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By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Crushing the competition

Patrick Swanick has never actually kicked off his shoes, climbed into a giant wooden vat and stomped grapes.

However, as the manager of the grape-stomping competition at the Carlton Crush Harvest Festival the past three years, he knows a little about what makes a champion grape-stomper.

As in baseball, he said, ya gotta have heart.


“There doesn’t seem to be any common denominator,” said Swanick. “I will say one thing. The more energetic you are, the more juice you’re going to squeeze out of the grapes and into the barrel.”

Size and weight don’t matter, Swanick said. Men and women, children and adults, fat folks and skinny folks have all managed to stomp their way to victory.

“The teams are very enthusiastic,” he said. “Some have T-shirts printed or come in costume. It’s really quite a spectacle.”

The fourth-annual Carlton Crush runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday in downtown Carlton and Carlton’s Upper Park. There are numerous elements, including food booths, live music, relay races and pie-eating contests.

However, the grape-stomping competition is probably the biggest draw. “It’s the signature event,” Swanick said.

Some two dozen teams of four are slated to start stomping at 1:30 p.m. and generally keep going until the various rounds of competition end three hours later.

“We still have team slots open, but we’re getting close right now,” Swanick said. “They fill up fast.”

But he said any interesting bouquet visitors sense in their wine glass does not stem from the pouring of a sample of Chateau Le Feet.

As anyone who has seen “I Love Lucy” knows, feet are a time-honored way to crush grapes for wine. Historians believe the tradition goes back at least as far as 200 B.C., when ancient Romans trampled out the vineyards.

The practice is still reportedly observed, albeit rarely, in some vineyards in Spain and Portugal. But in the United States, production of wine from grapes stomped by foot was banned long ago.

The French word “pigeage” is often seen in connection with grape stomping. However, pigeage actually means “punching down the cap,” referring to the “cap” of grape skins that float to the surface of fermentation vats.

At Carlton Crush, the aim of the grape stomping — and, indeed, the entire festival — is to raise money for local causes.

Swanick, who chaired the first three festivals, said the first two raised money for the local food bank and the third for the sponsoring Carlton Business Association, which wanted to send representatives to a business seminar in Colorado.

“This year, it’s definitely going to be a charity situation, with proceeds divided between a variety of local nonprofits,” he said.

In addition to the food bank, money will be earmarked for the new pool house planned at Carlton’s beloved city pool. Voters approved $975,000 for the project, on condition the rest be raised through local fundraising efforts like Carlton Crush.

“No matter how the money is split up, all the event’s proceeds are going back into the community,” said Swanick, who passed the chore of coordinating this year’s festival to Terry McIntyre, winemaker and vineyard manager at Stone Griffon Vineyard.

Local residents have taken pride in the event, Swanick said. “It was actually a community idea here in Carlton to really celebrate the agricultural bounty of the county, the jobs it provides, the visitors it draws in and the businesses it supports,” he said.

If You Go

The Carlton Crush Harvest Festival runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, in downtown Carlton and Upper Park. Admission and parking are free.

Schedule Of Events

All day: Food, wine, beer, craft and specialty booths.

9 a.m. Free yoga class. Vintage Ford Thunderbirds arrive at N. Kutch Street.

10 a.m. Sign-up for kids’ grape-stomping competition (ages 6 to 12).

10: 15 a.m. Kids’ grape-stomping competition.

11 a.m. Kaleb Bacchetti (live music).

11:15 a.m. Sign-up for kids’ pie-eating contest (ages 6 to 12).

11:45 a.m. Kids’ pie-eating contest.

12:30 p.m. Wine Thief Relay Race.

1:30 p.m. Grape-stomping competition (initial heats).

2:30 p.m. Wave Back (live music)

3 p.m. Grape-stomping competition (semi-finals).

4 p.m. Grape-stomping competition (grand finale).

5 p.m. Awards ceremony.

6 p.m. Franco Paletta and the Stingers (live music)

9 p.m. Festival closes.



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