Crushing It Like Lucille Ball
Our second annual grape stomping at The Hill at Muza restaurant in Troy, New York is in the books and it was wildly successful. Although some folks held back, most spent some time in the tub of grapes. Nine hundred pounds of grapes. “This was on my bucket list,” was a comment we heard a dozen times.
25 cases of Sangiovese grapes with a lonely case of Pinot Noir grapes prior to the event.
The idea for the first one was pretty simple. My partner Lucas Rice and I get grapes twice a year and work together to produce wine that will challenge us but that our friends will like. We met the owners of a local restaurant who thought a grape stomping would be a cool autumn event and we suggested a public stomping would not only be fun (and a novelty for the beer garden/ restaurant) but a legitimate way to crush grapes for amateur winemaking. We purchased grapes and got grapes donated from Musto Wine Grape in Hartford, CT as well as local vineyard, Amorici. An account of that event (and video) is included with other stompings in an earlier blog: “The Aesthetic Validity of Grape Stomping”.
Jyl Vanderhoef is a returning veteran stomper from last year.
This year we scaled up dramatically. The owner of The Hill at Muza, Adam Siemiginowski, provided a galvanized tub six feet in diameter and two feet deep. We had sanitizing and rinse baths and rubber boots for the folks who don’t enjoy grapes under foot. Many people invoked the spirit of the late Lucille Ball just looking at the tub and remembering her famous grape stomping routine. Using high school math, I determined that we needed at least 800 pounds (~363 kg) of grapes to make a decent showing in the big tank and with the help of Musto again, we had an extra hundred pounds (45 kg) of really nice Sangiovese grapes. Sangiovese from Suisun Valley, California, desirable in their own right, was chosen as the best choice available in late September.
Jeff Keegan oversaw the speed tasting where customers were able to taste some of The Hill at Muza’s upcoming wine as well as sample wines from the grapes that were stomped last year. We were able to make two good wines last year, a classy dark Zinfandel and a blend. Sixty five percent of the grapes in the blend were Carnellian, a grape that was once thought as the great hope of the California wine industry. As it presented over the summer, it was dark and fragrant and had tannins that I would describe as “grippy.”(Think snow tires.) An older Malbec made up the remaining 35 percent and provided its own fruit and brought the wine into balance. Jeff ran out of our samples before the night was over and we won over some folks to the idea of using rustic methods to make good wine.
Jeff Keegan pours wine at the speed tasting.
There were hundreds of people who attended, well more than last year’s event and we were able to get four people in the tub at one time. After the event, Lucas bled off several gallons of juice the next day to form a rose’. This method also results in a richer wine in the main batch. Some of that, in turn, may be blended with other varieties to form a “Super Tuscan.”
Part of the crowd in the beer garden
A local station got hold of the idea and sent one of their morning announcers to the restaurant early in the morning to film three segments to be broadcast throughout the morning of the event. The segments discuss Adam Siemiginowski talking about the origins of the event, Lucas Rice explaining the process and Jeff Keegan talking about the speed tasting. You will also see a short clip of last year’s event.