Carlos Creek Winery Grape Stomp, Alexandria

I have a sweet spot in my heart for Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria. What now feels like many, many years ago (2005, in fact), my boyfriend and I were spending a week in a cabin on Lake Mary. One day that week we took an excursion to the winery to walk amongst the grape fields, scurry over the little bridges, explore the three-and-half-acre maze, tour the vineyard, and taste the wine.

Near the end of our journey, my boyfriend led me down a row of apple trees, got down on one knee and pulled out a ring. I said yes, and the rest is history!

We’ve definitely been back to Carlos Creek to relive the memories. A few years ago we went back during the annual Grape Stomp and Fall Festival (this weekend, Sept. 14-16, 2012), when the winery throws open its gates to the masses (some 15,000 people attend over the three-day weekend) and throw one giant party. We perused the craft vendors, ate a bunch of different foods from the food stands, sampled wine, bought souvenirs, and listened to live music (10 live bands are featured throughout the weekend).

Carlos Creek WineryBut my favorite part of the day was finding a spot on the bleachers and watching the grape stomping contests. Teams of two participate in a number of heats, advancing further and further to the championship round. Costumes are encouraged, messiness is inevitable, laughter ensues, and the crowd cheers. There’s even a reenactment of the classic scene from I Love Lucy performed on Saturday evening. The event in its entirety is a ton of fun. It rained the day we were there, but we hardly noticed because there were plenty of indoor spots to take cover. (However, not to worry, this weekend looks beautiful.)

Admission is $3 Friday and Saturday and free on Sunday, with free parking. While open to all ages, it feels a bit more like an adult-friendly atmosphere. Those 21 and older and purchasing wine must wear a wristband. Don’t forget your I.D.

More info: Carlos Creek is a great spot to visit any time. It’s open year round, with tours and tastings nearly every day. The wine is award-winning, inventive, and tastes really good.