Valley Vineyards Come Of Age

As the economy struggles and wacky weather compromises this year’s harvest, Valley vintners are doing surprisingly well thanks to a little local love and another killer vintage



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Mashing grapes with feetPhotograph courtesy of Lawrence Roberg/Shutterstock

Stomping Ground

Two people, 60 pounds of grapes, and one turkey baster: It’s grape stomping season at the Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville.

Most people in America became familiar with the wine-making method of grape-stomping after watching a famous 1950s episode of I Love Lucy, in which Lucy travels to Italy and tries her hand (or should we say feet?) at stomping grapes. Since then, sanitary laws regarding mixing bare feet with beverages have gotten stricter, and wine-making technology has advanced, making grape-stomping an outdated technique.

But Brotherhood — which, at 170 years of age, claims to be America’s oldest winery — has taken the old tradition and made it into a fun, competitive sport. Two-person teams compete against each other in a relay race to see which can be the first to fill a bottle with grape liquid. Each team consists of a “stomper,” who crushes the grapes in a large barrel with his or her bare feet; and a “runner,” who uses a turkey baster (or ladle) to extract the juice and get it into the bottle.

“Most people get a little grossed out when they first start stomping due to the cold, squishy sensation of the grapes,” says Colleen Hughes, Brotherhood’s creative director. “But that changes quickly because of the lively atmosphere — there’s live music, people cheering them on. They just end up having fun.”

There’s no technically correct way to stomp to get a leg up on the competition, but extra points are earned by those teams that show originality in their technique. “You see many people recreate the I Love Lucy moment every weekend,” Hughes said. “They start dancing in the barrel with their pants rolled up; they just start shakin’ it. They get really amped up. It’s good exercise, good fun, and just a great time for all.”

The events are open to all ages and are held weekends in September and October from 12-4 p.m. For more information, call the winery at 845-496-3661 or visit www.brotherhoodwinery.net.

Next: A match made in wine-Heaven

 

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