September 28, 2010

The North East Wine Harvest Festival!

     Well, I finally made it to Wine Fest this year! I've known my husband for nine years and we have never made it to North East for this special event...but this year we live here, so we had no excuse! The weather was supposed to be worse, but thankfully, we chose the right day to venture out. It had been back in the 80s the entire week, but Saturday, clouds funneled in and the temperature didn't crack 60! It was beautiful fall weather, perfect for a harvest festival!

Some beautiful local grapes!
     There were two spots for the fun. Gibson Park, right in the middle of North East, was full of local crafters, food venders, and people enjoying the day. Gravel Pit Park, only about a half mile down the road on the edge of town, was the place to be for wine tasting, fine art and crafts, live music, and loads of food. I was good...I shared a small fried grape pie with my hubby. I decided to forgo the funnel cake this time. Nothing tastes as good as thin feels, right? I ended up with a small hot dog and fries though, because you simply can not eat healthfully at a fair. You just can't. Anyway...on to the grapes!

     Here in North East, we are known for GRAPES! There are vineyards everywhere. You really can't turn around without seeing one! During the harvest, the air is heavy with the smell of grapes of every sort. And that is intertwined with the smell of pears and apples as well. This town is like a huge fruit basket, really!  Speaking of...this was just one of the fruit offerings at the festival. So pretty!

     We had loads of fun walking through the crafts, looking at the award winning wines. But there was only one thing I really wanted to do. I wanted to stomp some grapes! My hubby had told me for years that they offered this opportunity at Wine Fest, but we never made it. So this year, I was on a quest. I even wore a skirt so I won't have to roll up my jeans... I was prepared! My fantastically imaginative brain had this huge scene all worked out. If you have ever seen A Walk in the Clouds, you all know what I mean! I could just see a huge barrel with thousands of grapes just waiting for a group of people to jump in. Well, it was a little different than that. There were two modest barrels, maybe big enough for two people.

     And there were loads of people in line. I'm not pushy, so when I was cut in line by like, twenty kids under the age of 10, I bit my tongue, watched, and quietly moved to the shorter line for the second barrel. (Don't worry, the rant about the lack of manners today will be saved for another time.)
     It was SO much fun once I got in the barrel. I was even cheered on by the crowd for not holding onto the railing! I can't really explain what it felt like. All I can really say is that it felt like cold jelly...well, preserves I guess, because of the bigger, un-squished pieces!

     I had a blast, and now I can mark this off my bucket list! After I washed off my feet, we returned to watch more people take their turn squishing and squashing. You couldn't stand too close...some of the participants really wanted to make it more like a theme park ride and were intent on getting grapes on everyone!

     The last few ladies were hilarious though...making Lucille Ball references and the like! They were doing so well that the MC asked them to get in a bucket together and have a little friendly competition with the Erie County Apple Princess! They got quite a work out, and let's just say they beat some Apple Princess butt! They were so awesome, I had to get their picture after their victory!

Montrae and Eileene after their victory over the Apple Princess!
     After walking around both parks most of the day, we decided to hit the closest winery to our house...we didn't really want to get on the shuttle with people who'd been tasting for hours, if you know what I mean. I don't drink, so it was my hubby that was looking forward to the tour. We actually made out better than tasting at the festival! They were selling tokens for $1 for a one ounce taste. Well, the South Shore Winery (sister winery of our favorite Mazza Vineyards!) was offering five different wines to taste for the same dollar! Plus you got the fun of listening to the lady teach you about different wines and their individual qualities.

     Yes, she has corks for earrings. I loved them. A lot. And haven't had too much drink, that is a walking bunch of grapes pouring the wine. I'm sure that got some of the more tipsy tasters! The hubby likes sweet reds, but he gave a few dry selections a try. The tour guides before the tasting had told us their best selling bottle of the weekend was the Honey Mead. We were intrigued. Luckily, the Honey Mead was on the tasting list! It, in fact, was one of my hubby's favorites that we will have to return for at a later time.

     My favorite part of the tour was the building. The owners bought the house and, just a few years ago, discovered that there was a cellar underneath completely filled with dirt! After excavating, they discovered a beautiful cellar and it's dated back to the 1860s! It was breathtaking, and I honestly can't believe it's only a half mile from my house! You can read more about the history here.
     So needless to say, ending at The South Shore Winery and seeing the cellar was the highlight of the day. Besides the grape stomping of course! OH! And I can't close without sharing this... nothing like a little dry wine humor (ha ha, get it, dry?!)...

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