Last updated on August 18th, 2019
Ever since Lucille Ball was seen stomping grapes on an episode of I Love Lucy, Americans have fallen in love with the idea. Since then grape stomp competitions have shown up at harvest time all over the country. Minnesota is no exception. I give you all the dirt on how to be an award winning Grape Stomper.
The practice of stomping grapes or ‘Viticulture’ dates back to 200 BC when the ancient Romans were looking for an effective way to get to the juice. Today, thanks to mechanical ingenuity, we no longer have to do that. It is actually outlawed in the states to create drinks this way. This is no reason to ruin the fun, though.
Minnesota Grape Stomp
In Hutchinson Minnesota, at the Crow River Winery, I got to participate in one of these festivals. Partnered teams competed in different heats to try and collect the most juice possible in 6 minutes. I was able to convince my mom that this would be a great idea. She had no idea what she was getting herself into.
The Grape Stomp
There are two roles needed to in order to collect the juice. The first person is known as the stomper. Their job is to frantically squeeze every last grape in the barrel in order to extract the juice from each one. The second person is the most important person. They are the mucker. The mucker is responsible for ensuring that all the juice from the barrel is gotten into the container. My mom volunteered for what she thought would be the cleaner of the two jobs. We soon found out how wrong we were when we were staged up to get start our heat.
They provided us with some baby oil to cover any bits that would get juice on it. This would prevent the grapes from staining the skin. The winners from the previous round had juice up to her armpits and her face was covered. It was at this point when my mom frantically decided that she didn’t put enough of the baby oil they provided on enough of her body.
Let’s Get Dirty
As we took our assumed positions, we were still going over our strategy notes. Once they called “GO”, we all frantically started to stomp all the grapes. My mom was doing her best to funnel grapes into the drain. After about a couple minutes all the grapes were squished, and it was just a matter of trying to direct the precious juice down the drain without getting in the way of the mucker. The whole time, there was really no way of know how well we’re doing. All the buckets looked the same and the amount left in the bin looked similar.
Taking Second Place
When it was done, we were shocked to find out that we came in second place in our heat. We didn’t medal or advance to finals, but it didn’t matter to us. We were just thrilled to have actually been competition. After our heat, we watched last years winner and got took a few notes for next year. It’s in our blood now, we have to try and get into the finals next year. We will be back next year at this Minnesota Grape Stomp. We hope to see you too.
Grape Stomping Tips
Here are a few tips if you’re thinking of having as much fun as we did and participating.
- Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty.
- Baby oil anything you think will get full of juice. Check with the venue. Most places will provide it.
- Size doesn’t matter! Your main goal is to keep the grapes away from the drain and towards the stomper’s feet.
- Have the mucker get into the barrel and keep moving the skins away from the drains, but pushing as much juice towards it.
- Bring your own cheering section.
- If you are allergic to bees, you may want to bring an epinephrine pen. They weren’t attacking people but definitely attracted to all the juice.
- Have a glass a wine before. It makes everything more fun!
After coming so close to winning our heat in our first attempt, we decided to go back for more. This time we took the grape squashing tips we learned from our first attempt and tried again. But before our attempt, we signed up both my kids to stomp as well. This gave us extra opportunity to perfect our mucking technique. Each kid that went got progressively better and by the time we did our heat, we smoked the competition, all the way to final. Much to my complete surprise, we ended up leaving with the trophy and one giant bottle of wine.
In the end, grape stomping is less about crushing grapes with fee and more about managing the drain. If you’re looking for a Grape Stomp near you, check out the 11 Wineries and Vineyards Minutes from the Twin Cities. It makes for a great day trip from Minneapolis. You will never forget it!