(Above: Looking across Oregon vineyards to Mt. Hood on the horizon.)
In wine producing areas across the northern hemisphere, September and October is grape harvest time. Different varieties of grapes in different appellations mature at slightly different times, and winemakers decide on specifically when to harvest based on the sweetness of the grape they want to use in their wines, but these early fall months are consistently harvest time. A few years ago we were in California wine country during harvest: it was a very busy, heads-down time when the local winemakers are glad the tourist season is over. By the time we made it to Oregon, with the combination of all those variables the commercial harvest had largely already completed, but a couple of the wineries held back a bit of their harvest for traditional grape stomping events that are more than worth a visit.
It’s well known, of course, that wine grapes used to be processed manually, that is their juice smashed out by stomping on them. We all can imagine jolly old Italian ladies squishing grape juice through their toes. Grape stomping gave way to presses, and that gave way to automated mechanical presses (technically known as “squishers”). Today’s automated methods might be the most efficient, but the jolly old Italian lady method are the most endearing and romantic. Ever since our visit to Quinta dos Tres Rios in Portugal last year, when we learned they still do a grape stomp during harvest every year, we’ve wanted to participate in a grape stomp.
So when we learned that Willamette Valley Vineyards would hold a grape stomping contest while we visited, we put it on our calendar. Anyone can participate. In fact, when we paid for our tickets (which included a tasting) they asked if we’d like to compete. It caught us off guard and we said no thanks, but if we had known in advance anyone could sign up to stomp grapes on the day of the event, we could have steeled ourselves up for it, carefully washed our feet, and said yes. As with all travel, there’s always something else to do, so we gladly say, “Next time…”
Even though we didn’t compete, here are some pictures of the Willamette Valley Vineyard grape stomping contest.