Truffles, Cultivated in Sonoma County, California!
A few years back I remember hearing from a friend in the mushroom world about a freshly planted orchard of truffle trees, or Trufferie, in one of the valleys just outside Santa Rosa. Excited about the concept I wandered out that way in the hope that I might be able to catch a glimpse of it from the road, but alas it was to no avail. So, when I read a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle about Jackson Family Wines’ successful first harvest of seventeen truffles this year from their orchard planted with the Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) in 2011 I knew that had to be the one; even more exciting I just happen to know their executive chef and was able to arrange a visit to the orchard.
The chef and I met at one of the Jackson Family wineries where we picked up a bottle of wine and headed off to wander the nearby orchard where just a few months before their first truffles had been found and harvested with the help of a trained truffle dog that had pointed out the first trees to start producing.
Trufferies require a lot of preparation, continual maintenance, and even then, 5-8 years before the first truffles might be found. But at $800 or more per pound for truffles that are typically flown into the US from Europe or Australia, truffles that are locally cultivated in the bay area are in high demand for their more intense flavor that quickly dissipates during transit of the imported truffle. A well-managed, successful trufferie can rival the profitability of vineyard, even in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa counties, where truffles grow well due to our temperate, Mediterranean climate.
Back to the Jackson Family Trufferie, the chef and I wandered the orchard with amazing views of the valley and located those trees that had the first successful harvest. The orchard was planted with an interspersed mix of hazelnut and white oak trees in order to capitalize on the different timings of each; hazelnut starts producing truffles a few years sooner than oak but the oak will outlast and out produce the hazelnut when managed appropriately.
After a glass of wine and having made our rounds through the rows of trees, I was sworn to secrecy as to the location of the orchard and I was on my way, day dreaming of the future bountiful harvest yet to come. My hope is that we’ll be able to team up in the not too distant future for a night of decadent mushroom and truffle centric dishes and amazing wine for an event with one of the Jackson Family wineries. Keep an eye out for more potential details sometime soon.
For more information con the Jackson Family Trufferie, click here.
For more information on truffle cultivation and New World Trufferies, visit their website here.
Learn more about the Umami Truffle Dogs here.
Justin Reyes is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Gourmet Mushrooms, a leading organic, specialty mushrooms farm that was founded in 1977 in the heart of Sonoma County, and is a board member of the Sonoma County Mycological Association.