ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have never been too keen on grape-stomping events, however, as I am the Napa Valley expert in my peer group, one of my friends asked if I could find one in Napa Valley in the first week of November for her. So now I turn to the premier source of Napa Valley information that I know of (that's you) to see if you could direct us to any. If none, then perhaps one that is especially enjoyable around crush time?

—Scott M., Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Scott,

I didn't know much about grape stomping outside of that "I Love Lucy" episode (and it doesn't sound enjoyable to me) but I checked around, and it's quite a competitive event! According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Gabriel Jonker and Ryno van Zyl (both of South Africa) hold the record for "Most Juice Trodden in Two Minutes." They extracted 37.25 pints of juice from 110 pounds of grapes in that short time. Not bad.

I found many small stomping events at wineries and venues all over the country, from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Tampa, Fla., and Tallahassee, Tenn.

One of the largest is at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair's "World Championship Grape Stomp" in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 6-8. There are many official rules; each team consists of one stomper and one swabbie (the swabbie stands below the barrel and catches the juice—it's very important to keep the screen from clogging with debris). Stompers must have bare feet, and you can't hold on to the barrel while stomping.

If competitive stomping isn't your thing, from September through October, Grgich winery in Rutherford invites you to come by and stomp at your leisure (please call ahead). If you do, you get an "I stomped at Grgich Hills" pin, to commemorate your experience. When I asked, they told me that the juice you create from stomping doesn't make it into their wine.

Speaking of competitive grape events, one of the most fascinating things I found was that there's also a Guinness record for "Longest Distance a Grape Has Been Caught." Paul Tavilla (USA) caught a grape thrown from ground level 327 feet, 6 inches away in his mouth! I'd love to see a contest like that!

—Dr. Vinny


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