Posted: Oct 1, 2012 1:13 PM by Angela Douglas - Q2 News
Updated: Oct 1, 2012 1:26 PM
BILLINGS - It's an experience that is most often associated with Italy, California, and even "I Love Lucy."
However, this weekend in Billings, more than 100 people experienced the wine making tradition for themselves.
For hundreds of centuries grape stomping has been a tradition in the process of wine making and Yellowstone Cellars & Winery makes no exception to that tradition.
"Everybody has seen the clip of Lucy and the Italian woman stomping grapes in Italy and that whole escapade," explained YCW owner Clint Peck. "We kind of want to introduce that here, it's part of the winery experience."
Grape stomper Misty Ross agreed.
"It has made the whole experience of drinking wine, different for me," she said. "Because you're seeing that yeah we're actually in the process of making this. So it's cool."
Fellow grape stomper, Eileen Ziler, added, "It's not something that you're going to find anywhere very close, so I would recommend coming out and trying it."
Every year, between the third week of September and the second week of October, it's crushing time. That's when wine makers have to decide when to pick their grapes, and it's important for the grape stomp to occur before the first freeze of the season.
"We want to break the berry. We want to separate that broken berry from the stem of the grape. Then that 'must' or the juice with the pulp and the skins will ferment," explained Peck.
Must is freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit.
"In about ten days this wine must will be fermented grape juice and we'll put it in the barrel and we'll let it age for about two years," Peck said. "Probably out of this we'll bottle about eight barrels of wine."
That equals about 4,800 bottles of wine. Pretty hard to imagine while you're in the early stages of grape crushing.
"When you step on them, they pop," Ziler. "So it's an experience."
Ross added, "People are stomping quick, but you want to stomp slower cause then you can actually feel it squishing. It's better."
The grapes are specific for the makings of merlot and syrah.
Elegant wines, but perhaps the feet are throwing off.
"I felt the same way. I was like, 'Really? We're stomping with our feet?' and everyone that we told that we're stomping with our feet, they're like 'Are you cleaning your feet? How does this work?' And yes, they spray your feet down and use sanitizer," said Ross. "But at the end of the day, this is first process of the whole grapes and so it's fine."
In fact, some wine producing countries don't even sanitize the stomper's feet.
"The did it 2,000 years ago and in France actually, today, when they do the grape stomps they have people actually walk through the dirt and dust of the vineyard and then they go into the vat to stomp," explained Peck. "They want to introduce the indigenous yeast to inoculate that must to get the fermentation process going."
Well, if it's a process good enough for the monks, Lucy and France, it's good enough for me. Afterall, it's pretty impressive that the stomping of those little grapes, will lead to one tasty adult beverage.