discovered by Richard and Leslie Mansfield. They fell in love with the property immediately, it was the last ghost winery available for renovation, and pursued the owner for 13 years before he finally sold it to them. The next battle was getting permission to make renovations, followed by the struggle of renovating a building that is over 130 years old. It’s an ongoing process, but the building will be renovated to work exactly as it did all those years ago.