Winefest a foot-stomping good time

Priscilla Smith of Houston dances with her seven-year-old neice Grace Smith of Grand Junction as the two share a barrel while stomping grapes to the German melodies of Alpine Echo at the Colorado Mountain Winefest Saturday.

“Slippery,” “squishy” and “juicy” are the words Barbara Magill and Joanne Peterson used to describe the sensation of stomping grapes.

The pair stepped in wooden buckets filled with green grapes Saturday afternoon during a grape-stomping event at the 18th annual Colorado Mountain Winefest in Palisade. Stompers liquefied grapes to the sound of live accordion polka songs. Some wore Bavarian hats. A few posed for pictures with grapevines stuck between their toes.

When the polka stopped, Peterson and Magill washed their feet in plastic water buckets.

“I never thought I’d be stomping grapes in Palisade, Colorado,” said Peterson, of Rhode Island. “I tried to look at the mountains the whole time to get the full effect.”

Peterson has been visiting   Magill, who lives in Boulder.

“The added benefit is we got to yodel while we (stomped grapes),” Magill said.

Festivalgoers stopped at booths representing 53 wineries. Some of the wine samples were poured through a “luge,” which is an ice sculpture shaped like a bunch of grapes.

Robert Meitzer, a Denver chef, helped create the ice luge and assisted in carving the ice serving bar which the luge rested upon.

“A lot of it’s really for show,” Meitzer said of the luge. “It’s a fun art.”

Meitzer said he started ice carving 18 years ago because it “got me out of the hot kitchen.” He teaches classes on ice sculpting and often serves white and red wine through the luge.

“Champagne doesn’t work very well because of the bubbles,” he said.

This year, 62 VIP ticket holders at Winefest had seats under a tent and a catered meal, while 6,000 general admission ticket holders wandered the grounds sipping samples, noshing on cheese plates and baguettes and visiting vendors of pottery, cloth, and other items.

Winefest Director Sarah Catlin estimated the park was filled almost to its 7,000-person capacity limit Saturday between ticket holders, vendors and volunteers. General admission ticket sales decreased a bit from last year’s 6,200 level. But a new offering — a boxed lunch — sold 700 tickets this year.

Ticket sales will help benefit the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology. CAVE uses the money to help “make wine better” in Colorado,
Catlin said. The education has paid off, she said.

“Colorado wines are really coming to the forefront,” Catlin said.


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