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Published August 16, 2012, 11:30 PM

Benshoof: Head on down to the ol’ (grape) stomping grounds this weekend

BUFFALO, N.D. – Have you ever wondered what it’s like to step into a bucket full of grapes and just stomp the juice out of ’em? Personally, that’s been on my bucket list (pun intended) for quite some time now.

BUFFALO, N.D. – Have you ever wondered what it’s like to step into a bucket full of grapes and just stomp the juice out of ’em?

Personally, that’s been on my bucket list (pun intended) for quite some time now.

Luckily, Saturday will offer a chance to do just that when the Red Trail Vineyard in Buffalo opens its gates for its seventh annual North Dakota Grape Harvest Festival and Grape Stomp.

Amid a day of live music, vendors, food and wine tasting and other activities, 15 to 20 contestants can sign up to compete to stomp grapes and win prizes.

Earlier this week, I talked with vineyard owner Rodney Hogen, a full-time corn and soybean farmer who started the vineyard in 2003, to find out how exactly one goes about stomping grapes (there has to be some method to it, right?).

(As a side note, some readers may remember an iconic scene from “I Love Lucy” where Lucille Ball gets into the grape-stomping action. Coincidentally, Hogen told me that Lucille Ball’s son visited the vineyard at one point, and signed a print of that scene.)

Anyway, for the uninitiated grape-stompers out there, it turns out that grape stomping is a bit of an antiquated practice.

These days, Hogen says, vineyards use more modern methods. Grapes are sent through a de-stemmer and then crushed by a machine, all in one process.

And, lest anyone think they’re actually contributing to making wine on Saturday, the grapes that will be used for the stomping will actually come from Hornbachers. The vineyard’s own grapes are too few and too precious to be stomped and then thrown away.

So, Saturday’s grape-stomping competition is more for the fun of it, to get people into the spirit of how grapes were pressed in the past when we actually had to work to make things (it’s terrible to think about, I know. We’ve come such a long way).

Contestants face off in a 90-second stomp-off. The juice at the bottom of the bucket is then measured to determine a winner.

And unless you’ve been stomping with really clean feet, you might not want to drink the juice when you’re done.

The practice seems pretty straightforward, but I asked Hogen if there’s a right or wrong way to stomp grapes.

His answer: Not really.

“People mostly just stomp as fast as they can,” he says. “It’s just a fun contest.”

“You do it for the fun of it, and for all the stories you get,” he adds. “That’s what wine is – it’s always a story.”

If you go

What: 2012 North Dakota Grape Harvest Festival and Grape Stomp

When: Gates open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, music starts at 2

Where: Red Trail Vineyard, 3510 142nd Ave. SE, Buffalo, N.D.

Info: Tickets cost $17.50 in advance or $22.50 at the gate, and are available online at www.redtrailvineyards.com.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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