Saturday, February 6, 2016

Boo! Virginia Winery ghosts

This is an entry The Notebook meant to post last October, but alas our day jobs got in the way (the nerve of those day jobs). In any event, the dead of winter is as good a time as Halloween to write about haunted Virginia, in this case haunted Virginia wineries. What could be creepier than being holed up in a spooky place during a snowstorm, waiting for Jack to arrive with ax in hand? At least in the case of these three wineries, there are plenty of liquid spirits to offset the otherworldy ones.

These three winery tasting rooms, and one distillery, reside inside centuries-old can feel the spectre vibes the minute you enter the houses. Luckily, all four wineries have good-natured and warm hosts, so just keep telling yourself "98% of reported spirits are neutral or friendly...98% of reported spirits are neutral or's only a's only a's only a movie."

1. Zephaniah Farm Vineyard
Zephaniah Farm Vineyard’s manor house was built before the Civil War. Leesburg was the home of many Civil War skirmishes, most of which were not as legendary as other nearby battles like Bull Run and Antietam, so they didn't make the history books. According to owner Bill Hatch, Zephaniah’s chief (yet benevolent) ghost Mattie Nixon stirs when she feels an engaged couple is not suited for one another (engaged couples hitting the wineries for Valentine's Day weekend--stop by and see if Mattie approves!) Nixon inherited the property in 1903 as a single woman who later married Dr. William Casilear, a British veterinarian who thought himself an aristocrat. According to legend, Casilear proved to have a violent side when he killed a tenant farmer who accidentally let the cows loose. A Maryland-based medium, Laine Crosby, discovered the manor house’s library is the epicenter of activity, where 25-30 spirits, including Nixon, gather. Hatch says they brought in the medium to ask Nixon if she approves of what they’ve done with the place. “We got a very resounding answer from the tape recorders,” Hatch says. “She’s very at peace with what we’re doing.”

We suspect a bottle or two of Zephaniah's award-winning Chambourcin would help in warding off uneasy feelings for those who are "♫ afraid of some ghosts ♪."
(Contributing source: "Haunted Wineries in Northern Virginia")

2. The Winery at La Grange
If you visit this popular winery in Prince William country, you may notice a glass of wine sitting above the fireplace. This glass is not mere decoration; it’s there to quench the thirst of the winery’s resident ghost, Benoni E. Harrison. Harrison purchased the La Grange estate near Haymarket in 1837, including the manor house built in 1790. To stir things up one Halloween, the staff moved the glass from the mantel, and the next day the house lost Internet for three weeks. Despite this, professional ghost hunters have deemed Harrison nonthreatening. The winery has an area dedicated to Harrison called “Benoni’s Lounge” below the tasting room in a damp yet cozy cellar, an excellent place to listen to music while sipping their Cabernet Franc.
(Contributing source: "Haunted Wineries in Northern Virginia")

3. Valerie Hill Vineyard
The most intriguing, and saddest, ghost legend resides in the Valerie Hill estate, in Stephens City, south of Winchester. According to co-owner Phil Newcome, the estate served as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War; the Shenandoah Valley was a hotbed of Civil War battles and skirmishes, including one right down the road in the tiny village of Middletown. If you need proof positive of this, look down at the hardwood floor near the staircase and you will see dried blood. The emergency operations that took place in the house were graphic (surgical saws were involved, and we'll leave it at that). The winery holds "hauntings and tastings," as well as bona fide seances, quite frequently.

Tragedy surrounds Valerie Hill, and not just because of its makeshift hospital history. Six paranormal investigation teams have visited Valerie Hill to capture evidence, including a research team from Old Dominion University. The researchers identified the main ghost as Benedict Rust (evidently the researchers got Rust to say his name on tape). Rust was the son of the man who built the home, and was confined in the attic after being declared insane, which rendered him upset enough to haunt. The hospitality of the owners, not to mention their excellent vintages (our favorite being their balanced Chardonnay), will comfort all visitors to this charming winery.

4. Old House Vineyards
While the Old House itself is not reported to have any spirited sitings, their distillery is. In fact, on March, 4, 2016, Murder Mystery Dinner: Step Into Mystery will be coming to Old House Vineyards with their presentation of "Ghosts, Gold and Gumshoes." Guest will gather in the distillery to discuss the death of Gilbert Gifford, head of the cleaning crew for the historical farmhouse at Brandy Station. The house is situated on the outskirts of the Battle of Brandy Station, and stored supplies for the clashing armies during the Civil War. And the house is haunted. Some say it is the ghost or ghosts of Civil War soldiers who died defending the precious stores, and others say the ghost is from a later period, a family member who died in the house before it was converted to a historical site. For those game, join Old House on March 4; call 540-423-1032 for reservations.

The Notebook invites everyone to enjoy the spirits in these locations. But please leave the Ouija boards behind.