Do not stop for fast food.  Do not collect chemicals, preservatives or pesticides. Let Slow Food Temecula Valley (SFTV) show you why local matters and how we are at the forefront of a worldwide non-profit mission to provide academic resources for agricultural education.  On May 21st SFTV’s  Field to the Fork event will again offer premiere wine, craft beer and food pairings on the beautiful grounds of Leonesse Cellars.

This annual event benefits programs in 32 Temecula Valley schools. Programs that teach local kids where food is grown (not at the supermarket), how fresh food tastes and how their food choices affect the rest of the world. Take this opportunity to slow down and appreciate local farmers, food artisans, vintners, winemakers and vendors.

I recently had the opportunity for a preview to meet with organizers and survey the venue. SFTV president, chef Leah Di Bernardo is a passionate and articulate spokesperson for the necessity and growth of slow foods in our area. Right here we have more garden programs than anywhere else in the nation except Denver and more boutique farms than anywhere. I asked Leah why people should attend Field to the Fork.  Her reply? “Come just because it’s local.”

Leah Di Bernardo

Since this blog is WINEormous, I was curious about winery participation in this seemingly “foodie” event. Leonesse co-owner and farmer, Mike Rennie was eager to give his take on it. Leonesse Vineyards are comprised of 450 acres growing 19 varieties of grapes plus 200 acres of organic citrus and avocados. Rennie’s mission is to get Temecula Wine Country on the map. He is well on his way, producing all estate grown, award winning wines. Leonesse wines have recently been selected to be featured on Crystal Cruise lines as well.

Rennie explained sustainability, the process of growing without chemicals, and how it applies to all farming endeavors. Leonesse plants barley and uses organic compost between the rows of grape vines. He has researched and uses beneficial insects rather than chemicals to eliminate pests and parasites. The light soil in the vineyards requires cover crops to build it up along with nutrient management through the use of organic materials. The Leonesse mission? “We want to preserve the vineyards so a visit to Leonesse is an agricultural experience. I want people to be able to walk through the vineyards whenever possible,” Rennie mused. You can learn more about this, as well as a more detailed description of their wine making process during wine tasting Temecula tours.

Mike Rennie

To that end, Field to the Fork will allow attendees to wander through the vineyards moving to various food stations tasting the freshest ingredients prepared by 14 world-class chefs, sipping estate-grown local wines from 10 different wineries or enjoying hand crafted beer from nationally honored breweries that are located right here.  Your vineyard walk will take you through a shopping area where you can meet local vendors and artisans offering olive oils, sauces, soaps, honey, spices and much more for purchase.

There will be live music provided by Swift Pony and Tim Moyer, live auction, and educational symposiums on farming, viticulture, gardening, water conservation, school gardens and more.

The day culminates in a Chef Fight dish-to-dish cooking competition with Bernard Guillas (The Marine Room) & Dean Thomas (Europa Prelude) VS Leah Di Bernardo  (E.A.T.) & Nicole Thomas (Europa Prelude), including student chefs from Van Avery Prep Middle School. VIP tickets ($100.) include reserved seating, tasting and judging at the Chef Fight.


Bison Burgers with cole slaw


SFTV Board Memebers - Rick Neugebauer, Nicolina Alves, Leah Di Bernardo, Theresa Bolton & Rose Watson


Figs, Kumquats and Quince Jelly on Crackers



Tickets ($50. advanced – $60. at the door) and more information are available at the Slow Food Temecula Valley website.


Slow down and enjoy the good life and comraderie Temecula Valley has to offer.