With Halloween right around the corner, we decided that we would cut our usually light sparkling citrusy discussions of the best wines and where to find them, with some slightly more rich, blood-red and dark tales of murderously good wines and the twisted tales that gave them their macabre names.
The Haunting of the Buena Vista Winery
The Buena Vista Winery, found in the Sonoma Valley in California is famous for its historic connection to the California wine industry.
In the 1800s, this winery was a thriving business that employed many people who worked tirelessly to make sure they produced high-quality wines for their clientele, one of which being none other than a former First Lady of the United States.
Outside of its sterling reputation for producing great wine, it’s also known as one of the most haunted wineries in the world.
Staff have reported everything from odd cold spots and phantom footsteps to the full-body apparition of a man in a long black coat with bushy sideburns who bore a remarkable resemblance to one General Vallejo, whose daughters married sons of the winery’s original founder.
The winery’s reputation has brought in a number of paranormal groups and psychic mediums, all of whom have reported some level of supernatural activity.
In the light of the family connection, the wine from Buena Vista we’d suggest is the 2018 ‘The Founder’ red wine. Made from a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc drawn from a number of vineyards, including Moon Mountain, this wine celebrates the founder of the Buena Vista Winery, Count Agoston Haraszthy.
Full-bodied and with a particularly lush mouthfeel, The Founder has a nose full of blackcurrant, black cherry, bay leaves, and dark chocolate that transform into pronounced raspberry and blackberry flavours in the mouth with a bold and lengthy finish.
The Ghosts of Valerie Hill Vineyard
Trading on the increased interest in vineyard tourism, Valerie Hill Vineyard has turned its supernatural reputation into a selling point for its vineyard tours. Valerie Hill is famous for its otherworldly visitors, who are said to spook those walking the winery’s lanes after dark.
The legendary presence of these apparitions is such that everyone from Benedict Rust, the deranged son of the man who built the house, to a spectre dubbed “The Dress” has been reported by witnesses as appearing on the vineyard grounds or flitting across one of its cellar doorways.
Guests have also reported seeing the ghost of an elderly Civil War soldier toting a period-accurate rifle.
It would be difficult to pass up the product of a haunted vineyard that is actually called Apparition, so we’ve chosen Valerie Hill Vineyard’s ghostly port for our recommendation.
Despite its ghoulish name, Apparition is as rich and warming as you’d expect a port to be, making it the ideal companion to a dark and stormy night.
As with most fortified dessert wines, Apparition is sweet, with strong fruit flavours and hints of tannins that pair exceptionally well with other strong flavours like chocolate or caramel.
Owen Roe’s Wine Named After a Disembodied Hand
The Owen Roe Winery in Maryland might not have been voted one of the top ten spookiest places in America by Time magazine, but there is something decidedly eerie about a wine named after an unexplained disembodied hand.
The story behind the unusual name Sinister Hand wine has to do with two Irish families, the O’Neills and O’Reilly’s, who were involved in a bitter feud that lasted for generations. The root of the conflict was a patch of land on one side of Lough Oughter in County Cavan.
In order to settle who owned the land, both families decided to hold a rowing race to see which family would retain claim to the property. The first team to touch the land in question, after rowing across the lake, would win it for their family.
The race was close, with both sides neck and neck for much of the way. However, just as they came around a turn in the lake, the O’Neill boat began to fall behind. In a moment of desperation, one of the members of the O’Neill sliced off his own hand and threw it onto the shore, touching the land and winning the race.
The O’Reillys agreed that this counted as a win (presumably because they didn’t want to argue with people who were willing to cut off their own hand to win a race) and you can still see the island fortress the O’Neills built on the land.
The 2019 Sinister Hand is made from 57% Syrah, 18% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 5% White Rhone, 2% Cinsault grown in the Columbia Valley by winemaker and co-founder of Owen Roe, David O’Reilly.
As you might expect for a wine named after a severed hand, Sinister Hand is full of dark and spice flavour, with juicy raspberries, cherries and vanilla balanced out by Chewy tannins and a hint of the French oak barrels it is aged in.
The Wine Cellar Connected Directly to Hell
Most people are aware of the Casillero del Diablo brand, as their wines are widely available, but fewer people know about the tale behind the label.
The name, directly translated, means ‘the cellar of the devil’ and comes from a tale that suggests that the cellars of Concha y Toro were connected directly to hell and the devil would abduct those unwary and unwise few who dared to venture down there.
The horror of this tale is a little undercut by the fact that it is widely known that Don Melchor from Concha y Toro concocted the idea to try and stop his workers from nipping down into his cellars to steal his wine.
While the satanic connection might be pure fiction, the Casillero del Diablo wines are some of Chile’s finest and most sought-after. The brand name has also become one of Chile’s strongest brands which Concha y Toro have carefully nurtured to new levels of success.
The wines are produced from the grapes that grow along the valleys of Casablanca and Puerto Alto, which is an important wine region for Chile. The vines were originally planted in 1830.
However, it wasn’t until forty years later that Don Melchor de Concha y Toro decided to convert his farm into a vineyard: building the first winery in the region and naming it ‘Las Lilas’. He was also the first president of the Chilean Wine Growers Association.
To celebrate this unusual method of preventing ‘spoilage’ we’ve chosen the Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Malbec 2020, produced on the 9,500 hectares of prime vineyards the winery owns in the Republic of Chile.
The colour of this wine is rich velvety crimson. Sweet aromas of berries, plums, and black cherries are followed by light notes of vanilla and dark chocolate.
The flavour of this wine is enhanced by the presence of black plums and spices, which make it very generous in the mouth and means it complements all varieties of barbecued food, as well as hearty stews, ripe cheeses, and sweet and sour sauces.
The Haunted Castle of the Belhurst Estate Winery
The Belhurst Estate Winery is listed on the Haunted History Trail of New York State as a haunted location that is home to several ghosts.
The Belhurst Estate Winery, or better known as the Belhurst Castle, was built in 1840 and continues to be a popular destination for winery-goers looking for something spooky during their outing.
The ghostly stories of the Belhurst Estate Winery include sightings of a man who haunts an upstairs bedroom who has been identified as James Hendrick from his portrait that hangs on the wall.
Other ghosts include those of a former staff member named “Ma Sue”, which means that there could be more than one spirit running around the castle grounds.
However, most eerie of all is the story of a small child dressed in Victorian clothing seen wandering around near the mansion. This ghost is thought to be Charlotte, the daughter of James Hendrick who died at the age of three from pneumonia.
Of course, this is just a handful of ghost stories surrounding Belhurst Estate Winery. A visit there may produce some more!
To celebrate the long and complex history of Belhurst Castle, we’ve chosen the 2017 Belhurst Traditions Petit Verdot for its unusual character that suits the spooky surroundings of Belhurst.
This 100% Petit Verdot has a strong earthy scent, a deep purple hue, and distinct characteristics of plum and raspberries. It is more tannic than the merlot and pinot noir produced by this winery and is a solid, balanced, and full-bodied red.