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Jen’s World: Three minutes, two big feet, 6 cups of juice

September 28, 2018

I’m hearing a lot of grape talk lately. People heading to local vineyards to help pick grapes. To stomp grapes. To drink … grapes.

’Tis the (harvest) season.

In the past, I’ve been a stomper — as part of a “celebrity grape stomp event” at Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery. Then-art director Jamie Klemmensen and I made up the Rochester Magazine team, even though neither of us knew anything about stomping grapes, except for what everyone knows because of “I Love Lucy.”

We probably should’ve practiced. But instead, Jamie and I arrived at Four Daughters — about 22 miles south of Rochester — a few minutes before it was time to stomp.

Neither of us had been there before, so we spent our time scoping out the surroundings. We took in the vastness of the vineyard. Checked out the large back patio. Spotted a woman in a Marilyn Monroe costume holding a baby on her hip.

Along one side of the patio we spied a long stand holding two large wooden buckets. Jamie and I took a long hard look at what was clearly our future workspace.

Next to it, a leader board gave us a window into our competition. Mayor Brede’s name was on it. Dunken and Samm’s from KROC. Ms. Minnesota’s. The Four Daughters’ owners. Two of the four daughters. The chefs.

It seemed each two-person team paired off against a team from Four Daughters. I took a sip of the wine I ordered when we came in. “OK, now I’m nervous,” I told Jamie.

We sat at a table and checked out the competition — including the Four Daughters’ staff, many of whom were in costume. One in a wedding dress.

I turned to Jamie. “I shaved my legs below the knee for this.”

“I shaved my feet,” she said. “And I used lotion to soften the callouses.”

KROC’s Samm told the story of a YouTube video in which a reporter falls while stomping grapes, then lies on the ground yelling, “It hurts.”

The story did not inspire confidence.

“Do you have a strategy?” I asked Dunken.

“I’m training for a marathon and Samm has big feet,” he said.

“Jamie has big feet!” I yelled.

“I do,” she agreed.

The program began. The emcee told us that each team had three minutes to produce as much grape juice as possible. While one stomped, the other was to hold the pitcher below the spigot, where the juice comes out.

“Steve looked up strategy,” Jamie whispered to me. “He says we’re supposed to push the grapes toward the edges.”

“I can do that,” I said, taking a sip of my wine.

Then it was our turn. I got in the bucket first. The grapes were cool against my feet. I held the rail. And, when given the word, I shuffled, stomped and stepped like nobody’s business.

I pushed against the edges, pulled the crushed grapes to the drain at the bottom.

“Stomp harder!” Jamie yelled. “Nothing’s coming out!”

I looked to our competition. Juice was pouring from their spigot.

“I’m stomping!” I yelled.

“I don’t think you weigh enough!” Jamie said.

The vineyard manager walked over and reached under our bucket. Pulled the cork from the spigot. Grape juice gushed into our pitcher.

Huh. That would make a difference.

“Switch!” said the emcee. I jumped out of the bucket and grabbed the pitcher. Jamie hopped in — though instead of grapes, she was left to stomp what now felt like applesauce. Grape juice splashed on my face, my arms, my hair.

Still, in the end, Jamie and I managed to stomp 1.5 liters of juice from those grapes. Our competitors? 1.8 liters.

Dunken and Samm were up next, against Vicky and Gary Vogt — Four Daughters’ owners. Vicky wore a wedding dress. Gary was in a crazy-haired wig. That didn’t seem to give them the advantage, though, because Dunken and Samm managed 2.3 liters of juice, making the finals and going up against the chefs for the win.

“They must’ve had juicier grapes,” I told Jamie.

“Size 11s, baby!” said Samm.

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