August 24, 2006
Tomatoes, Grapes at Their Prime

I'm out of the office but on my best behavior, sort of. By Sonoma County standards I had chances to commit two felonies today but capitulated to just one. While driving north on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley we came upon a small tent with a sign that said "Tomato Heaven." In the tent was about a dozen boxes, each filled with a different kind of heirloom tomato. There were dark red ones, light red ones, variegated red ones. Nobody was around but a couple of farm laborers at the far end of the rows of tomatoes that flanked the tent. "Just weigh and pay!" said another sign on the table. Take your pick, fill a bag, weigh it and deposit "cash, check or IOU" in a strongbox also on the table. Well, we did, as did several other motorists pulling off the road. Sort of restored your faith in Californian mankind. The tomatoes were sweet, too, especially the small red ones. One of the pickers gave us the phone number for the owner, Tamara Scalera, but we failed to connect.

We moseyed on to Healdsburg, then doubled back on Eastside Road on the other side of the river. This brought us to Foppiano Vineyards, which in addition to winery and tasting room offers visitors a self-guided walking tour through the vineyards. I'm sorry, but the bunches of petite sirah, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon looked so juicy I couldn't help myself, and pinched a couple. I'm no grape grower or winemaker, but I think the Foppianos may want to get a harvest crew out there pretty soon. The petite sirah was especially even colored and sweet. And it looks like 2006 could be a very good year.

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