Q: What did the grape say when it was crushed?
A: Nothing, it just let out a little wine.
There is no better way to participate in the wine scene in Mt. Hood Territory than getting the authentic experience of feeling a gloppy, cold mess of freshly picked Pinot noir grapes stuck between your toes. That was exactly the adventure I had this weekend at St. Josef's Winery Grapestomping Festival.
Each year at the beginning of fall Josef and Lilli, the owners of St. Josefs Winery, kick off their harvest season with a big party for friends, family, and visitors. The harvest season equals a lot of long laborious days, so Josef and Lilli like to ease their way into it with a bit of home-grown fun. Having both grown up in Germany, St. Josefs Grapestomping Festival is German themed including men in lederhosen, women in dirndls, homemade bratwurst, and live music and dancing from The Original Donaumusikanten, a German band from Bavaria.
What was initially intended as a leisurely wine tasting visit for my friends and I quickly turned into an epic battle to beat the competition and squash the most grapes in 60 seconds. There are four grapestomps each day during the festival, with three pairs of stompers in each competing group. Participants are chosen out of a basket of names that one volunteers to be included in. I added my name to the mix because my friends did, not because I was keen to get grapey and stompy that afternoon. So, of course, to my chagrin 15 minutes later names were drawn for the first days stomp and mine was one of them.
I was paired with Ian from Manchester. He and his wife were visiting from England, and his name had been added to the basket without his knowledge. Both of us were first-time stompers and both of us stood with trepidation as the first two pairs of competitors got their stomp on.
Now it was our turn. The crowd cheered. My friends hooted and hollered. I climbed the ladder to get to the top of the 1,200 gallon oak barrel and was welcomed by owners Lilli and Josef who had nothing but warm smiles and a bucket full of grapes waiting for us. Ian and I stepped into the bucket together and immediately the Donaumusikantens started playing German folk tunes. Josef stood nearby the entire time whispering advice and encouragement including Dont stomp so hard, just lift your knees high, and I want you guys to win! What started off as an embarrassing moment soon turned into lots of laughs and grape juice everywhere. The grapes were cold and refreshing, the juice fragrant and festive. To the beat of the music, we stomped the juice right out of those grapes and into victory.
At the end of each paired stomp, Josef and Lilli measured out the juice into jars. The first two groups made 4.25 jars full each. Our team? Drumroll please.4.5 jars! While prizes were doled out to all participants, Ian and I got first dibs. I went home with a bottle of the Estate White Reisling, fond memories, and a plan to come back next year to attempt a five jar stomp!