FAIRFIELD — Wine connoisseurs carried their “passport” around the Suisun Valley loop Sunday for a taste of what local vintners have to offer.
Wineries partnered with local restaurants for the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Association’s annual Passport Sunday. Participants could choose red or white blends as they made their way around the valley where rural ranches and vast vineyards cover the land.
“This is what Napa Valley was like 30 to 40 years ago,” said Benicia resident Bill Simpkins, swirling a sauvignon blanc outside the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative.
Simpkins was concluding his journey around the loop after visiting two wineries per hour during the event.
“I’ve paced myself,” he said.
Having visited GV Cellars, Wooden Valley Winery and Rock Creek Vineyard, Simpkins said the reds were all good – and Mangels Vineyards had some decent whites.
The wine co-op – north of Rockville Corners on Suisun Valley Road – features blends from Blacksmith Cellars, King Andrews Vineyards, Sunset Cellars and Mangels Vineyards. Its wine-making members are required to volunteer some hours at the building, which offers free wine tastings from Thursday to Sunday at its dimly lit bar.
The co-op’s wineries are small and don’t do a lot of distributing, said manager Pat Mendez. Bottles can only be bought at the co-op – or possibly a local restaurant.
“(It’s a) perfect place to shop,” said Mendez. “There’s so much diversity and variety in the product here.”
Between sips, visitors could sample barbecue tri-tip from the co-op’s Passport partner B&J Barbecue or try some smoked sturgeon fish dip prepared by chef Megan Smith.
After relocating from San Francisco, Smith plans on opening a restaurant in downtown Fairfield this summer. Ironwood American Bistro will focus on seasonally fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
“I’m excited to be a part of this community . . . to introduce that barn-to-table concept . . . I really want to bring that to where I live,” she said.
B&J Barbecue, located next door to the co-op, will reopen for the season April 28.
“(We) close when Larry’s (Produce) closes,” said owner Blan Rogers, of Vallejo.
In business since 1994, B&J Barbecue offers ribs, chicken and hot links from its trailer on the weekends.
“We do pretty good for the amount of time that we’re open,” Rogers said.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.