“The Fairfield Experience”

By Robert W. Bone

BATW members learned last month that operations in olive oil and beer production can survive and even thrive in wine country.

The August meeting was held in four locations in Fairfield, Solano County. This is principally the Suisun Valley, about half way between San Francisco and Sacramento, and heretofore known by some as the home of the Jelly Belly factory.

On this trip, our tour ignored historic downtown Fairfield and the 20-flavored bean candy operation. It began instead with a detailed lecture by Ann Sievers on the science of producing multiple award-winning olive oil. She is the co-owner with her husband Mark of the Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company. The visit also included a pleasant patio tasting of several varieties of olive oil, including such differing compounds as chili, jalapeño, lime, tangelo and Eureka lemon flavors.

The group was then bused to the dramatic and wildly funky Suisun Valley Antiques and Collectibles (also known as John’s Hauling). Thence we crossed the street to line up for a satisfying alfresco lunch laid out by the nearby Vezer Family Vineyard.

Back on the bus, we were then carried to the Wooden Valley Vineyards, the valley’s oldest winery, for a tasting of several vintages including the company’s offerings of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Zinfandel and Merlot. Hosting the event was Ron Lanza, whose family has been producing award-winning wine for three generations in the valley’s oldest operation of the type, dating to 1933.

The final stop on the day’s excursion was the relatively new Anheuser Busch brewery and tasting room. A surprising number of beer blends were available for sampling, ranging from the familiar Budweiser, through the Belgian favorite Stella Artois, and even to a satisfying dark beer called Amber Bock.

Arrangements for the meeting were made by BATW Treasurer Wendy VanHatten. Our on-site hosts were Christian Wentworth, director of business development for the Fairfield Conference and Visitors Bureau, and Brianna Boyd, communications manager of the bureau.

More visitor information about Fairfield’s Rustic Wine Country can be obtained on line at visitfairfieldca.com.