The Flora Springs estate in St. Helena is home to one of the few remaining ghost wineries in Napa Valley, and one of the very few that have been revived as a working winery. We’ve often wondered about the history of our 19th century building. If its thick stone walls could talk, what would they say about this historic winery’s former inhabitants and passers-through? This longstanding intrigue was the inspiration for our Ghost Winery Malbec, an estate-grown wine we release each year at Halloween. It is also what led us to find out for ourselves if there are spirits still lingering in this place.
Introduced in 2018, our Ghost Winery Historical Tour and Tasting is one of Napa Valley’s most unique wine experiences. One Sunday each month we partner with a team of paranormal investigators from Napa City Ghosts & Legends for a fascinating walking tour of our Ghost Winery accompanied by a tasting of our Ghost Winery Malbec and other Flora Springs wines. On this trip back in time, we meet the spirits who can’t quite tear themselves away from the place they once inhabited. Past encounters have included a Scottish barrel-maker with a taste for whiskey and a 1920s flapper who didn’t want the party to end. Our investigators tell us there are sixteen souls who still roam our old stone winery, and they are anxious to make themselves known. This is a fascinating, thought-provoking tour for believers and skeptics alike. And no matter which way you lean, you’ll enjoy our Ghost Winery Malbec, a wine we make in honor of our ethereal history.
About Napa City Ghosts & Legends Ellen MacFarlane is a native Napan who has lived in Napa for over 30 years. She is the proud mother of three boys, likes writing, ghosts and travel. She grew up in Napa and knew by the age of 11 she wanted to work with ghosts.
Devin Sisk is a Paranormal Investigator and creator of the Benicia Ghost Walk. He has been in the paranormal field for 11+ years, and has logged over 650 cases. He has been featured on Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Eye on the Bay and More.
Recently Ellen & Devin worked on the Travel Channel’s #1 Show, Ghost Adventures.
Flora Springs is excited to participate in Premiere Napa Valley 2019! This is the time of year when all eyes are on the Napa Valley wine industry. Not only is Premiere Napa Valley America’s original and most prestigious barrel tasting and auction, the event offers a first taste of the new vintage (2017) personally presented by Napa’s top winemakers.
More than 500 trade and media guests will attend the main event on February 23 and hundreds more will be in town for the week’s activities. Like other vintners who participate, Flora Springs has created a one-of-a-kind wine lot just for this auction, a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon we’re calling IV Appellations, as it comprises grapes from vineyards in the Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Howell Mountain AVAs. While Premier Napa Valley is for members of the Trade only, you can take a look at our lot. Who knows? Maybe a restaurant or wine shop near you will be the winning bidder on our lot and make it available to you! You can also click here to find out where to buy Flora Springs’ Premiere Napa Valley wines from years past. No cellar is complete until it contains at least one bottle of Premiere Napa Valley wine.
Flora Springs is also honored to pour our just-released 2016 Trilogy at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers (Tuesday- Friday, Feb. 19-22) at a wine reception entitled: “All in the Family – 3rd Generation Winemaking Families and Beyond.” This event is for media only, but you can sample our 2016 Trilogy anytime by stopping at The Room or making an appointment at The Estate!
There may have been a few raindrops but they sure didn’t dampen the spirits of the folks attending our 2016 Trilogy Release Party on February 2nd!
Setting the upbeat tone were the ramp rippin’ skateboarders from OC Ramps, jumping, flipping and generally shredding to the crowd of pumped up onlookers. The lion dancers, decked out in rain-defying, bright yellow costumes, shimmied, shook and celebrated the Chinese New Year (and our new Year of the Pig Cabernet) with their traditional dance of good fortune.
Doing a little shimmying of his own was Nat Komes, Flora Springs’ third generation general manager, host extraordinaire, wearer of the Trilogy fez and mastermind behind the annual Trilogy Release Party. “One of the best parts of planning this party is deciding what special surprises we’ll offer our guests. It’s always about how can we make this event something people will remember forever…what will really set it apart?”
Nat and the extended Flora Springs family outdid themselves with stilt walkers, living statues, a cheese carver, a glass artist and a live performance by the up and coming rock and alt-country David Luning Band. The party was anchored by numerous wine stations pouring the new 2016 Trilogy and an amazing selection of Flora Springs wines – including library and current releases as well as our highly limited Flora’s Legacy Cabernet Sauvignon.
And as always, Flora Springs brought together top local restaurants to present delicious and inventive dishes, our way of sharing the celebration of our world class wine, Trilogy, with the community. We heard a lot of great comments from our guests throughout the party, but the one that’ll keep us motivated as we plan for next year’s release? “Best Trilogy Party Ever!”
See the OC Ramps team in action:
Save the date – February 1, 2020 – for the 2017 Trilogy Release Party. Learn more and mark your calendar!
Experience the generous hospitality of Flora Springs at our annual Trilogy Release Party, where we pull out all the stops to celebrate our newest vintage of Trilogy at our lovely estate in St. Helena. In an effort to capture the sense of the vintage, with wine, food, music and excitement each year we plan surprises that make each Release Party special. You’ll be treated to an assortment of experiences to please the palate and awaken the senses and have the most fun wine country has to offer.Find all the details here and watch our latest video to see what we have in store for you!
