Martha Clara Vineyards hosts annual grape stomping party

Mila Almeida and Janyll Pisani both of Sound Beach channel the spirits of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz at the fifth annual Martha Clara Vineyards Grape Stomp on Sunday.

If anyone was wondering whether or not the end results of the Martha Clara Vineyards grape stomping party are used to make the winery’s Northville Red or Northern Solstice Rosé, winemaker and general manager Juan Micieli-Martinez has an answer for you.

“Only for the reserves,” Micieli-Martinez said, referring to the winery’s higher quality vintages.

The winemaker stressed he was kidding, of course, but guests at the Riverhead vineyard last weekend rolled up their pant legs and made grape juice the old fashioned way.

Dozens of wine lovers and newcomers alike visited the winery Sunday for the stomping of the grapes, an annual party that celebrates the harvest and lets guests have a bit of fun. 

Today the wine we drink is mechanically macerated, though the stomping experience harkens back to an ancient tradition and evokes the romance commonly associated with vineyard life. Although archeologists have discovered a 6,000-year-old wine press in Armenia, ancient Egyptian images also depict people stomping on grapes.

A group of grape stompers pose for a photo with Martha Clara winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez (center).

A group of grape stompers pose for a photo with Martha Clara winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez (center). (Credit: Vera Chinese)

One hundred twenty people paid $40 for the privilege of attending the sold out Martha Clara event, a fee that earned them a glass of wine, lunch and live music by Eastbound Freight.

About a ton of merlot and chardonnay were distributed among four large buckets for people to stomp and pose for photos with the winemaker. It can also be oddly therapeutic.

“I say it’s kind of like stepping on caviar,” Micieli-Martinez said. “You see some people, they’re just having a blast. It’s a bucket list item for a lot of people.”

That’s exactly what brought out Mila Almeida and Janell Pisani of Sound Beach, two friends who dressed in costumes similar to the ones worn by Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in the iconic grape stomping episode of “I Love Lucy.”

“We’re Lucy and Ethel,” Pisani said, as the women do-si-doed in the vat. “That’s our friendship.”

Diamond Holmes of Whitestone, Queens and Boris Paghiev of Weehawken, N.J. lift some merloy grapes with their feet.

Diamond Holmes of Whitestone, Queens and Boris Paghiev of Weehawken, N.J. lift some merloy grapes with their feet. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Both admitted that they had never been to a vineyard before, but were savoring the experience and the wine.

“It was delicious,” Almeida said.

Maria Lavalle of Scarsdale said Martha Clara is her favorite winery and she enjoyed the sensation of squished grapes underneath her toes.

“It felt cool, like invigorating,” LaValle said.

The grapes can leave a sticky, sugary residue, which is why wine club member Bobby Roman of Levittown made quick use of a nearby hose after stomping.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ll do it every year I am capable.”

For others who had never visited a Long Island vineyard, the event served as an introduction to the region’s wine.

“I was looking for apple picking and somehow wine got into the mix,” said Diamond Holmes of Whitestone.

Martha Clara wine club member Bobby Roman of Levittown hoses off after stomping grapes.

Martha Clara wine club member Bobby Roman of Levittown hoses off after stomping grapes. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Top Photo: Mila Almeida and Janyll Pisani both of Sound Beach channel the spirits of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz at the fifth annual Martha Clara Vineyards Grape Stomp on Sunday. (Credit: Vera Chinese)