Hot Tomato! 150 Varieties at Kendall-Jackson

If the sight of fresh goji berries at the Noe Valley Farmers' Market causes you to pant just a little because you hope and wish they are a petite and new (to you) variety of tomato, have faith. An upcoming heirloom tomato festival at Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma wine country on Saturday, Sept. 27 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) has 150 varieties of tomato to taste, see and touch – wine pairing(s) optional.

Every year it is amazing to see how the festival serves up tomatoes in so many shapes, sizes, textures, and, of course, flavors. 150 is definitely a high number of tomato beauties, and there's an educational component that gives guests a chance to learn more about the fruit from tomato expert Tucker Taylor, the culinary gardener for Kendall-Jackson.

[jump] Taylor oversees the heirloom tomato varieties, veggies, herbs, and edible flowers at the K-J culinary gardens, and will be hosting tours throughout the day. His tomatoey knowledge is worth listening to, since he serves up tasty factoids like: We eat close to 25 pounds of tomatoes per year. Given our access to fine tomatoes and a slew of pizza and pasta options, this definitely makes sense but is still surprising. Other little-known facts we learned from Taylor: The largest tomato on record was grown in 1986 in Oklahoma and weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces. It is estimated that there are over 25,000 tomato varieties.

Tomatoes and wine tasting are the main draw of the event, but do check out people in chef pants doing their thing (trying to one-up each other for the best tomato-inspired dish) as well as live music and garden seminars.

Hot tip: Wineries that have a culinary garden are something special. Be sure to explore the gardens for a relaxing and real way to get that farm-to-table vibe going. All that lush produce is more than a little romantic, too — and a literal way of seeing birds and bees.

Tickets are $95 through and gets you six tickets for the various wine stations throughout the festival. There will be complimentary tastes in the seminars, in the Kendall-Jackson AVANT lounge, at any of the food vendors who are previous years’ award winners as well as any of the Kendall-Jackson food pairing booths. There will be eight food vendors offering one ounce wine tastings throughout the festival.

18th Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton.

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