Lakeridge Winery Grape Stomp
Ah…wine. Yummy wines from all over the world: Napa Valley, France, Italy, Australia, South Africa and Clermont. Mmmmmm. Wait a minute, back that up. Clermont, Florida?
Yep, Clermont, Florida is home to wine. Lakeridge Winery, the largest winery in the State of Florida has an 80-acre vineyard 45 minutes down the road from my house. I love wine, especially reds, and thought I would take a trip to Lakeridge Winery for their annual Grape Stomp. Come along with me on this adventure in wine-tasting and grape stompin’. Our first stop, the Wine Tasting Experience.
What can you expect from a free wine tasting? We were given small tasting cups and followed the line through the warehouse where the wines are created and bottled. The setting was pleasant, but the crowds made it feel like I was a cow being herded to the slaughterhouse. We slowly made our march, single file, from wine station to wine station. The variety of wines were generous, but I found it odd that we were given red wines to taste, then white wines, then more reds. Aren’t you supposed to have white first, and then red? At the very least, give me a new glass, right? It didn’t really matter. I didn’t enjoy any of the wines. They are made from the Muscadine Grape. I don’t know what other kinds of grapes are used in wine-making, but this variety didn’t agree with me – in more than one way. More on that later.
Nevertheless, we weren’t here for the wine. We were here to stomp grapes. Well 1/2 of us anyway. After one look at the grape stomping setup Brian and one of our friends elected to forgo this old-world tradition.
Grape Stomping takes place on an elevated platform with 8 barrels affixed to the base. Metal poles are located on the side of each barrel to provide balance for the stompers.
The line was about 10 people deep so Brian bought me a beer to pass the time and get the taste of the wine out of my mouth.
Efficiency was not a focus of the grape stomp. Mobs of people lined up behind the buckets. You never knew who was in what line. At the same time, the guy responsible for moving people in and out was taking too long in between rotations. Granted it wasn’t all his fault, they could have used a 2nd person. I had a beer so it wasn’t a big deal, except for the fact that bad weather was approaching quick.
Did I make it in time?
Our group of four opted to have lunch at Tijuana Flats. The Tijuana Flats in Clermont provided outstanding customer service. They staff was friendly and attentive. The manager offered us additional chips and salsa and they made sure our cups were never empty. Great place for lunch. The weather died down after we finished lunch so we opted to return to the winery one more time.
Luck was on our side. After another 20 minute wait in the same inefficient line it was my turn.
Let me start by saying that stepping into the grape barrel was disgusting. It was worse than disgusting. It occurred to me, that while I had wanted to do this adventure, I couldn’t figure out why. Just the thought of all the dirty, nasty feet was gross enough. Add to that a slushy mixture of grapes, grape juice, rainwater and twigs and you have a cocktail of grossness.
Now you don’t actually stomp brand new grapes. The grape juice (and dirty rainwater), from the last participant is poured back into the barrel. More grapes are occasionally dumped in there too. I’ll let the video speak for itself. It’s a bit longer than the others. The grape stomp begins 2 minutes into the clip and lasts for 2 minutes.
That was a long 2 minutes. I think I came in 2nd place. First place won a T-shirt, and I was fine without that. Towards the end I figured out the secret. If I lifted my feet higher in the air, that would displace the grape skins on the bottom, allowing the juices (and dirty rainwater) to flow out the hole in the bottom. I also learned that grape stomping is tiring. I was glad when it was over so that I could wash my feet. And they were nasty.
Fortunately, the winery provides a foot washing station.
At work on Monday I shared my weekend’s adventures grape stomping and everyone asked if it was anything like Lucy’s. I had no idea about their reference. I know Lucy in the candy factory, but not grape stomping. So for those of you like me and have the time (8 minutes), here it is.
Was it worth it? Well it’s tough to say. Grape stomping was on my adventure list, but it was grosser than I thought it would be. I’m glad that I did it, so I can make that notch on my bed post, but never again. It wasn’t worth the rush to fly home from Chicago, a city I absolutely loved, only to be stranded in Atlanta and have 3 hours of sleep.
Oh, did I mention the rash I got on my feet a few days later. The grape stomping referee warned us that some people develop a reaction to the acid in muscadine grapes. As it turns out, “some”, includes me. As if I didn’t need another reason to dislike muscadines wines, the rash gave me another one.
My opinion of the day can be summed up with this photo.
So for all of you who have wanted to stomp grapes, best wishes. You’ve been warned. But isn’t that part of the adventure? What’s the grossest thing you have done? Comment below. When you’re done, become a fan of adventureswithben.com on facebook here.