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Harvest hurrahs

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 10:44 am

Harvest time is our most colorful season but it is becoming more and more known for one color — purple, as in winegrapes. A panel of 25 international wine judges were here last week judging wine entries for this weekend’s 38th annual Harvest Fair. They obviously fell in love with the color purple, awarding racks of gold medals to pinot noir, zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon wines. Of course, they did not ignore our more fair-colored wines made from chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, but their chosen favorites were obvious.

Because we who live here have more than a weekend to celebrate the harvest, we can also taste the breads, olive oils, vinegars, cheeses and microbrew beers at the Fair. As far as colors go, we have giant orange pumpkins, patchwork scarecrows, beautiful late apples, harvest-theme artworks and the natural backdrop of October hillsides and reddening vineyard foliage.

Following a near-perfect growing season that started with a “normal” Spring that is now stretching into a flawless ripening of fruit, we can almost hear that giant sigh of relief and the grateful prayers of Sonoma County farmers. Following the last threes of challenging weather and short crop, we all deserve this fate. Happy harvest!

Not only the wines, fruit and other crops get celebrated at harvest time. Isn’t it really about the farmers, workers and families who toil year-round and work overtime during the late Fall crush?

At the Harvest Fair each year, a few of Sonoma County’s agriculture industry leaders are always specially recognized.

This year four men were honored as 2012 Honorees for their careers and contributions as selected by a committee of past honorees, chaired this year by Steve Dutton of Sebastopol’s Dutton Ranch and the Dutton-Goldfield Winery.

Clay Mauritson, winemaker for his family’s Mauritson Winery of Dry Creek was named Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness. A 1997 graduate of the University of Oregon, Clay has dedicated himself to the pursuit of premium winemaking, working alongside his other brothers and father Thom.

Also honored was Mark Sanchietti, a fourth generation farmer from Sebastopol. Mark, a graduate of SRJC and Cal Poly, was named Outstanding Young Farmer. At 28 years old, Sanchietti farms over 200 acres of vineyards, has five years under his belt with his own farming business, Sanchietti Farming LLC.

The family of Healdsburg’s Louis M. Foppiano was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award. Patriarch Louis M. died earlier this year and his son Louis Jr. and grandson Paul accepted the award at last week’s Harvest Fair Award Ceremony.

Also honored were chef and author John Ash as a “Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture” and Art “Pasta King” Ibleto was given a Lifetime Contribution award.

We add our congratulations to all the honorees and additionly raise a toast to Pezzi King Winery and winemaker Chris Barrett for wining not one, but two Harvest Fair professional wine sweepstakes awards. No winery has ever won more than a single sweepstakes award in a given year. The winemaker also won a best of class for his 2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel to complete a trifecta.

Meanwhile back in the busy vineyards, this week’s heat spell has accelerated the pace of harvesting. Nobody wants too much fruit to ripen all at once because there are only so many tanks to fill. This weekend’s promised cooler breezes will be an answer to our grapegrowers prayers.

The county Harvest Fair will close this Sunday for another year but our small open air farmers markets will stay open for many more weekends, almost all the way to Thanksgiving. Besides purple grapes we have an embarrassing richness of red, orange and heirloom tomatoes, emerald green basil, herbs and lettuces, golden honey and olive oil and a full palette of colorful veggies and flowers.

If Hollywood came here and made a film in technicolor about all our incredible harvest scenes it would be a challenge to capture all the colors and hues — especially the purple ones.

— Rollie Atkinson

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