No sour grapes at Aegis on Madison

No sour grapes at Aegis on Madison

No sour grapes at Aegis on Madison

With some freshly-picked grapes from their own back yard, the senior residents of Aegis Living on Madison celebrated their Oktober Harvest Festival by making wine.

Life Enrichment Director Susan Rauch and resident Peggy Gossellin kicked off their shoes to hop in a blue kiddie pool to stomp grapes in the first step of traditional wine making on the afternoon of Oct. 2.

Aegis on Madison has grown grapes for two years after picking up some vines from City People’s Garden Store in Madison Park two years ago. The first fruits of those vines made just enough for a few handfuls. Paul Portteus of Portteus Vineyard and Winery in Zillah, Washington (southeast of Yakima) donated 120 pounds of cabernet grapes to the senior-living facility.

“Wine gets better with age, just like all of you,” said Curtis Knopf, the assistant life enrichment director.

The Aegis community has brewed its own beer for four years using the Chinook and Fuggle hop bines (yes, with a “b”) located next to the grape vines outside. The facility also has an edible garden on its second floor.

“Anything we grow up there has to be safe for consumption, for obvious reasons,” he said.

For some of the less mobile seniors, Knopf gave them bunches of grapes to help peel and smash with a mallet. Aegis staff made ponchos out of trash bags to keep some of the juice off of residents’ clothes.

“Our residents are so good at stomping,” Rauch said. “We were told it’s about 30 pounds of grapes for a case of wine, so we are hoping for four cases.”

A small, tinny boombox plays German oompah music while a staff member passes out a platter of pretzels complete with a white wine honey mustard dipping sauce. Lloyd Yates, an engineer and World War Two veteran smashes some of the small, blue grapes with the mallet. 

Margaret Hardin, 104, said it was a new experience for her.

“Never in all my life have I thought to do something like this,” she said. “My hands got cold so I went inside to get gloves, but I’m still having fun.”

The smashed grapes will be put - skins and all - into a container to ferment. The grape skins contain the yeast necessary for fermentation. The microscopic creatures eat sugar in the juice and create alcohol.

“We’ll ferment it for six weeks, then age it for a couple of months,” Knopf said. “I think by spring we’ll have some wine to enjoy.”

The Aegis staff is planning on entering the wine, which will be a sweet, white blend, into the Evergreen State Fair homemade beverage competition. Last year’s homebrewed beer, “An Ale for the Aegis,” won third in the American Amber Ale portion. Knopf said that the name “Mad Cab” (for Madison Cabernet) was in the running for the wine.

Gossellin, of above grape stomping fame, designed the labels for the beer, and the Aegis staff is hoping she’ll take a crack at the wine labels as well. 

Aegis on Madison also grows apples, although there’s no word on whether cider or brandy are in the works anytime soon.

Aegis is located at 2200 East Madison Street.