Side Trips + Travel
Fairfield/Suisun Valley
Savor the Unexpected
Article and Photos By: Elizabeth Smith

Northern California residents and visitors may be familiar with Fairfield, California, the county seat of Solano County, as home to Travis Air Force Base, Anheuser-Busch, and Clorox – and as a shopping destination with its Solano Town Center and Cordelia Junction Antique Mall – but more awaits. Located 15 miles from Napa, 35 miles from Oakland, and 45 miles from San Francisco and Sacramento – where three highways converge – Fairfield is a delightful locale to “savor the unexpected,” with a myriad of attractions, including Suisun Valley, a diverse and unique wine appellation producing world-class wines.

Suisun Valley Sign near Vezér Photo by Amber Burke



Restauranteur Molly Tou opened Two60 Kitchen + Bar in June 2020. The restaurant’s name is a play on Tou and the restaurant’s street address number. Tou’s focus is New American Cuisine, including Chinese, Korean, Mexican, and American-inspired dishes. The menu has a variety of appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, and entrées like the must-try, gluten-free pan-seared salmon with lemon herb sauce served on a bed of bok choy, fingerling potatoes, sundried tomatoes, and edamame. The restaurant is also known for its Korean fried chicken, rice bowls, and the ahi poke bowl, salad, and tower, the latter of which includes shrimp, avocado, crisp wontons, creamy nuoc cham, and house-infused cilantro oil. Two60 Kitchen Bar serves lunch and dinner for dine-in (indoor and outdoor) and takeout. //


Mankas Grill also opened in 2020 under the new leadership of brothers Kyle and Jason Barraza – whose family also owns The Napa Deli – and executive chef Jonathan Rodriguez. The restaurant’s historic building dates back to 1853 when it was a stagecoach stop between Berryessa Valley and the Suisun City port. Mankas Grill is fondly known as Suisun Valley’s “wine country steakhouse,” but serves a variety of fare like salads, pasta dishes, pork belly nachos, lobster bisque, a catch of the day, beef short ribs, butchered meats (Hungarian rubbed ribeye and American Wagyu Tomahawk), a pulled pork sandwich, and two burgers, the steakhouse and portabella mushroom (vegetarian). The menu changes seasonally. Mankas Grill is open for dine-in (indoor and outdoor) and takeout. //




Tolenas Vineyards and Winery is a great starting point to become acquainted with the Suisun Valley American Viticultural Area established in 1982. In 2015, winemaker Lisa Tenbrink Howard – the second generation of Tenbrink Vineyards’ family of winegrowers and winemakers – and her husband Cliff launched the winery, which they named after the original Rancho Tolenas. The home vineyard’s location in the southern Suisun Valley means a greater coastal influence from the nearby Suisun and San Pablo Bays, which is ideal for growing Pinot Noir, of which Howard makes two wines–Eclipse, a white Pinot Noir (the grapes are pressed and produced like a white wine) and a red, Totality, whose name signifies the absence of light during a total eclipse. Both wines are must-tastes at their hospitality house, Howard’s renovated childhood home, along with her El Camino red blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel, whose name also has a story. //


For three generations, the Lanzas have been winegrowers and winemakers at Wooden Valley Winery. Mario Lanza and Lena Carlevaro Lanza – both from Silvano Di Orba, Italy – met and married in Oakland, California. In 1944, they moved to Suisun Valley and became co-owners of Wooden Valley Winery with the Brea brothers, then sole proprietors in 1955. Today brothers Rick (winemaker), Ron (marketing and sales), Larry, and Ken (both vineyard managers) manage the winery and its 400 acres of grapevines. The Lanzas sell most of their fruit locally and nationally but reserve a small percentage to make wines under the Wooden Valley, Rosetta, and Lanza Family Wines labels. A few of the must-tastes are the Chardonnay, Rosetta Dry Rosé of Sangiovese and Valdiguié, Lanza Sangiovese, Wooden Valley Malbec, and Lanza Petite Sirah. The Lanzas also make Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, Riesling, and an off-dry version of Rosetta Rosé from 100% Valdiguié. //



Frank and Liz Vezér launched Vezér Family Vineyard in 2001, their first release being their 2003 Zinfandel. In addition to Zinfandel, Vezér is also known for its Petite Sirah, considered the flagship grape of Suisun Valley. A sign near the Vezér Blue Victorian Winery property – designed to resemble the famous Napa Valley signs – is humorous and proudly proclaims Suisun Valley the Petite Sirah capital of the world. While Petite Sirah may be king, the Vezérs and winemaker Jake Steussy make must-tastes like the Blue Victorian Charbono, Blue Victorian Syrah, Vezér ‘Cassie’ Petite Sirah, and La Salette Estate Petite Sirah. Forthcoming releases include Rosé (a blend of Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, and Black Muscat), Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Tastings are available at Mankas Gardens, the Blue Victorian, and by appointment at the family’s ranch estate. //


The Suisun Valley Wine Co-Op is a perfect place to conclude a visit. Doug and Katsuko Sparks of Sunset Cellars opened the co-op in 2007, with winemaker Fah Sathirapongsasuti recently taking the lead and bringing his contagious excitement to the family business. It is home to three family-owned micro wineries, Sunset Cellars, Roger and Carol (Andrews) King’s King Andrews and Shale Peak Vineyards, and Matt Smith’s Blacksmith Cellars. Upon arrival, one can choose to soak their feet in a Japanese Ashi-yu (foot bath) or sit around a firepit while tasting wines that highlight each producer’s specialties and styles, such as Sunset Cellars Green Valley Estate ‘Afterglow’ Cabernet Sauvignon and Hydrangea Brut Rosé of Zinfandel, King Andrews Suisun Valley Albariño, and Blacksmith Cellars Marvin Vineyard Chardonnay. In addition, the producers often host tastings themselves. The Co-Op is the social center of Suisun Valley wine country, with innovative events like disco and sommelier nights. One may even have the chance to try their hand at sabrage with a Japanese Katana sword. //




Ann and Mark Sievers founded IL Fiorello Olive Oil Company to grow and mill award-winning olive oil from their organic olive groves in Suisun and Green Valleys. In addition to milling their olives, they provide services to other producers on their state-of-the-art Gruppo Pieralisi continuous milling system. IL Fiorello has a visitor center and tasting room where guests can reserve a comparative tasting of their vintage-dated, certified extra virgin olive oils, co-milled oils, and balsamic vinegar reductions accompanied by the chef’s food pairings, with an optional guided tour can follow. In addition, IL Fiorello teaches demonstration and hands-on culinary classes through their “Kitchen in the Grove” program, offers by-reservation annual events and private events, and has an olive oil membership option, The Grove Club. Suisun Valley wine tasting is also available. Their virtual olive oil tastings are an excellent way for nonlocal guests to remain connected after their visit. //


A fun introduction to Fairfield is a visit to the Jelly Belly Candy Company’s world headquarters, where children and adults alike enjoy the deliciousness of its world-famous jelly beans, candies, and chocolates. The self-guided factory tour of jelly bean making in action is a must-do. Along the way, there are engaging activities, games, and videos to pique one’s interest. In addition, Jelly Belly offers an optional Chocolate and Wine Experience for adults – non-alcoholic pairings for those under 21 – on the second floor in the Very Cherry Room featuring six Jelly Belly’s Chocolate Shoppe and Chocolate Confections paired with local Suisun Valley wines, plus a souvenir logo wine glass. Jelly Belly also has a retail store, the Chocolate Shoppe, and a café with limited indoor seating, outdoor seating, and takeout. //