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Grape-stomping party planned for RGNY vineyard in Riverhead

Sauvignon blanc grapes growing on the grounds of

Sauvignon blanc grapes growing on the grounds of what's now RGNY vineyard in Riverhead. Photo Credit: Newsday/Bill Davis

If there’s a workout that can de-stress, exfoliate, make you giggle and serve a purpose all at once, it’s stomping grapes. The cool juice running between your toes, the grapes turning to pulp as you gently (or aggressively) tread them with your feet — it can feel both strange and elemental.

On Sunday, Sept. 15, in the midst of the fall harvest on the North Fork, RGNY in Riverhead will supply the grapes, vats and provisions for a stomp party at the 205-acre vineyard known as Martha Clara Vineyards until it was purchased by the Rivero Gonzalez family in 2018.

“What we’re aiming for is to get people out here while the fields are beautiful and in between harvests,” says Maria Rivero Gonzalez, chief executive of the winery and a member of the Rivero Gonzalez family, who also own vineyards and pecan farms in the Coahuila region of Mexico, one of the oldest winemaking regions in North America.

WHY STOMP?

Long before Lucille Ball had a grape-vat catfight during a scene from “I Love Lucy,” crushing fruit with your feet was a time-honored way to release their juices and tannins, a practice that stretches back to at least the wine-swilling Romans. Foot treading has petered out over time in favor of more modern, finessed, efficient (and, well, sterile) presses, but still persists in parts of Europe, amongst some smaller wine producers and as a ceremonial harvest ritual, as at RGNY (Search #stompgrapes on Instagram for a glimpse).

The winery staff has not determined which grapes will be given to visitors, Rivero Gonzalez says, but they will likely be red, perhaps clusters of the cabernet sauvignon or merlot grown here. (Cabernet franc, viognier and pinot noir are also planted). The stomp party may also coincide with the release of some red wines from RGNY's 2018 vintage, the first under RGNY winemaker Lilia Perez.

"We have drastically changed the winemaking, reducing significantly the [number of] styles," Rivero Gonzalez said. "We may have less styles but we're better at those, and we're not trying to force the wine to be something it is not."

MAKINGS OF A PARTY

Each $80 ticket earns the holder a picnic basket filled with a sandwich, salad and chips from Lombardi’s Love Lane Market in Mattituck, plus a bottle of RGNY wine. (Among RGNY's 2018 line are two sparkling wines — one of them a sparkling rosé — as well as a white merlot, a still rosé and a handful of reds). "We’ll also have some cheese plates and other surprises,” says Rivero Gonzalez, and there will be live music during the event. Visitors can take tractor tours of the vineyard, and bicycles will be on hand as well. 

While the stomping will happen under a tent, visitors will be free to wander the property — the Entenmann house will be open for the day — and Rivero Gonzalez recommends bringing along towels “and some water, to freshen your feet,” she said. Keep in mind, though, that there's a chance your clothes may get stained. It is red grape juice, after all. “Maybe no longer dresses, or pants that you love,” she said.

And, just in case you were wondering, the free-flowing juices will not end up in the 2019 vintage.

RGNY Stomp Party

WHEN | WHERE 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15 at RGNY, 6133 Sound Ave., Riverhead.

INFO 631-298-0075, rgnywine.com

ADMISSION $80 ($25 younger than 18)

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