Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Grape Stomping Time at Four Sisters Winery

At Four Sisters Winery they're stomping grapes...and now you can too!!!! Here's a great article from the Herald News (New Jersey about the winery and the events)...

A grape day at a Warren County winery
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
HERALD NEWS (New Jersey)

Mention grape stomping, and images of Lucille Ball up to her knees in grape juice pop into my head. Apparently, I'm not the only one who associates the two.

"Come on Lucy!" cried one man as Joe Martucci of Hackensack removed his socks and stepped into a small wooden tub that held bunches of red grapes, still on their stems.

Martucci was the first to take the plunge at the Barefoot Grape Stompin' event at Four Sisters Winery in Warren County. The rest of us waited to see his reaction. When his feet emerged stained with very little purple, others deemed it safe enough to try.

When my turn rolled around, I gathered my skirt and began hopping around the wooden tub, knees high and toes squishing, trying to imitate the scowling Italian woman who shared the tub of grapes with Lucy. This was a bad idea. I felt my feet slipping, and I pictured myself losing my balance and falling backwards onto the edge of the tub and then the concrete slab beneath it. Given my history of tripping on stairs and falling off bikes, I chose the tamer route of lifting my feet just a few inches before returning them carefully to the grapes.

"I'm happy we don't have to do this for a living, because it's not easy," said Craig Hosbach, the resident winemaker. And he was right. We stomped and stomped, yet we made little progress. According to Hosbach, each of the 20 attendees would have had to stomp vigorously for two minutes to squeeze all the juice from just those few bunches of grapes.

I had a few questions I'd meant to ask, even before I set foot on the winery: Back when grapes were actually crushed this way, what happened when feet (generally not the cleanest of body parts) are less than sterile? Are stompers' feet inspected prior to a session with the grapes?

The answer both reassures and turns the stomach.

"Fermentation kills everything, so it's okay if you happen to have some weird fungus on your feet," Hosbach said. "Nothing can survive in an 11-percent alcohol environment."

Alcohol or no alcohol, I'd still want fungus-free grape stompers making my wine. Luckily, grape stomping events nowadays are mostly nostalgic affairs, traditionally held to celebrate the harvest. The grapes that eventually become wine are poured into large metal contraptions that de-stem, seed and crush all at once.

Valerie Tishuk, the president and events coordinator of Four Sisters Winery, said the winery has been hosting grape-stomping events for more than 20 years. In the summer, $45 buys a visitor lunch, a wine-tasting seminar and a tour of the vineyard and production area. In the fall, visitors are invited, for free, to stomp a few of the grapes harvested from the vineyard after sampling wines.

"It's a little bit of nostalgia for people. It's how wine was crushed years ago," she said, adding that many want to re-enact the scene from that memorable "I Love Lucy" episode.

The Four Sisters Winery opened in 1984, three years after Robert "Matty" Mattarazzo planted grapes on his 250-acre farm in Belvidere, just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. He and his wife hoped the winery would eventually pay for their four daughters' educations. We learned during lunch that the youngest just received her degree. That sure sounded like success to me.

They still grow some fruits, vegetables and flowers, but they've devoted most of their efforts to the wines: 10,000 gallons each year of reds, whites, fruit wines, roses, port and a sparkling wine. They're made from Niagara grapes, which are native to the area, and French-American hybrids, which grew better than the vinifera grapes popular in California.

The wines flowed during lunch, as Tishuk circled the room, filling glasses with a different wine every few minutes. We learned to swirl, smell, sip, swish and spit, in that order. We sniffed bouquets and looked for "legs" in the wine, the bits of liquid that streak down the side of the glass following a good swishing. My tablemates and I happily skipped the last step in the tasting process, the spitting, and downed each wine before the next round came, until we feared risking serious intoxication.

Some we liked, others not so well. We were about to write off a chambourcin until Tishuk suggested tasting it after a few bites of food. Murmurs of surprise floated around the room, as diners sipped what tasted like a different wine. Not everyone, however, was pleased.

"I don't like this one, no matter what I eat," said Clarke DeBlasio, of Califon, pouring his serving into the spit cup at the center of the table.

