Grape Stomp Season
Even if you're not a wine aficionado, these activities and contests will make you want to check out some grape stomping festivals this fall
Photo courtesy Rido/Fotolia
September means pumpkin chai lattes and an abundance of apples, but it's also grape stomping season at the wineries. Wine has been around for more than 5,000 years, and while there is no doubt that people mashed their grapes by foot at some point, especially early on, there is more debate about just how prevalent the practice has been in viticulture. (There are even some wide-circulated rumors that it is illegal to produce U.S. wine that has been foot-trod, and that's not true. It's just rare because it's pretty inefficient.)
Check out these wineries across the state that have grape stomping as part of their harvest festivals or just as part of the fun!
The Winery at Sovereign Estate, Waconia (Sept. 7-9)
The Winery at Sovereign Falls kicks off its three-day wine and music festival with wine tastings, bistro and barbecue food, vineyard tours, and, of course, a concert. The full weekend lineup has a Johnny Cash and country tribute, vintage rock, and trumpet instrumentals. A word to the wise—Friday has free admission, but the Saturday and Sunday $5 ticket price isn't bad when you consider those are the grape stomping days. (If you can't make it to Waconia this weekend, come back to the area for Schram Vineyards' and Parley Lake Winery's behind-the-scenes harvest tours.)
Richwood Winery, Callaway (Sept. 8)
Come to Richwood Winery's biggest event of the summer. Between watching (or participating in) the grape stomping heats (i.e., preliminary contests, as in racing), enjoy music from Terry Mackner and duo GC and The Kruse as well as food from the Green Canteen and others.
Glacial Ridge Winery, Spicer (Sept. 8)
Change up your grape stomp with a "Pirates and Scalawags" theme and partake in the day's grape stomps, wine tastings, entertainment (think: music and belly dancers), food, and vendors.
St. Croix Vineyards, Stillwater (Sept. 8)
People of all ages can stomp grapes for fun or to compete—if you want to get funky while doing it, they even have a special stomping style competition. While you're at the vineyards, go on a free vineyard and winery tour and enjoy the sampling room and live music.
Carlos Creek Winery, Alexandria (Sept. 14-16)
This grape stomp is over three days, and there's good reason: More than 300 teams will stomp on 10,000-plus pounds of grapes, a dozen bands take to four stages, and more than 150 food, art, and marketplace vendors will be out and about for the festival. Special grape stomping heats across the weekend include Trash Your TOGA, Lucy Look-a-Like, and Little Foot Stomp. Need a break? Relax in the man cave with August Schell's and Fargo Brewery or sip on some wine tastings. If you come on Sunday, there are a variety of special discounts as well. Two more perks for you to consider: Free shuttles run from many nearby hotels and the fairgrounds, and on Saturday and Sunday, the festival will be working to raise money for the Lakes Area Humane Society.
Next Chapter Winery, New Prague (Sept. 14-Oct. 28)
This festival may have a slightly higher cover fee ($38.99 for adults and $17.99 for children 4 to 21), but it also gets you the most. While you're there, you can help harvest grapes (and munch on as many as you'd like), enjoy lunch or dinner, see a wine-making demonstration, and then take part (or watch) a grape stomp. You also get to take home a souvenir T-shirt, a monogrammed wine glass, and two tasting glasses.
Crow River Winery, Hutchinson (Sept. 22)
Free to attend and full of vendors and live music, this grape stomp is an all-out competition with two-person teams and an actual bracket system. Children 12 and under get special stomping times so they don't miss out on the fun. While you're there, check out the corn maze that opens for the season on grape stomp day, too.
Northern Vineyards Winery, Stillwater (Sept. 22)
Get your stomp on for five minutes and then continue stomping across a souvenir T-shirt—the red grape juice still clinging to your feet will make for some memorable footprints. As the vineyard puts it, "Costumes are admired but not required."
Morgan Creek Vineyards, New Ulm (Oct. 6)
Kick off New Ulm's huge Oktoberfest with the annual grape stomp. Teams are for three to five people, and the winners receive a free case of wine. Make sure to get creative with the costumes, too—a dessert wine is on the line. Also at the festival, you can listen to the sounds of Bavarian musicians Oachkazlschwoarf and see the Minnesota Traditional Morris Dancers or the Satori Violet Belly Dancers. Morgan Creek wine and Schell's beer are up for sampling along with wood-fired appetizers, artisan cheeses, and a pig roast. While you wander, you might also see the Black Forest masked visitors, the New Ulm Narren.
Millner Heritage Winery & Cidery, Kimball (Oct. 6 & 7)
Who says you can't toast Oktoberfest with a glass of wine? It's a weekend of live music, free games with wine prizes, free grape stomping, free tasting, guided tours, and craft vendors. In short, it's a whole lot of fun for not a lot of dollar.
Know of some we missed? Let us know in the comments, and we'll add them.