by Barbara L. Steinberg
FAIRFIELD/SUISUN VALLEY, CA - A short distance from California's world-famous wine regions - Napa and Sonoma - you'll discover a bucolic wine country in Suisun Valley and Green Valley. An idyllic destination, the Suisun (pronounced sue-soon) and Green valleys are conveniently located less than 50 miles from Sacramento or San Francisco, off Interstate 80 near Fairfield. Driving past the suburban and urban elements of the city and, suddenly, spread-out before you is rural California...beautiful valleys bounded by two coastal ranges. The valleys have roots dating back to the 1800s and represent more than a century of continuous wine grape growing activity.
Other wineries offering wine tasting are Ledgewood Creek Winery and Vineyards, Wooden Valley Winery & Vineyards, which celebrated its 77th anniversary in 2010, and Vezér Family Vineyard. Tucked away down pastoral lanes, Green Valley Vineyards and Rock Creek Vineyard in the Green Valley open their hearts and wineries to visitors.
Local festivals and seasonal produce stands provide a window into the region's agricultural past. The Suisun Valley hosts a number of special events and festivals throughout the year, highlighted by the annual Suisun Valley Wine Passport event. Visitors are invited to tour the Suisun Valley and visit wineries that will be featuring wine tasting and food pairings, live music and art exhibits. In addition to wine grapes, Suisun Valley growers produce a bounty of fruits and nuts - cherries, kiwis, strawberries, peaches, pears, plums, and walnuts - and vegetables - asparagus, corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Produce is grown year-round while the peak season is June through November.
Culinary delights are waiting at the Vintage Caffé and Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in delightful Mankas Corner. Tours and tastings at Il Fiorello are available by appointment. Local art at The Clay Station features creations from handmade pottery and glass art to jewelry, photography, greeting cards, and more. Don't miss the annual Clay Station Spring Faire. If you're the curious type, there are back roads to the back roads well-worth a visit. The delights of Phillip Glashoff's Sculpture Ranch and Larry Glashoff's you-pick Berry Patch and roadside jam stand are definitely off the beaten track and merit a visit.
Many familiar brand hotels are located just off Interstate 80 and within a few miles of the Suisun and Green valleys, making Fairfield the perfect "base camp" for a wine country experience. Freeway close and urban in nature, many of Fairfield's greatest attributes embrace its rural and agricultural roots. Shopping, lodging, restaurants, and nightlife transcend the destination's rural nature.
Fairfield is also home to some visitor favorites. Take the free Jelly Belly Factory tour and sample some of the more than 5o flavors from Cream Soda and Root Beer to Mango and Marshmallow. After you've satiated your sweet tooth, partake of the local brews and tours at the Anheuser Busch Brewery - home of legendary Budweiser beer. Follow that up with a tour and tasting at Sepay Groves Olive Oil. Of course, when you're talking wine, you can't help but think about food. Dining highlights include the award-winning Ahi's Seafood and Chops Restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn and the popular micro-brewery Blue Frog Grill & Grog, plus an array of family restaurants, coffee houses, pizzerias, and restaurants serving Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine.
*For more information, contact the Fairfield Tourism Association at (707) 399-2445 or visit www.CaliforniaFairfield.com.
*Photography by Barbara L. Steinberg