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Clean Feet Make Good Wine

Have you ever seen that episode of “I Love Lucy” where Lucy gets into the vat of grapes and stomps? Many Umbra students had, but few thought they would ever take the plunge into grapes with their feet – though that’s exactly what they did this weekend. In addition to Umbra’s winetasting classes (which talk about wine from bottle to stomach), Umbra also has a winemaking class (covering wine from grape to bottle).

Saturday morning students met staff member Zach Nowak and took a short walk to the vineyard that he takes care of (with other staff member Dave Dickson) for their adventure in winemaking. The workshop started with a short lesson on the biochemistry of fermentation (with an aside to distillation) and some notes on pruning and grape selection, followed by the assignment of tasks: cleaning and washing the antique wooden press, cutting the bunches from the vines down in the vineyard, and finally, the Crush.

In a practically Biblical scene, students washed each other’s feet before taking the plunge into the cold grapes, whose juice squirted out into the bucket. The juice was drained off and the pulp added to nylon bags that were then passed to the press workers for extra pressing. After all the grapes had been pressed the students went down to the fire pit in the midst of the grape vines and had a classic Umbrian agricultural worker’s lunch: bruschetta with only extra-virgin olive oil and salt, and tasty Umbrian sausages grilled on an open fire (as well as potatoes, marinated eggplant, and bell peppers for herbivores). Staff members Tyler Pace (himself a Winemaking Workshop alum from Fall 2005) and Mauro Renna made a timely appearance for cooking lunch.Six weeks from now the students will return to the vineyard for the festival of San Martino to try their new wine, along with roasted chestnuts. Updates to follow on November 11th!

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