Real Haunted Wine Country: a Ghostly Encounter in Burgundy
There’s something magical and perhaps slightly moribund about the end of the Harvest season in wine country. One or two forgotten grape clusters still cling, with mummified grip, to the dessicated vines and the yellow and brown leaves crunch underfoot on the vineyard floor as they slowly rot into next year’s compost. Wintry winds whistle around the corners of wineries and we look up at the grey stones and lichen-encrusted oak trees and wonder if they don’t have their own ghost stories to tell. Below is a true “Wine Country” ghost story as told to me by my friend John Corcoran who lives just over the county line in Sonoma. John is a well-traveled and well known figure in the wine business who graciously accepted my invitation to re-tell a personal ghostly encounter here on my wine blog. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? It’s especially intriguing when it happened to someone you know.
John’s Burgundian Ghost Story: “In 1981 I was living in an apartment in the attic of the wine merchant Labouré-Roi in Nuits-Saint-Georges. It was a dark, cold rainy fall night, just after harvest. The wind was making the doors and windows shake and the floorboards creak. I heard a clink, clink, clink sound on the long stairway leading up to my bedroom. Suddenly the door shook like the door in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. I jumped up and opened the door and was greeted by a chill. A chill that made me shudder. I turned around to see the faint image of a man in chains walk across the room and disappear through the wall.
The next morning, I shared my story with the gérant. Jean Louis shrugged and told me that I had just seen the resident ghost. A French resistance fighter who the Gestapo had captured and kept captive in the cellar of the winery towards the end of WW II. The man had tried to escape before, so he was chained to the wall. He managed over several days to work himself free and headed up the back staircase to the attic. The wall that he seemed to walk through was, at the time, a door to the attached inn.The inn had served as housing for Gestapo officers occupying the region, which had been a center of the French Resistance. He walked in on a group having a late dinner. He was shot and killed on the same date that 36 years later he walked through my bedroom. An act that he repeated on the anniversary of his escape attempt and death.
Yes, history has a way of repeating itself, even the history of a courageous man who gave his life for the chance of freedom. A history kept alive each year in early October, in an old chateau in the middle of a small French wine town.”
Stay tuned for a more local edition of Real Haunted Wine Country: a Grass Valley Tasting Room Ghost
Many thanks to John Corcoran of Balance Beam Partners.
Alison Crowe is an award-winning winemaker, author and blogger living in Napa, CA. She is the Winemaker for Garnet Vineyards among other consulting projects and is the author of The Winemaker’s Answer Book. When she has time, she plays tennis, cooks for friends and family, writes the occasional wine article and loves to hear the odd ghost story.