These Grapes Are Made for Stomping

courtesy Irvington Stomp

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

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,

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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