Story by Shannon Hazlitt Harts
At Miles Wine Cellars, the selection of estate-grown Finger Lakes wines is not the only thing visitors may find extraordinary.
According to stories, the winery—located in an 1802 Greek revival mansion in Himrod, NY—might have a few residents that are not among the living.
“Most everyone is fascinated by the ‘spirits’ that occupy the property,” said Susan Hayes, who runs and owns the winery with Doug Miles.
“Every staff and family member has had some kind of experience with the ghosts.”
These experiences include doors closing quickly, an item flying off of a shelf unexpectedly, and staff members hearing their name called when there’s no one there.
“All interactions are benign, though sometimes startling,” Hayes said.
She explained sometimes visitors will take pictures around the grounds and later discover strange features in the photos, such as hazy mists or even faces.
One particularly interesting photo shows what appears to be a ghost cat leaping over some furniture in a room that is otherwise empty, Hayes said.
These experiences inspired the Miles family to create a light, semi-dry blend of Chardonnay and Cayuga called Ghost that pairs well with a cheese and cracker tray. The intriguing label shows a newly-wed couple who died before finishing a renovation of the home embracing on the front porch after the Miles Family restored the home more than a century later.
The ghost sightings may have something to do with the rich history of the winery’s grounds.
Hayes explained the site of the mansion was historically a stop for a ferry that traveled East to West and a stop for barges that carried dried goods and animals. It was also a stop on the Underground Railroad that helped slaves travel to freedom in the north via waterways.
Getting this property to the point of being a modern-day winery took a lot of work and continues to require constant upkeep.
Hayes said the home has been completely restored with indoor plumbing, heating, and electricity. First it was restored as a home and then as a winery and an inn. However, many aspects of the home that give it a time-honored charm remain, including the original floors, moldings, and doors.
The aging home and its historic grounds still require constant maintenance and upkeep, Hayes said, and it has become a labor of love for the Miles Family.
“All family members have learned to landscape, paint, plumb, design and adapt,” she said. “It takes a large family (and a house load of ghosts) to keep this place running smoothly.”
This work is done when the family isn’t busy in the tasting room or helping with the production of a range of recognized wines. Hayes said they are especially proud of their dry reds which include a Cabernet Franc and Lemberger.
When the weather permits, Miles is one of the few Finger Lakes wineries that has a dock with a boathouse bar where visitors can tie up their craft and enjoy a drink surrounded by the beautiful lake views.
Starting on Friday, Oct. 30, Hayes said the winery will be offering indoor seating distanced in accordance to COVID-19 guidelines, in addition to safely-served flights of wine, cider, beer, and spirits (the alcoholic kind).
Hayes said overall she hopes that the work the family puts into the winery’s award-winning wines and its panoramic grounds allow guests to have an unforgettable experience.
“It is our passion to help all visitors create wonderful, lasting, happy memories here,” she said. “Just like our ghosts surely did while they were still living here on this amazing property.”
Miles Wine Cellars 168 Randall Crossing Road, Himrod, NY 14842. Phone: (607) 243-7742
Shannon Hazlitt Harts is a freelance writer and editor who also helps out in the tasting room of her family’s business, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Winery. She grew up in Hector enjoying hiking the creeks near her house and baking countless pies with local peaches.