Haunted Wineries and Ghost Tours
By Matthew Fitzsimmons
Those visiting Old Town Alexandria in the evening will occasionally come across a lantern-wielding guide decked-out in late 18th-century clothing, weaving a tale of spooky stories and little-known local facts. These Ghost Tours have long been a staple for tourists looking to combine history and entertainment.
A number of Virginia wineries have similar events. Several are positioned near old battlefields, or use old manor homes as their tasting rooms. Even wineries that lack paranormal activity (that they know of) get into the act.
So if you’re a wine lover and want to try something both fun and a little spooky, here are a few places to visit this October.
The Winery at Bull Run (Centerville)
The Winery at Bull Run is close to the Manassas Battlefield, the first major engagement of the Civil War. Union troops used this property (then called Hillwood Estate) as a staging area, and later as a field hospital. The tasting room displays relics from this era.
Bull Run has been investigated by paranormal investigators who have stated the property is indeed haunted. The staff can attest to this, with stories ranging from hearing their names whispered in empty rooms, sightings of floating light, to items being pushed off of tables.
Tour director Colleen Corrado explained, “There is an energy here that you can’t explain, that defies a rational explanation. That’s what hauntings are – energy that remains. There is a common occurrence of the unexplainable.”
Bull Run has a ghost tour, but the emphasis isn’t on cheap scares. Instead, this is an intellectual ghost tour, as “the spirits of the battlefield come to life and tell you their stories.”
Tours Oct 3rd through Nov 6th – Tickets include a Winery at Bull Run logo glass, a wine tasting, exclusive access to the winery after hours, and special deals on mulled wine + branded mug combos.
Granite Heights Winery (Opal)
Granite Heights may not have a spectral presence but it does have a Ghost Tour led by owners Toni and Luke Kilyk. The tasting room is an older house that was converted into an area for guests to enjoy their wine (make sure to ask for their Lomax red blend).
This tour involves several Halloween scenes that involve your wine tasting as part of the story. Every year Toni and Luke change the narrative to keep the event fresh. Last year it revolved around a story about Frankenstein, who was after their Cabernet Franc grapes.
Expect scares during this tour. You will scream, you will laugh – but don’t spill your wine! Tours and Tasting 21st & 22nd and 28th & 29th.
The Winery at La Grange (Haymarket)
Visitors will be immediately impressed by this late 18th century manor house-turned tasting room. While the building saw many occupants, the most famous owner was Benoni Harrison. Benoni purchased the property in 1827 and lived here till he died in 1869.
Benoni and his wife Catherine didn’t exactly get along. As the story goes, Benoni said something rude to her at a social event, and she retaliated by “spanking him like a child” in front of their guests. After that Benoni had additional fireplaces installed, as he refused to share a hearth with her.
According to paranormal investigators this winery is haunted, although the ghosts are benign. One story revolved around mysterious piano music from an instrument Benoni once owned but was sold long ago.
Not only that, Benoni’s ghost is allegedly still bound to the property. For many years the staff placated him with an offering of wine placed on the mantelpiece behind the tasting bar, the contents of which would disappear faster than normal evaporation can explain.
Price: $20 for a tasting – although club members can enjoy periodic “Benoni Day” special library wine tastings.
Valerie Hill Winery (Stephens City)
Valerie Hill’s manor house tasting room was built in 1807. This building saw a range of activity over the centuries, ranging from being used as a Civil War hospital, a farm, and a private residence.
The winery was the subject of a February 2022 episode of “Ghost Hunters”. During their visit the team not only recorded mysterious phenomena but also used cadaver dogs to search the area for unmarked graves.
Several sets of ghosts are said to inhabit the property, perhaps including slaves who perished from a typhoid outbreak and Civil War soldiers who died of their injuries after the Battle of Cedar Creek. But the most well-known ghost story involves Benedict Rust.
Benedict was the nephew of Peter and Elizabeth Rust, who kept the mentally ill Benedict locked in the cramped attic. Benedict apparently lived the rest of his life there; his death was never recorded.
Visitors and staff have reported a range of mysterious events. One recurring theme involves women with ponytails, who claim their hair was tugged while standing at the tasting bar. Valerie Hill also hosts periodic dinners which go into detail on the house’s paranormal activity.
See Valerihillwinery.com for current dinner & ghost tour pricings.
Author: Matthew Fitzsimmons is a blogger who has visited nearly every winery in Virginia – most of them twice. Track his progress at https://winetrailsandwanderlust.com/.