With 16 varieties of tomatoes growing on-site, Vega Vineyard and Farm is starting a new annual tradition to highlight its star attraction, with some help from a Hollywood heavy hitter.
“With all the tomatoes we are growing, I immediately thought of my dear friend, Salvatore Marino,” said Vega winemaker Steve Clifton, who proposed that the Buellton venue team up with Marino—chef and owner of the historic Italian eatery Marino Ristorante in Hollywood—for an upcoming tomato-themed event.
On Sunday, Aug. 20, Vega Vineyard and Farm will host its inaugural Festa del Pomodoro. Guests of the farm’s restaurant between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. will find a menu of unique heirloom tomato-centric offerings curated by Marino, alongside the restaurant’s regular brunch and lunch menus.
“He [Marino] has celebrated tomatoes at this time of year for as long as I have known him, which is decades. … Our children have grown up together,” Clifton said. “Sal and I have been close friends for nearly 30 years, stretching back to trips we would take together to Vinitaly in Verona.”
Vinitaly is an international wine and spirits fair that originated in Italy, one of the countries where Clifton has ventured for various winemaking projects throughout his career, which began in 1991 at Rancho Sisquoc Winery. He started there as a tasting room server and worked his way up to assistant winemaker.
Less than five years later, he started his own wine label solely dedicated to Italian grape varieties, Palmina Wines, in 1995. After its 2020 vintage, Palmina Wines was absorbed and rebranded into Vega Vineyard and Farm Wines. Clifton is also the co-founder of Brewer-Clifton, known for its focus on chardonnay and pinot noir from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
During Festa del Pomodoro, Clifton’s wines at Vega will be paired with Marino’s tomato-based dishes included in the Tomato Festival Farm Dinner, a seated multi-course, family-style Italian dinner that starts at 5:30 p.m. Admission to this segment of the event includes each featured course and two complimentary glasses of wine per person. Tickets are $100 each.
Marino’s restaurant in Hollywood offers a menu similar to the one he’s bringing to Buellton every Wednesday, with his weekly promotion nicknamed Tomato Wednesdays. The Buellton iteration will feature tomatoes grown at Vega Farm and Vineyard, as well as other seasonal produce grown on-site.
Another local establishment is highlighted in one of the courses in the multi-course dinner, as heirloom tomato bruschetta will be served on grilled bread from Bob’s Well Bread, the beloved bakery based in Los Alamos with a second storefront in Ballard.
Appetizers featured in the Tomato Festival Farm Dinner include multi-varietal gazpacho, albacore tartare, and a caprese salad with a heirloom rainbow mix, mozzarella, and basil. Attendees will get to choose from three pasta entree options: cavatelli with yellow tomatoes and rock shrimp; rigatoni al pomodoro; and stuffed paccheri with San Marzano ragu, ricotta, and Parmigiano.
The pasta course will be followed by albacore with a heirloom rainbow mix, calico corn, and opal basil, San Marzano ragu meatballs, and Early Girl tomato panna cotta with Black Cherokee marmalade.
Aside from a plethora of food offerings, guests of the inaugural Festa del Pomodoro can also look forward to live music performances and a pop-up farmers market, with tomatoes from the farm and other seasonal produce.
Clifton described the upcoming festival at Vega Vineyard and Farm as the perfect way to showcase the venue’s restaurant, farm stand, and variety of organic produce, and he’s excited for guests to experience Marino’s unique spin on the farm’s tomatoes.
“I think [Marino] is one of the most inspirational, energetic, and committed chefs in California,” Clifton said.
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood has ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’ stuck in his head. Send comments to [email protected].