Wine Destinations Where You Can Experience Grape Stomping !!
An ancient technique to enhance your mental health
Want to feel some fruit between your toes? There are plenty of wineries and grape festivals where you can try grape stomping.
The experience of truly making wine starts with stomping the grapes. The foot crushing gets the fermentation going quicker and adds to the intensity. For centuries, stomping grapes was the method used to extract juice from the fermented grapes. Grape stomping works because the pressure from human force is gentle enough so the seeds won’t break-creating bitterness. Grapes stomping is also known by the French term "pigeage" that translates to punching down.
Stomping grapes to make wine is an ancient practice that has been replaced by machine processing. Since the industrial era, stomping became reserved only for celebrations. In the US, making juice from stomped on grapes has been banned since the end of the 20th century, for obvious health reasons, but this hasn’t stopped people from stomping just for the fun of it.
At festivals across the globe people still take part in the activity. There’s even a world championship Grape Stomp at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. Despite purple stained feet and lots of physical labor, people are still excited to participate in an event.
You can try grape stomping at these wineries and grape festivals:
1. Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley: Calistoga Ranch is the only resort in Napa Valley with its very own vineyard. For guests that are interested in learning more about wine culture, participate in pruning and join in on grape crushing during harvest season. You can enjoy grape stomp experience here with your family.
2. Carlos Creek Winery in Minnesota: On the second weekend after Labor Day, the Carlos Creek Winery annually hosts the annual Grape Stomp and Fall Festival. Grape stomping is the serious business at festival. As more than 300 teams compete with each other consisting of two people: the stomper and the “juicer.” In special heats, people can compete in togas, Minnesota Vikings fan costume contest, or the “Lucy Look-A-Like” contest. After the 3-day competition, the grand champions win a case of Vino De Feet wine.
3. Enoch’s Stomp in Brenham, Texas: Tours Enoch's winemakers would be thrilled to give you a tour of the 12 acres of grape vines property and winery. The month of July at Enoch’s Stomp festival includes vineyard tours, live music and a grape stomping contest in which couples compete to produce the most juice. Best of all, you can pair your wine tastings with a lunch that tastes like summer in Texas: smoked brisket, jalapeno-cheddar biscuits, and strawberry shortcake.
4. Tuscan vendemmia: Plan your vacation in Chianti so that you can take part in the fun and magical moment of the grape harvest in Tuscany. The grape harvest is called the vendemmia, and it’s a highly anticipated event. The minute the grapes reach peak ripeness, everyone joins in to harvest them and begin the fermentation process. You can join the event mid- to late September to have grape stomping experience, just for fun.
5. Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley: Grgich Hills Estate is an iconic Napa Valley winery, consistently producing world-class wines using sustainable, certified-organic methods. The renowned vintner Miljenko “Mike” Grgich invites visitors to enjoy stomping grapes at his Napa vineyard from mid-August through late October. Where you just show up, take off your shoes, roll up your pant cuffs and jump into the barrel of grapes. Afterward, you can put your winy footprints on a special T-shirt to take home and enjoy a complimentary glass of wine.
6. William Chris Vineyards in Texas: At William Chris Vineyards, a winery 50 minutes west of Austin, guests are invited, usually on the first weekends of August, to help punch down the grapes — with their hands, not feet! Participants learn about winemaking in a seminar and then scrub their arms all the way up to their shoulders before plunging them into the vats.
7. Français in Provence, France: The French even have their own word for grape crushing – that’s pigeage, in case you’re wondering! It’s a fabulous place to try this practice for you.
Like much of the world, Provence doesn’t really use grape stomping in real production (at least on a significant, massive scale), but there are a number of events and vineyards where you can give it a go.
One of these places is the beautiful Les Pastras winery, owned by a French-American couple who are passionate about bringing joy through the art of winemaking. Here, you can give grape stomping a go in antique wine barrels. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing French cuisine, and a glass of wine, of course.