From the Cul de Sac: Grape Stomp the Yard
Although it may still feel like summer, it’s actually harvest time in the Temecula Valley and vineyards all over wine country are collecting the cherished crop that will be used to make the merlots, chardonnays and pinots of the future.
To kick off the autumn season, many of Temecula’s wineries uphold the yearly tradition of the grape stomp and harvest festival. Grape stomps, just as it sounds, consists of participants standing in large bushels and stomping until their feet turn purple. Just like the classic I Love Lucy episode, its good, not-so-clean fun.
“Each year, about this time, no matter what winery you visit in Temecula, you’ll sense the excitement in the air,” said South Coast Winery’s Owner and Vintner Jon McPherson. “Each year, I experience my first crush all over again, with our harvest festival.”
Most of the area’s wineries hold harvest celebrations and, to the average attendee, are may appear to be just great parties. But it’s interesting to know that the grape stomping tradition actually has religious and historical roots all through Europe and Native America.
“In winemaker’s lingo, it is known as the Blessing of the Wines and, in the pre-Christian era, it was called the Feast of the Roots and Fruit,” Crystal Magon, Director of Sales and Marketing for South Coast Winery said. “On this day, a special ceremony was conducted, during which the first fruit of the year was offered to the corresponding God, embodying fertility as a sign of gratitude and fruitfulness for the year.”
The Temecula community is still grateful for the fruits of our beloved vineyards, because the yearly harvest festivals are some of wine countries most popular events. The harvest is celebrated through music, dancing, gourmet food and fall-themed fun, with most wineries giving away prizes for the most juice “stomped” from the fruits of the vines.
Though most wineries hold some variation of a grape stomp on property, every event is different. Some are 21 and older events, some are exclusive to wine club members and some, like South Coast Winery’s Blessing of the Wines, are family-friendly affairs.
“South Coast Winery’s harvest festival is a fun family day that starts with a Blessing of the Wines at 4:00 PM, officiated by Father Burdick of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church in Winchester,” Magon said. “The blessing is followed by our chef’s field-to-table food, tractor rides, clowns, dancing and musical entertainment, provided by Latin jazz extraordinaire, Diego Mondragon & his band Savio. And, of course, we have grape stomping competitions.”
Grape stomps are scheduled all over Temecula wine country through the end of October, like South Coast’s Blessing of the Wines on September 18th, and it’s best to check with your favorite winery’s website for more information on their specific event. Another great resource is the Temecula Valley Winegrowers website at www.temeculawines.org, which lists all events happening throughout wine country in one convenient place.
So whether you are a wine enthusiast giving thanks for the libation you love, or just want to participate in a tradition filled with historical significance, a grape stomp is the perfect way to usher in the autumn in Temecula.
“Hands down, this is one of our favorite events of the year; a time where we gather together friends and family to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and for keeping our vineyard workers safe,” Magon said. “We should all be so grateful and in awe of this perfect procession of life and celebrate our harvests, at our winery and other’s around the world.”