The endless auburn fields and early harvests remind of California or Tuscany, not the great, green Northwest.
Quaint Carlton’s mill looms iconic above Main street’s shops.
However, a brisk walk reveals that every shop, every factory, every barn, every gas station has converted into a winery tasting room or cellar.
Honestly, it’s too hot to appreciate $5 wine sampler trays. So we find the Carlton Crush Harvest Fair.
Tents with face-painting and painted canvases frame the parking lot. Sure a secluded, fenced green serves wine, and Carlton Cellars pours pleasantly free samples, but sober parents, kids, and shaved ice dominate.
We stumble upon the Wine Thief Relay. The MC announces the semi-final contestants, who brace with their tubes above barrels.
They jam them into the water-filled barrels, and then off they run.
Truly a test of only the finest winemakers. The older team surprisingly beat the younger.
Next, the festival’s namesake: The Carlton Crush.
Hornets swarm four open barrels full of this year’s (mostly disposable) harvest:
Barefeet of all ages and genders ready themselves. In teams of four, one stomps against the clock. Another desperately jabs to unclog the pipe. While the other two panic. Then they switch.
We back away from the green splatter of grape and sweat.
Wiped down. Winners and losers chosen (well done team Crazy Feet and your athletic ladies). We then wander back to the main drag to kill time before the day’s last loosely wine-related event: the barrel roll:
Youth trounces experience.
With suntan lotion fading against brutal rays, and the kid’s watermelon eating context straying from the theme, we head home.
The Carlton Crush is enjoyably ridiculous. Watching this wine-olympics, we got too caught up in the locals fighting it out, to want a drink.
Carlton has clearly sold its soul to Bacchus. This town’s fixation on wine worries me a bit (coming from the blackest kettle). Yet it has so much local pride and so few tourists today. Let them have their cake of grape skins and eat it too.
- Napa Harvest Festivals, Celebrations & Grape Stomps! (discover.winecountry.com)