Grape Stomping Party

For my birthday, I’d like to have a party where we step on grapes,” said my now fiancée four years ago.


“Yeah, let’s step on grapes just like Lucille Ball did in that famous I Love Lucy episode.”

And so started the tradition of our annual grape stomping party.

At the time of the above conversation, I was a novice winemaker. I had been fermenting homemade wine for a few years using kits and grape juice but I had zero experience with fresh grapes.

There was a lot to learn in that first year. What grapes should we use, how much should we stomp, how will we sanitize everyone’s feet? With the Internet not providing much help, I turned to my local home winemaking store. I walked into Philly Homebrew Outlet and talked with one of the owners, Jimmy, about my new undertaking. He too had no experience in crushing grapes by foot, but between the two of us we figured out how to make it work.

The process is rather straightforward. We destem the grapes and dump them into a giant red bucket. One at a time, we rinse and sanitize the feet and legs of the next person into the grapes. Once clean, the person steps from the sanitizer directly into the bucket and stomps. We start one person at a time but it always escalates to two, three, or even four, as seen in the picture.

We have only two rules for the grape stomp. 1) No nail polish. I do not want to run the risk of having any nail polish getting into the wine. 2) Women and children only. In my research, I found an old book that said back in early times, it was bad luck for men to step on grapes. I thought keeping with that tradition was a fantastic way to bring everyone together, and not let the stomp get dominated by just men. Plus, the idea of guys’ feet getting involved in the stomping process seems to be a little harder to swallow!
Over the years, we have experimented with different grapes and different amounts but we usually stomp about six cases (~200 lbs./90 kg) of grapes, which yield roughly 15 gallons (57 L).

We hold our annual stomp party every September. It has become a very anticipated and well-attended gathering for both our friends and relatives. Everyone pitches in and helps with a variety of chores during the day — getting the grapes, loading the destemmer, sanitizing everything, etc. To reward the volunteers, we serve the wine from the previous fall and send each family home with a bottle of homemade wine.

When people hear about our stomp, they almost always ask about the taste. They assume it cannot be as good as a batch untouched by people’s feet. This past year I put that theory to the test. I offered two wines — Cabernet Franc and Merlot — the Cab was foot-stomped the previous fall, whereas the Merlot had no contact with feet. No one, not even the biggest skeptics, could find any issue with the wine.

We hope to continue the tradition of our annual grape stomp for many years to come. We save a tremendous amount of money on alcohol, but the idea of bringing together our family and bonding every year is truly the driving force. My father has become so excited for the event that he lends a hand on the pressing and bottling days. My mother has yet to stomp herself but watching my 4-year-old niece stomp while holding the hand of her Nanny is priceless. My fiancée, the brainchild of the entire operation, could not be happier.

“So you feel like Lucille Ball?” I ask. Her response: “I love you Ricky!”