Celebrate Harvest in Solano County

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tomatofest.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Looking to celebrate harvest 2010 with rural scenery, friendly people, and hand-crafted food and wines?  Of course you are.  Curious about wines grown in appellations right next door to Napa Valley, which top out at around $35 per bottle?  If you're not, you should be.  Harvest season is the ideal time to find out what's going on in Suisun Valley and Green Valley, which lie immediately to the east of Napa and just off Highway 80.

If you could pick just one weekend, go August 14-15, 2010, when a slew of free or nearly free harvest-themed events compete for your entertainment.  The award-winning Fairfield Tomato Festival begins at 10am on Saturday for two days of tomatoey delights.  Sample gourmet tomato products, ogle and taste more than 50 heirloom tomato varieties, shop for locally grown produce, and compete for cash prizes in the tomato eating contest.  Tons of free rides and activities are also on hand to occupy kids less enthralled by the tomato gluttony.  Admission is free to all.

winterhawk.jpgLater that afternoon, head over to Winterhawk Winery for this week's Wines By The Glass, featuring a 2pm performance by the locally-beloved Used Blues Band.  Pizza and wine tasting are available from 1pm to 6pm, for those who didn't participate in the tomato-eating contest.  Five dollars gets you a tasting flight of Winterhawk wines, as well as a full glass of your favorite. The homemade pizza is free, cooked outside on the crushpad in the winery's Italian wood-burning oven, and served by an all-volunteer staff.  

Don't leave Saturday night, though, because Sunday is the official Suisun Valley Harvest Celebration.  Book a room at one of the 18 hotels in Fairfield, or call ahead for the romantic and secluded guest cottage among the vines at Rock Creek Vineyard.  Carolyn and Tom West will welcome you with their tremendous hospitality, luscious Italian varietal wines, and charming vineyard setting complete with bocce court, olive trees, lavender, fruit orchards, and the babbling brook that gave the winery its name.    Notwithstanding the emphasis on Italian grapes and games, don't miss Carolyn's cheese gougères--among the best I've had.  If you can't stay the night, you must at least call for a tasting appointment and taste the hand-made wines... their first vintage released (2007) won gold and silver medals at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

ilfiorello.jpgSunday the Suisun Valley Harvest Celebration offers music, grape-stomping, grape tasting, vineyard tours, food and wine tasting, and much more at the various participating businesses.  In addition to Rock Creek Vineyards, can't miss participants in this year's event include family-owned and operated Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company.  Named for the tiny white flowers on the olive tree, Il Fiorello has won numerous awards at both local and international competitions, and offers a wealth of information and flavor to visitors about olive varietals, the milling process, and the fine art of sensory evaluation.  

All events at the Suisun Valley Harvest Celebration are free and open to the public, so there is no excuse not to check it out and discover a few new treasures in California wine country.

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