Friday, December 7, 2012

14th New Thing ~ Barefoot Bordeaux

Except in the classic I Love Lucy episode, I wasn't sure if it was a real thing.
Grape Stomping.

So I went to Mike's Holy Oracle (Google) and found that, yes, some vineyards in Washington (and elsewhere) have festivals and events, in which stomping of grapes is a part. Good to know. It would make a great New Thing!

I intended to pin down my schedule, travel to a Washington vineyard and participate. But it kept not happening. Apparently my intention was not all that solid. This is what happens when you're careless.

I mentioned to Ciara, a few months back, that I thought it would be cool to stomp grapes.
She asked, "Do you want to make wine with us?"
"I do," I said.

Time went by and I hadn't really thought about it.
Then near the end of October, Ciara called.
"The grapes are here. Do you still want to make wine?"
"I do!"

They'd planned an autumn road trip to his grandmother's house in Oregon to get grapes. But the trip didn't work out, so Ephraim's family brought grapes back for him.

Drinking is not a significant part of my life. Only occasionally do I drink alcohol in any form. It's usually a side note and not the main point, at all. I love this about me. 

My primary desire with this New Thing was to feel the grapes ooze and squish beneath my bare feet. Between my toes. (My nose crinkles, thinking about it.) So making wine was going to be a bonus  outcome of the New Thing.

The evening after Ciara called to say the grapes were here, she and her family arrived at my house with these. 

My large wooden wine barrel was in the shop so we used a large Rubbermaid container instead.

Now, some people might be a little squeamish about the idea of stomping grapes. Fun feet frivolity is not for every one. I understand, but it's definitely for me. I was pretty sure that the alcohol content of the wine would kill any bacteria that was caused by whatever method used for pressing the grapes. And it seemed to me foot stomping those grapes would be the most fun method.

When I looked around on-line, I found a couple forums and bulletin boards with the question about whether it's sanitary or not. Mostly there were comments about how very few places do it this way any longer, except as a novelty. And that when wine is stomped with clean feet, the acid and/or the alcohol content was enough to make it sanitary.

On YahooAnswers, to the question, 
"Is wine really made by barefoot people stomping on grapes?"
this was my favorite answer: "Not so much today as it's too labor intensive to be profitable any more, but that was always the traditional way. Clean feet stomping wine are no different than clean hands kneading bread dough."

In fact, I'm going to speculate that stomping grapes is more sanitary than a good deal of the food preparation that goes on behind the scene at our favorite restaurants. Mostly I try not to think about that.

Before we each took our stomping turn, we soaked our feet in a bleach water solution.

I stomped first.

Stomping the juice out of grapes is not as easy as it sounds. It was slippery. And quite cold. After just a few minutes, my feet were freezing.

And the balance was kind of a tricky thing. I'm guessing because we weren't using a bigger container. To really stomp, I had to hang onto someone near by, or clutch the edges of the container. I had pictured myself marching in place, like I was listening to a hardy John Philip Sousa song.

Second to stomp was Sequoia. The six month old.

We were just going to put her sweet little feet into the container, swish the grapes around a little bit and get a few cute pictures. Right? Wrong.

Now you need to know that this child is very sweet tempered. She is not one to just start screaming without warning. She's the type who thinks on a thing, for a moment. Then when her face begins to melt into that pre-cry, you know she's decided she has something to say about a situation. That she's considered all angles and we do indeed have a problem.

You can always see Sequoia's discontent coming. Or so I thought.

Apparently cold, wet grapes are the exception to her exceptional disposition. The instant we let her toes touch the grape-mush, she wailed. She screamed as loud and suddenly as I've ever heard her scream. SHE DID NOT LIKE IT! She did not need to think about anything.

Then the moment we pulled her feet from the vat of grapes, she was fine. Completely content; like nothing happened.

So as a compromise, we brought the grapes to her. Squishing them against her feet in our hands. Taking a few pictures. She didn't mind this at all. Whew!

Ephraim and Ciara took their turns stomping. Ciara worked the hardest, by far. After Lucy Ricardo's own heart. She kept at it for a long time. I'm not sure why I thought we'd just stomp around in the 'vat' a few times and all the juice would just squish happily out of the grapes. Giving up their vintage ghost.

And stomping the grapes wasn't even the most difficult part. Straining and filtering out all the skins, bits of stem, seeds, squeezing the pre-wine through layers of cheese cloth turned out to be way, WAY tougher than I'd imagined. No wonder wine can be so expensive!

And we made a huge grape juice mess.

There are some things, New Things, that I want the experience of but in all practicality, I'm probably not going to make it my new profession. This is how it was with grape stomping/wine making. I didn't memorize each step of the process and couldn't write them out for you here. Mostly, I followed directions.

Eph said "Do this," so I did that. (That's a lie. I don't think I've ever heard Ephraim boss anyone around. But when I asked, "What's next?" He then replied, "Do this." So I did.)

It was relaxing, just moving with the flow, letting Ciara and Ephraim concern themselves with such technicalities as alcohol content and amounts of sugar and yeast and fermentation and such....

This was a cool thing. Looked kind of like a test tube. 

Some official instrument. I can't remember the name. 
Something 'ometer. It spins around and indicates potential alcohol content. 
I think.

 I seem to remember the number 13. But that might be my bias. 
Whatever it's purpose, it was fun to watch.

We were up into the wee hours.
There were grape spills and stains everywhere.
My fingers were purple for days after. 
My hands felt like sandpaper; I think from the acid in the grapes.

Aside from the stomping and the wine making, there was an additional thing that I found quite fascinating:
The Green Globes.

I've never really thought about what a concord grape looks like naked. Without its skin.

Turns out, inside the skin of concord grapes are these really cool green, gooey globes. 
They were such a bright and beautiful translucent color, like they would glow in the dark. 

And I loved the tactile experience. 
Rolling the slippery gelatinous gems between my fingers. They felt like....well, I don't know exactly. 
But I kept thinking they'd make a great 'special effect' in a haunted house.
Dragon tadpoles.
Alien eyeballs ... or something.


There are some things in life, many things I believe, for which the longing, the anticipation, the waiting . . . adds to the pleasure. Accentuates the satisfaction.

By their very nature, a few of the New Things are "Wait, wait, wait and see......"
The writing contest: winners will be announced in January 2013.
Applying for my passport: waiting until it arrives, for it to feel real. (You know the old saying, "Don't count your legal government documents before they hatch.")

And also grape-stomping wine making.

Now we see if we end up with homemade red wine (Plan A) or homemade red wine vinegar (Plan B).
I'll get back to you on whether I end up pouring this pretty and gurgling red liquid into a goblet or over arugula and other wild greens.

Either way, I got to stomp grapes. #14


  1. What a cool thing to do. I don't think I would tackle it because of the mess and the fact that my husband doesn't drink so it would be a lot of work for me to enjoy a glass once every other month.

    But it was fun seeing you do it. Patience grapehopper!

  2. It was cool, indeed. But it wasn't a New Thing for the sake of making something to drink.
    The Lucy Ricardo-inspired Stomp was the point.
    Smashing, mashing, squishing, squashing, pulverizing those innocent grapes beneath my feet! That's the stuff.
    You'll have to stop by for a glass or a tossed salad, depending on the outcome. Either way, all good! ~ B