LONG WEEKEND

These Grapes Are Made for Stomping

A family-friendly wine stomping competition and harvest festival returns to Irvington, Virginia, this Labor Day weekend.

By Kate Appleton, Wednesday, Aug 22, 2007, 8:54 AM

(courtesy Irvington Stomp)

The White Fences Vineyard, whose six acres crawl with vinifera and French American hybrid vines, sets aside barrels of grapes each year for an old-fashioned stomping competition and harvest festival. Dubbed the Irvington Stomp, the event takes place on September 1 in the laid-back town of Irvington in Virginia's Northern Neck, about three hours south of D.C. and an hour-and-a-half east of Richmond.

Kids and parents climb right into the oversize barrels and get stomping--the most enthusiastic stompers, as determined by three judges, are crowned king and queen. Participants can even stamp their juice-soaked feet on T-shirts, which are then sold as souvenirs for $15-20 (the juice itself gets dumped).

A maize maze, hayrides, a petting zoo, and a kite show keep kids happy, while parents can sample White Fences' award-winning wines throughout the day: $3 tastings until 3 P.M. when the event begins; wine by the glass from $5; and wine bottles from $17.

Local shops Trick Dog Café and The Local, known for its homemade ice cream, supply the snacks, and Virginia-based musician Robbin Thomson, who once sang in Bruce Springsteen's band Steel Mill, performs at 6 P.M. Sept. 1, 2007; $10 adults, $5 children ages 5-16, children under 5 are free. Tickets are sold at the gate. 804/438-5559, irvingtonstomp.com.

The Irvington Stomp may only last a day, but the town makes a great base for a long weekend's worth of exploration. Historic sites like Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and Stratford Hall (the well-preserved plantation where Robert E. Lee was born) are within an hour's drive, and boats make daily trips to Tangier, a tiny island smack in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. For more inspiration, read our recent road trip story about Virginia's Northern Neck.

Where to Stay: We did some investigating and found a few area hotels that still have availability over Labor Day weekend; note that they all require a three-night minimum stay.

Holiday Inn Express, located about three miles away in Kilmarnock, Va., has an outdoor pool, wireless Internet access, and modest rooms starting at $139 per night.

• Adjacent to the White Fences Vineyard, the Hope and Glory Inn is a winsome schoolhouse dating to 1890. It has seven individually decorated rooms, starting at $195 per night, as well as cottages, neatly manicured gardens, and a pool.

• The upscale Tides Inn--better described as a resort complete with a spa, golf course, and shops--spans a peninsula jutting into the bay. Rooms start at $325, or $350 for a room with a balcony.

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