Hosbach, the winemaker, led the tour through the process of making those wines, from the grapes on the vine -- which, at this time of year, are about pinhead size -- to the large vats of fermenting juice. While we stomped grapes, he mentioned that he's just 27 years old.

After a bit of prying, I learned that he's a computer science major who decided to take a beginner's winemaking course at a vineyard in Virginia before apprenticing at Four Sisters. Mostly, he's learned on the job, through trial and error. We pestered him with questions, amazed that someone could learn so quickly how to produce good wines.

I made sure to get the name of that winery in Virginia.


Four Sisters Winery is holding two more grape stomping events this summer, on July 7 and July 22, from 7 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person plus tax, and they include wine tasting, a wine-cellar tour, a buffet-style dinner, and, of course, grape stomping.

For more information, call the winery at 908-475-3671. The Four Sisters Winery is located at 783 County Route 519 in Belvidere, just six miles north of Interstate 80 exit 12.

Reach Carolina Bolado at 973-569-7066 or

Here are more events at Four Sisters:

July 7 - Barefoot Grape Stomping Party
“O h, L u c y!” Now, Open-to-the-Public! 7-9:30pm - If you’ve ever seen that famous “I Love Lucy” episode with Lucy stomping grapes, here’s your chance to actually experience it . . . Roll up your pants… and take off your shoes and socks! Willing guests will have the opportunity to experience the old-fashioned way of crushing grapes. Wine tasting, hot/cold buffet, wine cellar tour and “Barefoot Grape Stomping”. It’s barrels of fun and an experience to remember! $45 per person, plus tax. Reservations and full payment is required.

July 15 - Murder Mystery - 7-9:30pm
It’s the classic case of “Who Done It?!” Attend Four Sisters Winery’s Murder Mystery Dinner for a night of suspense. Guided by clues throughout dinner, your character will role-play and try to solve the case. To make your detective’s journey even more enjoyable, dine on tasty food and extraordinary wines. $45 per person, plus tax. Reservations and full payment are required.

July 22 - Barefoot Grape Stomping
Open-to-the-Public! 7- 9:30pm Have a grape stomping’ good time! It’s the barefoot massage of a lifetime with a formal wine tasting, hot/cold buffet wine cellar tour and “Barefoot Grape Stomping”. It’s an experience to remember and barrels of fun! Cost: $45 per person, plus tax. Reservations and full payment is required.

July 29 - Comedy, Dinner & Wine - 7-10pm
There’s nothing better than a night of excellent wine, delicious dinner, and hysterical comedy. Enjoy a five-course meal with a selected wine for each course, while a comedian entertains you with their side-splitting one-liners and hilarious stories. $60 per person, plus tax Reservations and full payment is required. Great night to book Doe Hollow Bed and Breakfast and have a fun and relaxing weekend.

August 5 & 6 - Family Fun Days - 10am-5pm
Come one, come all to Family Fun Day at Four Sisters Winery and Matarazzo Farms held on August 5 & 6. A day on the farm incorporates tractor-drawn hayrides, corn maze, wine tasting, vineyard and wine cellar tours, barefoot grape stomping, candy in the haystack, watermelon seed spitting contest, fresh-from-the-oven, pies, cookies and muffins. Live Music! Food at additional cost at our tent and in the market area.

The cost is $7 ages 21+; $4 ages 11—20; 10 and under are FREE. Includes all activities except food and wine.

For information call 908-475-3671.

August 11 - Barefoot Grape Stomping
Open-to-the-Public! 7- 9:30pm Have a grape stomping’ good time! It’s the barefoot massage of a lifetime with a formal wine tasting, hot/cold buffet wine cellar tour and “Barefoot Grape Stomping”. It’s an experience to remember and barrels of fun! Cost: $45 per person, plus tax. Reservations and full payment is required.

Stay at Doe Hollow Bed and Breakfast and make it a great gift for that special someone!

August 19! HomeGrownRadioNJ and Four Sisters Winery in Belvidere, NJ will be hosting the HomeGrown Wine & Music Fest Saturday August 19th from 11 am till 9pm. The family friendly festival offers music for lovers of rock, jazz, jams, folk, brit pop, and world beat. For complete information click here homegrownradionj_wine__music_fe.htm