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in The Sacramento Bee and can be found here.
Dunne on Wine: A California wine for everyone on your gift list
For every grape variety it handles, from cabernet sauvignon through malbec, Flora Springs Winery is one of the more consistently reliable producers in Napa Valley. It just never disappoints, and each year at least one of its wines ends up on my list of favorites. This year it is the Flora Springs Winery 2015 Napa Valley Merlot ($30), which all on its own could revive merlot as a staple of the American table for its vivacious fruit, startling complexity and refreshing buoyancy. There are suggestions of plums, cherries and raspberries in aroma and flavor, to be sure, but more intriguing is its thread of green olives.
Our one-of-a-kind Holiday Wines are a year-round labor of love. Each year, the artwork changes and provides a unique, limited-edition Napa Valley wine to give or collect for yourself.
We’re excited to expand our annual tradition with a beautiful new holiday-themed release, our 2016 Holiday Helper Cabernet Sauvignon. The charming label artwork was created for us by self-taught artist and illustrator Ruth Harper—who is best known for her work in many New York Times #1 best-selling children’s picture books.
This is the second wine label Ruth has created for us, and her whimsical watercolor of those hard-working but ever-cheerful elves wrapping their holiday gifts is a reminder that even Santa needs a little help!
Ruth began work back in December of last year. “Now that the holiday rush is over (and what a LOVELY Christmas we had!), I’ve settled down to resume creating – all warm and cozy, with a shivery snow-covered landscape outside. You should see the gorgeous frosty designs on my windows. Dark chocolate syrup in my freshly-ground coffee and a sweet Aussie at my feet warm my fire as I work…”
We love the comforting setting Ruth describes, and we love the final illustration even more. Below you can see the progression and evolution of this year-long project.
Note: The following article was originally written by Chris Macias and published in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 30, 2018 and can be found here.
The Napa Ghost Wineries You Can Visit
Trek around Wine Country, near its luxury hotels and fine-dining destinations, and you’ll find the remnants of wineries that date back to a time when Napa wasn’t so flush. These are vestiges of the Dark Ages for California wine. They’re known as ghost wineries, not because they’re haunted (though that’s up for debate in some cases), but because they serve as an important link between Napa’s early years as a wine region and the bustling destination it is now.
Napa Valley had a thriving wine industry in the 19th century, with more than 140 operating wineries opened by the final decade. But starting in the late 1880s, the region was hit with a triple blow that left the local wine industry reeling for decades. First, an outbreak of the lethal grapevine virus phylloxera crippled wine production for 20 years. Then the Great Depression arrived, which dovetailed with Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.
This half-century of setbacks left many California wineries in ruins. Although a few were able to stay in business by selling sacramental wine or grapes for home winemaking, the industry had withered to about three dozen by the time Prohibition was repealed. Many of the buildings remained vacant for decades, falling into ruin. Halloween notwithstanding, Napa’s ghost wineries are worth visiting any time of year. They’re scattered throughout the valley, offering a peek into a storied history and a spirit of perseverance that defines the area.
Here are a handful of the ghosts you can visit:
Flora Springs: This former home of the 1900 Rennie Brothers Winery in St. Helena, suffered a one-two punch at the turn of the 20th century. Not only were its vineyards hit by phylloxera, but a fire in its wine cellar decimated its production capabilities. After decades of inactivity, the property was purchased in the mid 1970s and renamed Flora Springs. The ghost winery has since been renovated and serves as a production facility, which visitors can see during tours of the Flora Springs estate. Flora Springs plays up its ghost winery heritage with Halloween releases including All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc and Ghost Winery Malbec…
Note: The following article was originally written by Jess Lander and published in the Napa Valley Register on October 11, 2018 and can be found here.
Creepy visitors, ghostly wines: Flora Springs gets into the spirit of Halloween
As a tribute to their 1885 ghost winery, one of the few remaining in the area, Flora Springs Winery goes all out for Halloween.
You can’t miss the trio of enormous skeletons that dance outside their Highway 29 tasting room in St. Helena. Inside, the walls are covered in cobwebs, rooms are transformed into a crematorium and morgue, and you might just find a headless horseman sitting at your table and struggling to sip his wine (for a lack of mouth). But the decorations, done by local design team, The Baker Sisters, are just the beginning. The winery’s Halloween preparation starts months in advance.
For eight years running, Flora Springs has released a collection of limited release, Halloween wines. Featuring custom labels and usually 100 percent bottlings of varieties that are traditionally used for blending, the initiative was started by Nat Komes, general manager and son of proprietors John and Carrie Komes. He has a personal fondness for the holiday and even tied the knot on Oct. 31.
Komes’ inspiration for the Halloween collection came from an unlikely place: beer. Once a year, hundreds of thirsty fans spend hours lined up outside Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company, all for a taste of their cult release, Pliny the Younger.
