Sign Language Wine Tours at Purple Foot Festival

Nicole talks about the different oak barrels Casa Larga uses to age Chardonnay wine.

Last Sunday, September 16th, the Casa Larga’s Vineyards located outside the skirts of Rochester, New York in the Finger Lake Wine Region added sign language tours for the first time to their annual Purple Foot festival.

The festival celebrates harvest time at Casa Larga with old world tradition of stomping grapes for making wine and giving the event the name Purple Foot festival.  This event was their 17th annual harvest celebration.

Up on learning about Purple Foot Festival, I decided to go join the tour myself and have some Chardonnay wine.  Casa Larga is known to make a good bottle of Chardonnay wine.  Their vineyards of 40 acres have vines of Chardonnay grape and they used different types of oak barrels for the aging process.

A young kid’s purple feet prints drying on wire fence.

At the festival one can see that adults and children were welcome.  Events for everyone included grape stomping and making a purple foot prints onto paper, vineyard hayrides, dance classes and live entertainment by a magician.  Children events stood out with a large hay maze, face painting, craft making and other out-door games.  Several vendors had their booths set around Casa Larga selling wine paring foods such as cheese, chocolate or both.  Artesian displayed work made with wine cork or recycled wine bottles. Creative wine openers and racks can also be found among vendors.  Most visitors were probably the wine lovers.  They crowded the wine tasting bars.  You can see them swirling the wine their glasses, sniffing and then tasting it.  Non-wine drinkers and kids under 21 years of age could taste grape juices or cider.  Wine experts presented seminars about wine at different times of the day and musicians played Jazz, blues and soft rock.  And tours to the Casa Larga’s winemaking facilities grew larger by the hour.

Nicole guides the second group of Deaf and hard of hearing visitors.

This year Casa Larga opened up to the Rochester Deaf community.  They offered three sign language tours to their winemaking facilities on this day. Nicole Hook, a Deaf graphic designer employee at the Casa Larga and a student majoring in small business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) participated in her company’s event.  She took the role as sign language tour guide.  Nicole guided Deaf and hard of hearing guests through the process of making wine.  She took my group to the first room where grapes are separated from their stem and then to the next room where they are smashed in a stainless tank with balloons inside.  A participant in the tour asked why foot stomping technique was replaced.  Nicole explained that cleanliness was the far most reason to why this old world foot stomping technique was replaced.  Time was also another factor.   We followed process of the extracted grape juice and Nicole into different rooms.  The most interesting room was the cellar where the wines were stored in either oak barrels or stainless steel tanks.  Nicole gave a interesting lecture about the different oaks Casa Larga uses to age its wine in.  Casa Larga aged their wine in new American, French and Hungarian oak barrels.  The tour ended with a visit to the bottling and storing room where Nicole explained the importances of bottling and cork for wines.

By 3pm Deaf wine lovers at the event got together and found a hearing ASL interpreter to volunteer interpreting for a seminar about Casa Larga’s Chardonnay wines.  The wine expert, Lorraine Hems, also a wine professor at RIT talked about how to sniff and taste Chardonnay wines.  The volunteer interpreted Lorraine’s lecture as we took part of the sniffing and tasting of Casa Larga’s three Oak Chardonnay wines.  I found that the different oaks did bring out the unique flavor in their Chardonnay wine.  I voted the Hungarian Oak wine best.  It was buttery, smooth and a taste of autumn apples.

Sign at Wine Tasting Bar

Nicole guided my group eloquently and with much confidence.  Also the hearing volunteer at the seminar made the festival the most educational wine event I’ve participated in a long time.  D-Travel hopes that Casa Larga will continue ask Nicole to conduct the sign language tours in their next 2013 Purple Foot Festival.

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