I was asked more than a half-dozen times over the past few weeks where I was heading this weekend and each time I said, “I’m going to Fielding for a Tomato Festival” the incredulous looks I received and comments I heard ranged from “at a winery?!?” to “a what where?” made many people, including myself, snicker. “I guess they just love tomatoes,” I would reply.
Now here’s the funny thing – I’m not a raw tomato fan – what that statement boils down to is “I love the by-products of tomatoes”: ketchup, tomato sauce, bbq sauce, salsa, soup, juice, the list goes on and on; but I don’t like the taste and feel of a raw tomato in my mouth. Might sound weird, but I know that one of the Fielding staff has the same feeling about cheese. So here I am surrounded by tomato fans scarfing down green tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, striped tomatoes, little tomatoes, big tomatoes, phallic tomatoes – over 50 varieties must have been on hand; plus there’s the booth selling baskets with an assortment tomatoes. There was tomato basil bread, tomato rugulah (dessert pastry), vinegars flavoured with tomatoes, tomato-based jams, jellies and sauces … the only thing not tomato related was the Upper Canada Cheese Company serving cheese – though somewhere along the line I’m sure tomato and cheese fit together too.
Lunch was served by Hog Wild Catering and consisted of Tomato Gazpacho, Tomato and Cucumber Salad, Pulled Pork with BBQ sauce, Chicken Tomato and Basil Sausage, and for dessert Tomato Sugarplum and it was delicious (rumour has it that the pulled pork was pulled the night before by the Fielding staff, all 60lbs of it). Served up under a tent at the top of the hill to the left of the Fielding winery building. At the bottom of the hill, under their own private tent, local band called Flat Broke played everything (and I do mean everything) from adult contemporary (James Taylor) to disco (Abba); new rock (the Killers) to old rock (Steve Miller); and even some country (the Johnny Cash impression was bang on, I thought the Man in Black himself has risen from the grave just to perform at Fielding). Everyone I talked to commented about how good they were.
Inside, Christopher Waters (Vines Magazine) gave a seminar about wine and food pairing (you guessed it, tomatoes) – pouring the new Fielding Sparkling, newer Fielding Viognier and newest Fielding Pinot Noir (available on pre-release for the day). Of course, the tasting bar was pouring all their other wines. Outside, they poured their most popular wines for the FEW-esta crowd: Unoaked Chardonnay, Semi-Dry and Dry Riesling, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Meritage. The best part had to be the absolutely beautiful day they custom ordered from Mother Nature herself; after two pretty gloomy days and one of off-and-on rain, the sky cleared to a beautiful blue with fluffy white clouds that drifted by harmlessly. “We kept seeing that sun on the weather forecast for Sunday and our fingers were crossed that it would stay there,” Marg Fielding (owner) told me. “It’s a lot of work but a fun event and we got great weather,” son Curtis re-iterated; while his wife Heidi (as if to prove his point) ran around making sure everything was topped up, filled up and everyone was happy.
The only thing missing was the tomato fight … I almost talked a few people into starting one with me, just to see how it would progress – but in the end it was too hot and too beautiful a day … plus by the end of the day, we were all out of tomatoes. And another thing, we didn’t want to interrupt Flat Broke, who were really good. Not sure if they knew how to play that song by the Irish Rovers “Wasn’t that a Party”, but it would have been the fitting end to a perfect day.