He wanted his own version of that, saying, “I was trying to generate some of that excitement in the wine business.”
There might not be a line outside of Flora Springs, but there’s certainly a high demand among the winery’s followers. The Halloween wines often sell out well before Halloween each year and have become collectors items in the cellars of many wine club members.
It all started with the Ghost Winery series in 2010. For the labels, Komes partnered with artist Wes Freed, best known for his eerie illustrations on Drive-By Truckers album covers. One of those albums was a favorite of Komes’ brother.
“My brother passed away from cancer right when I was starting the Ghost Winery project,” said Komes. “That’s how I got a hold of Wes Freed, because that was his favorite record at the time. I reached out to him, started telling him about my brother, how he loved the art, and he came right back to me and said, ‘Let’s get going on this.’”
Over the years, the Ghost Winery series evolved into the Halloween collection with a Ghost Winery label at its centerpiece. Always a bottling of malbec —fittingly sourced right in front of Flora Springs’ ghost winery — the label is a modern interpretation of the 1978 label. It features a sketch of the stone ghost winery building, which was severely damaged in a fire in 1900, but has since been restored.
While the Ghost Winery Malbec stays the same every year, the labels of the others change. Komes develops his vision by scouring through children’s books, album covers, comic books and even skateboards, then contacts the respective artist and commissions them to create a one-of-a-kind wine label for that year’s release.
His favorite label of 2018 is the 2016 All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc, a throwback to old school Halloween imagery of a black cat and jack-o-lantern. The art was done by artist Emmenline Forrestal, a former wig maker who illustrated the children’s book “Gloppy,” a favorite of Komes’ daughter’s.
The true collectors item this year is the 2014 Drink In Peace Merlot. On it, a hand-etched, glow-in-the-dark skeleton holds a wine bottle across its chest. It even comes packaged in a coffin box.
And then there’s the 2013 Black Moon Cabernet Sauvignon. Available only in magnums, it’s already sold out and therefore as rare as an actual black moon (defined as an additional new moon that appears in a month or in a season, or the absence of a full moon or of a new moon in a month).
Skateboard artist Dennis McNett’s illustration depicts the phases of the moon surrounded by bats, which Komes said are regulars in the steeple of the ghost winery. The art is etched and hand painted on the bottle.
The new ghost tour
Those who want to taste the Halloween wines can reserve a tasting at The Room, Flora Springs’ St. Helena tasting room, but this year, the winery is taking their celebrations to a new level of creep with a ghost tour. Flora Springs has teamed up with Napa City Ghosts & Legends to lead a paranormal tour of the ghost winery and estate on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 10:30 a.m.
Komes said he was always curious if the ghost winery was haunted and that Napa City Ghosts have since identified three spirits during their recent visits. There’s Matthew, who supposedly died in a horse-related accident, a flapper who loves to party, and another man who gave off a particularly unsettling vibe.
Let’s hope he’s not in the mood for socializing that day.
For more information on Flora Springs’ Halloween tastings and ghost tour, visit www.florasprings.com/events.
Looking out across the Flora Springs Estate on this warm and sunny day, one would never know that fires were ravaging through parts of the Napa Valley just a year ago. From our vantage point, all appears to be as it always has been – green, lush and beautiful as always…something we often take for granted, but something we were reminded last year, that we shouldn’t.
As noted in previous updates, we didn’t have a crystal ball but we completed harvest on October 7th last year – the day before the fires began. This year, we are currently about one-third of the way through harvest. Last year we experienced several heat waves that sped things up a bit, while this year we have experienced a nice, consistent temperature range. We did see a small amount of rain last week, but fortunately it came and went without any effect on the vineyards.
In regards to harvest dates, people often ask, “Is this an average harvest?” or “Is this a “normal harvest?” However, “average” and “normal” are not necessarily synonymous. Average is a term that can be quantified. That is, if you have four decades of harvest dates, you can simply divide by 40 and find your average harvest date. But, normal depends on who you ask – and how long they have been farming grapes, and the conditions in which they have been doing it.
As you know may know, we sell a lot of our fruit to other wineries. Some of the newer wineries have only experienced harvests during the drought years, so their version of normal has been marked with early harvest dates and early completion dates. But if you ask someone who has been around for a while, you’ll hear a different definition of normal. Prior to 2008 for instance, very seldom – if ever, were grapes harvested before Labor Day, and seldom – if ever – was harvest completed before Halloween. So while we are only one-third of the way through harvest, it’s really more of the “normal” for us, if you don’t take into account the recent years of drought.
We have completed harvesting most all of our whites at this point: 100% of Pinot Grigio, 100% of Chardonnay and 96% of Sauvignon Blanc. We left a small amount of our Sauvignon Blanc on the vine to make a late harvest wine.
We will have pressed off all of the reds we have received thus far – Merlot and Sangiovese – prior to harvesting our next grapes on Monday. We will be receiving the first of our Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon starting next week.
Flavors are really starting to develop in the vineyard, and we’re looking forward to making some outstanding wines with what Mother Nature delivers!