This weekend, October 8-9, is the 20th Annual Italian Heritage Days in Walla Walla. One of the popular events have been the "Grape Stomp." A competition with prizes going to the top three teams squishing the most amount of grape juice. This year the "Stomp" is sponsored by Ste. Michelle Wine & Estates. One year my sister was part of a team. Caren wore the "purple badge of honor" besides slipping on her butt a few times. Other events include, bocce' ball, biscotti bake-off, red pasta sauce contest and of course the food!
It is only fitting to celebrate the rich Italian heritage in the Valley. In the late 1800's, the first Italian farmers came to the Walla Walla Valley and began developing truck gardens. Out of some of those gardens came the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion and the first vineyards in our region. Fort Walla Walla Museum tells the story of our first vineyards, including a small working vineyard that is managed as if still in a time warp of the late 1800's. The grapes are Cinsault and were also known to the Italians as "Black Prince." One summer, I "managed" the vineyard under the guidance of wine guru, Stan Clarke. Did we make wine? No, the birds got to the grapes before we did. Cin cin!