If you want to immerse yourself in a “full-bodied” grape experience, now’s your chance. The annual Grape Stomp Festival is happening this weekend.
It’s two days of fun, frolicking, and celebration at WoodMill Winery in Vale, N.C. But what sets it apart from those snooty affairs is the chance for kids and adults to get knee-deep – and sometimes neck-deep – as they slip, slide, and stomp their way through gallons of grapes in a six-foot-wide pool. The most creative and outrageous stompers win prizes.
There are four classifications: little stompers (ages 6 – 8), junior stompers (9 – 12), teen stompers (13 – 19), and big stompers (20 and up). The younger contestants often simply wallow in the grape-y goop. Daring teens sometimes perform cannonball maneuvers into the pool. Grownups like to show off their dance and wrestling moves (à la the infamous I Love Lucy episode). A DJ plays upbeat music and competitors have 20 seconds to impress the judges.
Organizers report that about 100 stompers typically register, but up to one-quarter are no-shows. Some may realize that grape stains don’t come out of clothing. Others may get waylaid sampling wine slushies and sangria.
Last year, approximately 10,000 people attended the two-day event. This year, visitors will enjoy more than 100 art and craft vendors who will set up their wares next to acres of rolling hills where muscadine grapes grow.
For all the sloppy silliness, there’s a serious side to this story, too. Proprietor Larry Cagle, Jr., was alarmed at his family’s history of heart disease and his own father’s health decline. Researching the benefits of red wine, he learned about resveratrol in grapes and the growing body of research on the substance and its role as an antioxidant. Both red and white muscadines are extremely high in resveratrol; according to one study, 43 times higher than pinot grapes. Larry Cagle, Sr., now in his 80s, continues to give tours. He’s a real-life example of wine’s life-enhancing abilities.
So whether you like your grapes in wines that are sweet or dry, in juice or in jam, don’t miss this chance to learn, sample, enjoy – and stomp your feet while you do.
The 12th Annual Grape Stomp Festival at WoodMill Winery will take place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26. Register at the festival to take part in the Stomp. Admission is free. 1350 WoodMill Winery Ln, Vale, NC 28168. For more info call 704-276-9911 or visit woodmillwinery.com.