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Toast the Tomato at Bay Area Wineries

Tomato tasting. Photo courtesy of Kendall-Jackson

Tomato tasting. Photo courtesy of Kendall-Jackson

Hungry foodies are savvy to the fact that farmers markets and locals menus are bursting with tomato-ey goodness, while gardening enthusiasts may find themselves elbow deep in their own glorious tomato crops. In the spirit of the season, three Bay Area wineries and Redwood City are going totally tomato in September by offering events that get folks up close and personal with a bumper crop of beauties in the garden and on the plate.

On September 28 at Kendall Jackson’s 17th Annual Tomato Festival in Fulton (just a few miles north of Santa Rosa), there will be a tomato tasting tent featuring more than 175 heirloom tomatoes. If that wasn't enough, wine and (tomato-centric) food will be served, while nearly 50 Wine Country and Bay Area chefs battle it out for the coveted Critics Choice award. Culinary gardener Tucker Taylor–formerly of the French Laundry–has re-designed the entire garden at the winery’s estate, taking into account the produce needs for Kendall Jackson’s Executive Chef Justin Wangler. At the KJ Tomato Festival, Taylor will lead garden tours and will bring in exciting specialty produce for the occasion.

Meanwhile, Redwood City hosts its Sixth Annual Salsa Festival on September 28, giving out top prizes for mild and hot salsa made with any combo of tomatoes, tomato sauce, chiles, onions, garlic, salt, lime, and spices. There are two levels of competition, for restaurants and caterers and also kitchen stars who have a day job that does not involve foodservice. Guests can purchase tasting kits to cast votes for the best tomato salsa, and potentially nab a wild time dancing (salsa style, of course); the event entrance is free and family friendly.

Wente Vineyards in Livermore kicks off Heirloom Tomato Week from September 16 to 22. At The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Chef Matt Greco and Master Gardener Diane Dovholuk will harvest from their half-acre garden (that hosts a plethora of tomato varieties!) directly behind the restaurant to supplement their menu, which involves a smoked corn ravioli with clam and tomato shellfish consommé and even an olive oil cake with tomato mascarpone and pine nut ice cream.

In Yountville from September 20 to 22, Bardessono and Hill Family Estate will rock two custom events that honor both the harvest and tomato seasons. First up is the mouthwatering Build Your Own BLT + Tomato Tasting Saturday winemaker dinner from Doug and Ryan Hill, alongside with Chef Victor Scargle. For the best meal of all, there's an event the following day: a Sunday Bloody Mary Brunch + Bar—perhaps proving that even tomatoes taste better in a glass (with a touch of adult libations, naturally).