BARODA — The 10th annual Grape Stomp at Baroda Founders Wine Cellar began with a toast to the late Len Olson (who passed away in December of 2014).
“If it wasn’t for him this wouldn’t all be happening,” said DeVino James, who served as emcee and scorekeeper for the fun-filled competition held Saturday, Sept. 7.
Julie Olson of the “Chugging Sluggers” Grape Stomp team that was in the middle of the action at the Grape Stomp is the daughter of Len (and sister of Baroda Founders owner Gunnar Olson).
“Wendy (Rennaker, a teammate who was celebrating her birthday on Sept. 7) and I did this back at Tabor Hill when we were in high school,” Julie said.
She noted that her father founded the grape stomping contest at Tabor Hill Winery in the 1970s before bringing it to Founders.
Also on the Chugging Sluggers roster were Amber Svoboda and Leo Rodriguez. The team’s jerseys bore slogans such as “Who’s on Thirst?” and “I Don’t Pinot.”
Many of the teams were in costume, including the apparent alien abductees of the Space Cadet Bone Spurs and the Bonettes group and the more subtle fox ears and tails look of the Voluptious Vineyard Vixens.
“We can shake our tails while we stomp,” said Kari Puckett of the Vixens, who noted that the squad (which also included Dona Maynard, Nancy Mensinger and Penny Libertowski) had finished second in 2018.
“We came back to avenge ourselves.”
Each member of the 20-odd teams stomped for a minute. Grape juice accumulates into a pair of grey bins underneath the wooden barrel. at the end of each round the juice is poured into five-gallon buckets (by team members) to be measured. Hosing off the grape debris from legs and feet was all but mandatory after each round.
“It was exhausting. There was a lot of sweeping and pushing and jumping and stuff. It was awesome!” said Kathleen Hoffman of the Got Grapes squad after taking a turn in the barrel (her teammates were Megan Boehm, Bob Valencic and Ashley Rodriguez).
Other Grape Stomp team names included: The Lucy Crew; One Last Sirah; The St. Joe Stompers; Shy Town; Stomp Yer Wine; He Had Her at Merlot; and the Cheeseheads. Gunnar Olson said it was “the most teams we’ve had in a while.”
The top three squads (The Freaky Feaks, Got Grapes and St. Joe Stompers) then had a stomp-off, and even that round ended in a tie at 29 1/2 inches of juice, leading to a one-on-one battle between Megan Boehm of Got Grapes and Scott Gephart of the Stompers.
In the end the St. Joe Stompers prevailed by half an inch of grape juice, with each stomper getting a bottle of Baroda Founders wine.
The first-place group gave much of the credit to their “boat” sized feet (Size 15 for Gephart; Dan Rush’s Size 13s; Kevin Cichon’s size 11 feet and Andy Cottier’s 10 1/2s).
The Costume Award (also rewarded with vino) went to the Alien bedecked Space Cadet Bone Spurs and the Bonettes team.