For most people, autumn means changing leaves, apple picking, pumpkin carving and cool air that takes over for the summer heat. But for those in the wine industry, it means that it’s time for “Crush.” In the Northern Hemisphere, grapes grow perennially and are harvested in the fall. When those grapes are picked from the vineyard and sent to the winery, they are crushed and destemmed on the crushpad and sent inside to begin vinification for a new vintage of wine.
Like vineyards and wineries around the world, “Crush” is almost a season by itself. The end of the harvest meets the start of winemaking, and it’s one of the most celebrated times of the year in wine country.
The folks at Seven Birches Winery, located at Loon Mountain, N.H., have taken this notion to a new level with their “White Mountains Crush Festival” held at the end of October. This year, they are marking the fourth anniversary of what has become a pinnacle event in the White Mountains on the weekend of Oct. 25-27.
If you’ve ever seen the iconic skit of Lucile Ball stomping grapes and getting into a grape fight on her “I Love Lucy” episode, then you get the idea. The main event of this festival is the “Big Feet Grape Stomp.” People of all ages roll up their pant legs and stomp like Lucy. In and around the stomp are plenty of wine tastings, winery tours, entertainment, educational seminars and food pairings. The entire weekend is centered around this celebration of the harvest, and the start of a new vintage.
In traditional European vineyards, particularly in France and Italy, the grape harvest is one of the most sacred and celebrated times of year. The vines are hand-picked, the grapes are lugged up the vineyard row and brought to the central winery, where they get processed. It took whole villages to pick the grapes and bring in the bounty; a tremendous effort. Big farm dinners would culminate each harvest day with a larger, more celebratory (read: wine-infused) feast at the end of the picking season. Seven Birches Winery recreates this concept annually at the White Mountains Crush Festival.
The majority of the events are held at the winery, located inside RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. And the majority of the activity is held on the Saturday; this year, Oct. 26. It starts off with educational workshops to satisfy your thirst for wine knowledge, followed by winery tours that are both educational and entertaining. The stomp, picnic and entertainment all begin outside midday, while other wine tasting and imbibing take place. Just like in those European vineyards, it culminates with a wine dinner celebration on Saturday night.
All of this takes place at the end of October, when the air is crisp and clean and the mountains are adorned with their autumnal colors. There’s something magical about this time of year, called Crush. For more information on the White Mountains Crush Festival, check out the event website, www.whitemtnscrush.com.