Stomping on Grapes

Chinchon, Spain

Chinchón, Spain

Persuaded by the prospect of crushing grapes and a free lunch (Hey, who said there’s no such thing?), I just couldn’t wait for the infamous wine outing. I’ve heard stories about this company-sponsored afternoon. Past International Recruits, like myself, have had one glass (or several glasses) too many and posed for scandalous photos that later surfaced on Facebook. There’s just something about drinking with your boss and your boss’s boss that is terrifying and exciting at the same time. Having a good rapport with all of my jefes (bosses) relieved me of these anxieties and let me enjoy what would otherwise be a bit risqué in my home country.

Grape Fields

This boozy Saturday afternoon started long before the manchego cheese and olives were being passed around the table. The bus dropped us off in a small village 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Madrid called Colmenar de Oreja, what appeared to be a quaint town in the-middle-of-nowhere. Here we met the proprietors of the vineyard and were handed grape-vine-cutting gizmos and heavy rubber baskets. After a quick demonstration about the variety of grapes growing in this field – these green ones are used to make a type of white wine – and harvesting technique, we were all divided into groups and challenged to collect the most grapes.

Ready.  Set.  Go.

Grape Sampling

The first brave compañera to try a grape

We were off, and unlike any disciplined field hand, I allowed curiosity get the better of me and I tasted a grape. I was shocked. While expecting it to be bitter or tough, likely not fit to be eaten raw, I found this little sampling delectable. Fresh off the vine, it was a sweet, crisp, and delicious morsel, the fruit of warm Spanish sunshine and rocky soil.

Grapes on Vine

Picking Grapes

Holding a raw bottle of white wine

I sampled a few more of the freshest grapes of my life before realizing that my teammates were struggling to fill our basket while other teams’ baskets started overflowing. Well, I learned that I’m not cut out for a career in grape harvesting, but I wasn’t about to give up yet as wine maker and taster, which are more up my alley.

Solera Bodegas Sign

From the fields we traveled a short distance to the winery at Solera Bodegas where we were met with simple, yet exquisitely set tables prepared for La Comida, the big afternoon meal. But before the feast and wine ‘tasting’ underneath the shady veranda, it was only appropriate to learn how those luscious green grapes magically transform into vino blanco (white wine).

Old School Wine Making

Old School Wine Making Tools

The tools and equipment have changed drastically over the years. It was intriguing to see the wooden, old school equipment in contrast to modern day technology. Even though the tubes and piping made it look like some wild science experiment, the folks at Solera maintain a small operation and stay close to tradition, apparent by the giant clay vats that have been used for over a century.

Wine Cave

In the depths of a wine cave – So cool!

Inside Wine Barrel

Wine Barrel

Cold, wet, squishy, and a much more difficult job that you would think, I started to feel nostalgic while stomping on the bright green and surprisingly firm grapes. That’s because this reminded me of the iconic I Love Lucy episode. With the grapes sufficiently stomped and having worked up an appetite, we could finally enjoy the fruits of our labor.


Image Source

Stomping on Grapes

No grape-throwing Italians here, just good friends

Foot close-up

Like most Europeans, the Spanish have a high regard for wine and wine making. I think that wine is most eloquently described in this quote by Ernest Hemmingway:

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing. —Death in the Afternoon, 1932

La Comida

Glass of Vino


Have you every tasted a Spanish wine or tried your hand at wine making? How was it?


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18 Responses to Stomping on Grapes

  1. Anne August 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Wine, manchego, and stomping? Where do I sign up?! Thanks for this fun read!

    • Ryan August 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

      I know! This is probably one of the best things I did in Spain.

  2. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds August 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    WHAT?!!? YOU GOT TO STOMP GRAPES WITH YOUR WORK? All I ever got to do with my school is hike to a hermitage and eat some blood sausage. Switch lives with me?
    Also I loved your caption on one of the pics—holding a bottle of raw white wine, too perfect.

    • Ryan August 4, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      Mmmm blood sausage! I was lucky that my company planned some really cool outings for the International Recruits program. I would gladly live in SF for the time being 😉

  3. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer August 3, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    I have tried many a Spanish wine (it is one of my favorite things after all…) but I have not crushed them with my feet! I would love to do that though 😀 Looks like so much fun (and good thing there were no Italians pushing grapes in your face!)

    • Ryan August 4, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      ‘Vino tinto’ is by far one of my favorite Spanish words lol. During my last few months in Madrid, however, I developed a taste for cerveza, although I’m by no means a beer drinker – so strange! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. Susan August 3, 2014 at 6:33 am #

    This looks like so much fun!! Love cool wet and squishy things!! Next time invite all of us!

    • Ryan August 4, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      Susan, if you happen to be in Spain this fall, I promise we’ll squish some grapes…and then drink a copious amount of vino.

  5. Kristin August 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    This looks like my ideal day, it looks like you had a blast. I love Spanish wine and manchego is one of my favorite cheeses (best with a little quinc paste).

    • Ryan August 4, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Kristin, I’ll have to give that a try! I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

  6. Mindi @ 2foodtrippers August 3, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    I’ve been to Napa during harvest season, but this looks like way more fun. What a great experience!

    • Ryan August 4, 2014 at 10:10 am #

      It really was one of those ‘Is this for real?’ kind of days. Felt a bit like being on a reality show.

  7. Nick (Nick's Travel Bug) August 5, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    That looks like so much fun! Who knew making wine could be such a great experience.

    • Ryan August 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Yes! Only second to wine drinking 😉

  8. rebecca webb October 14, 2014 at 4:25 am #

    Ryan… you did a beautiful job putting this together. Thanks! You are a master of design.

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      Thank you Rebecca! This means so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Laura April 7, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Do you know if the place you had the grape picking/stomping experience has official tours or if it was only for your work? A friend and I are planning a trip to Spain in the fall and have this on our bucket list! Any insights you may have would be helpful!!

    Thank you!


  1. Cultural Xplorer -Meet the Blogger: Ryan of Urban Serenity - November 19, 2014

    […] particularly love Stomping on Grapes which brought back nostalgic memories of the I Love Lucy episode where Lucille Ball gets in a brawl […]

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