Last week, I did something neat I’d never done before

Last week, I did something neat I’d never done before, that given my age, is a personal boon. Our friends Jan-Michael and David were visiting from California, so we all went to the Duplin Wine Festival to stomp grapes.

Gloria and Megan met us there, so altogether we added a dozen stomping feet to the festivities. If there had been a big foot contest, Jan and I might’ve placed pretty high in the rankings given our Sasquatch shoe sizes.

To be sure this was a brand new experience for all of us. The only stuff I knew about stomping the juice out of grapes to make wine I learned 60 years ago in a 1956 episode of “I Love Lucy.” Past that I had no clue.

Surely modern wine making has been mechanized, but Duplin Winery puts on this throwback grape stomp event each year. Hordes of folks come from all over for the scenery, laughs and music.

I got our tickets a month ago online and couldn’t help but wonder exactly how they’d accommodate so many stompers. I knew they had it figured out, but my memory of Lucy and Ethel in a big wooden vat smashing grapes with a bunch of other people made me wonder just how they’d pull it off.

We assumed we’d get our clothes soaked in grape juice so we wore “old” shorts and shirts that had outlived their usefulness. My wife Ann agonized over her choices, making many false starts before settling on her “grape uniform.”

Anybody who knows me knows I had absolutely no problem whatsoever because I pretty much wear only old shorts and shirts. Stains don’t concern me because they either wash out or become part of the design.

Either works for me since I’m essentially colorblind and that visual deficiency is made quite obvious by my clothing choices. I’m severely style challenged and seldom “match.” One concern kept floating through my mind in the days leading up to the festival. Based upon the “Lucy and Ethel” experience, I imagined falling down in the vat. Plop!

I know about the fermentation process of wine making and the long journey from grape to bottle, but I couldn’t help wondering if they’d really use juice I’d smashed out of grapes with my butt? The thought made me grin and cringe at the same time.

As it turned out, they provide each stomper with a “private” bucket of grapes in which to stomp. They have handholds on the platform above each bucket. No butt stomping occurred. Knowing that, I was more comfortable drinking their wines.

About 20 people stomp at a time. When they call “time,” the buckets are refilled with whole grapes and then 20 more take their places. Particularly good stompers are chosen to participate in a “stomp-off” later that afternoon.

Apparently foot size doesn’t enter into their calculus. They prefer stomping speed. I didn’t have a chance because my “speed-stomp” is merely a leisurely squishy-stroll around my bucket.

It was interesting and entertaining. I don’t understand why we hadn’t gone there to stomp before. It was a hoot within an easy drive. Shame on me.

Otis Gardner can be reached at ogardner@embarqmail.com.