Author: Paul Morden, Post Media
Grape stompers are set to be in action Sunday afternoon at Alton Farms Estate Winery during the winery’s third annual fundraiser for the Bluewater Centre for Raptor Rehabilitation.
Anne Kurtz-Alton, who owns the estate winery on Aberarder Line in Plympton-Wyoming with her husband Marc Alton, said Friday more than 70 stompers were already signed up.
The event begins at noon, with the first stomping competition set for 2 p.m. There will be stomps for both adults and children.
“It’s fun, and I think it’s worthwhile, too,” Kurtz-Alton said.
Stompers compete to have their name added to a trophy, and for bragging rights, plus they each pay a $5 “stomping fee” that goes to the raptor rehabilitation centre where injured birds of prey are nursed back to health so they can be released back into the wild.
The centre, established in Plympton-Wyoming in 1991 by Lynn Eves, is expected to have a few raptors on display at Sunday’s event at the winery.
“We feel a connection to her birds,” Kurtz-Alton said.
“We want them to be well and fly around our place.”
Raptors help control the grape-eating bird population, one of the major challenges in the vineyard.
Kurtz-Alton said they set up six half barrels with plastic tubs set inside them for the annual grape stomp. Each tub holds a similar amount of grapes and the stompers go to work to see who ends up with the most juice after 60 seconds of stomping.
“It’s fun to watch,” she said.
“They really get into it, some of them.”
While machines usually do the work of crushing grapes these days wineries, stomping them in barrels was a traditional method in the earlier days of winemaking.
Kurtz-Alton said she often asked if they use the juice from the stomp to make wine.
“Of course we do,” she said.
The alcohol created during winemaking takes care of any issues there might be with having humans stomping the grapes, Kurtz-Alton said.
The website of the Grape Growers of Ontario notes artwork from ancient Egypt shows grapes being stomped by foot but the practice has since been replaced by much more efficient mechanical wine presses.
“I prefer the automated way,” Kurtz-Alton said. “It’s much faster.”
The winery’s Aberarder White grapes will be stomped this year so competitors don’t have to worry about stains.
“They’ll just get sticky feet,” she said.
A grew of volunteers is on hand with a hose to help stompers rinse off.
“We try to take good care of our stompers,” Kurtz-Alton said.
The band Relic is set to play during the afternoon and hamburgers and hotdogs will be sold, with proceeds going to the raptor centre.
Wine will also be sold by the glass and advance samples of unreleased wines will be available. The winery store will also be open.
“And cake, of course,” Kurtz-Alton said. “There’s always cake here.”
The annual grape stomp leads into the winery’s Weinfest set for Oct. 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“That’s a lot of fun, too,” she said.
The family-friendly German tradition celebrates new wines following the harvest with samples of fresh-baked zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) and federweisser (sweet, low alcohol, mid-fermentation wines) available in exchange for donations to Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue.
“It’s yummy,” Kurtz-Alton said about the onion cake.
Oktoberfest sausage will be for sale that day, and while lederhosen aren’t mandatory, there will be prizes for the best-dressed attendees.