Vendemmia” or the grape harvest festival is another annual community
event held to celebrate Italian culture, this time the festivities surround
the traditional art of winemaking. The article below was originally
published in the October 2001 issue of Il Postino.
Vendemmia: A Celebration of Italian Winemaking
September 21st and 23rd “La Vendemmia,” the 5th annual
Grape Harvest Festival, took place in Ottawa’s “Little
Italy.” The weekend showcased the hugely popular grape-stomping
competition, a tour of some local winemakers and various opportunities
to indulge in harvest foods and wines.
Photo: Joe Cotroneo
On September 21st participants in
the festival were given the opportunity to witness the winemaking
process at Preston Hardware’s grape warehouse. During Preston
Hardware’s harvest season, the winemaking process consumes
over 20,000 crates of California’s finest grapes.
following day a tour of “Little Italy” gardens, grapevines
and winemaking facilities took place. The participants were given
a history of St. Anthony’s
Church, including its importance to the Italian community. The
tour continued to the backyard of the Pietrontonio’s, where
Joe Pietrontonio had transformed his garage into his own private winemaking
facility. Guests were allowed to view the machinery used, taste this
year’s grapes, and sample a little wine produced from last year’s
is my second year as part of the tour,” Pietrontonio explained.
[Peter Harris the tour organizer] asked and so
I allow people the opportunity to witness this part of our culture.”
Pietrontonio also gave a live production
of the winemaking process.
The tour allowed for Harris to showcase
his own garden, as well as Mac MacDonald – a wine guru who teaches
a winemaking course at Algonquin College – to speak briefly
about his expertise. Many of the guests had or were planning to establish
their own vineyards and MacDonald was able to answer their many questions.
“These people came because they were interested in this culture
and I’m just trying to educate them on this and its relation
to wine,” said MacDonald. He added that most of the people were
older and were very focused in their questioning. After all, “educated
people seek education” he asserted.
The highlight of La Vendemmia was
the grape-stomping competition at Trattoria Caffé Italia. Groups,
mostly composed of local businesses, were given 90 seconds to produce
as much juice as they could from the allotted boxes of grapes. In
the background played Italian dance music, which MC Jim Watson referred
to as “similar to Wierd Al Yankovic.”
At its peak the competition drew
close to 100 people, many of them simply coming off the streets
to find out what the commotion was about.
One such viewer, Tony Turner, came
for the “promotion of Italian wine and culture” and
remarked about the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly environment.
La Vendemmia ended on September
23 with a finale at Sala San Marco Banquet Hall with a huge feast
celebrating Italian culture, harvest foods, and of course, various
popular grape-stomping competition attracted a crowd of onlookers.
The success of this celebration
has been in its ability to attract not only the Italian community,
but also those from outside “Little Italy.”
“That’s what we have
always strived for,” remarked Harris, “the ability to
be able to draw in more people to continue the growth of everyone’s
The huge support of local businesses
was also remarkable. Still, Harris would like to see an increase in
numbers as the years go on and hopes to achieve this through even
greater support from the community and by possibly adding chef demonstrations
“We have the basic model to work
with, but we must always strive for more in order to better educate
and better celebrate this culture.”
the Roman god of wine.
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