‘Black gold’ found at Wine Country ticks the interest of truffle sellers

In 2020, the Business Journal reported on Kendall Jackson’s 4-acre Culinary Garden and Wine Estate at 5007 Fulton Road, as well as her secret truffle orchard.

Recently countries like Australia, China, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa have started trying to produce theirs. And there are a growing number of farms in the United States producing truffles, many of which are located in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and North Carolina. In California, truffles were cultivated on farms in El Dorado and Santa Rosa County. Jackson Family Wines in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County has been producing truffles since 2017. Production is not yet something that could influence the global market. In 2019, three farms in Sonoma County produced a total of around 35 pounds of truffles, nowhere near enough to meet global demand. But that did not diminish the enthusiasm of the Angerers.

“This is wine country, and truffles are the only culinary product that overshadows ultra-premium grapes in the minds of consumers,” Nathan said.

After doing their own extensive research and getting involved in the project, the Angerers knew they were going to need some professional help. They contacted the truffle consultant, Dr Charles Lefevre of New World Truffieres, an Oregon company specializing in truffle cultivation. (Lefevre said that truffle orchards tend to cost around $ 15,000 per acre of land to set up and the price can rise sharply depending on soil amendments, irrigation system, labor force. work, etc.)

Lefevre, who holds a doctorate in forest mycology from Oregon State University, began growing, inoculating and selling trees even before he graduated in 2002. In 2006, he and his wife, Leslie, started the Oregon Truffle Festival in Eugene as a forum for growers and harvesters – and anyone interested in truffles. Lefevre was also president of the North American Truffling Society for almost 10 years.

Lefevre helped the Angerers consult a soil scientist and offered advice on the multiple properties being considered for the site of a potential orchard. “We were looking for a well-drained, well-structured soil without existing trees on or in the immediate vicinity and a site with a reliable supply of sufficient irrigation water,” he explained.

Lefèvre also supplied the Angerais with the hazelnuts that grow on their farm. Starting with the seedlings, he inoculated the trees with Tuber melanosporum spores and watched them grow on his farm in Oregon for a year before sending them to Geyserville.

The Angerers planted the trees and bought a Lagotto Romagnolo named Tuber in 2014. Over the following years, they made several trips abroad to learn about truffle cultivation in Europe. In 2015, Fran and his wife Robin, 70, traveled to Alba, Italy, and the Istrian peninsula in Croatia; the couple traveled with Seth to Western Australia the following year and added Leo to the family. In 2017, they visited the truffle-producing region of Catalonia, Spain. In the meantime, Tuber has been mated with a Lagotto Romagnolo named Rico and produced a litter of seven puppies. The Angerers kept three, Vito, Bella and Luke.

Fran trained the dogs using several “proprietary methods” which included drilling holes in wine corks, filling them with truffle oil, and burying the corks in the soil. Seth began to roam the orchards with Leo and Vito several times a week.

“For the past three years, I wasn’t saying I was going hunting, I would say I was going for a walk because I didn’t want to have hope,” Seth said. “If I come in with that intention, it can get really frustrating.”

Seven years after starting the operation, Nathan said, they started to lose hope. Nonetheless, in 2019, they planted another truffle orchard, this time in Healdsburg, California. Instead of using hazelnuts, Lefevre supplied the Angerers with 200 English oaks and 200 umbrella pines inoculated with Tuber borchii (the fungus that creates Bianchetto white truffles). , a variety that sells for around $ 1,500 and over a pound.

“No one knows how, why or what causes the fruit to reproduce,” Nathan said. “For Italian whites, if you can produce and cultivate them, it can take up to 20 years because it’s such a complex mushroom.”

But this year, after countless rides and false alarms, all that waiting has paid off.

After posting their first truffle on social media, the Angerers started receiving requests from local chefs for more truffles. Jason Azevedo, the chef of the Little River Inn in Little River, Calif., A coastal town about 80 miles north of Geyserville, was one of the chefs who reached out.

“It is a game changer,” Azevedo said. “It’s exciting to have something that I can go for a walk once in a while and have a personal relationship with the producer instead of ordering truffles which are probably frozen or wrapped in rice from afar.”

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