When it comes to truffles, Italy is undoubtedly the capital. Food lovers actually flock to the town of Alba each fall just to sniff and taste the world’s best truffles. But, there’s a secret destination in the U.S. that’s growing the most coveted crops of Périgord black truffles—and it’s somewhat unexpected.
Back in 2011, Kendall-Jackson, one of California’s most iconic wine producers, planted crops of Périgord black truffles in Sonoma County. Now, nine years later, they were ready to be unearthed. And the result was incredible. Last year, they harvested more than 35 pounds of truffles with the size ranging from a small walnut to one 13-ounce specimen rivaling a softball. And, as of early February, the take for 2019-2020 had surpassed 25 pounds.
Tucker Taylor, the winery’s master culinary gardener, is spearheading the program. Tucker and his team are working with a fleet of rare truffle-sniffing dogs, called lagotto Romagnolo, to uncover and cultivate these rare crops. “It’s a kind of secretive industry, but with the info that’s publicly available, we believe our orchard is currently producing more black truffles in the U.S. than any other,” said Taylor.
The reason the truffle growing is doing so well is thanks to the vision by Kendall-Jackson’s founder, the late Jess Jackson. “Jess observed how our vineyards and area farms of all kinds do so well and felt truffles would too,” said Taylor.
Of course, local businesses are enjoying the secret truffle boom. “Nearby San Francisco chefs, many of them leading Michelin-star restaurants, love getting the black truffles from us instead of importing them from overseas,” said Taylor. “ It’s in keeping with the farm-to-table philosophy here.”
As far as tourists coming to the area to go truffle hunting, it’s still a work in progress. The truffle-growing site is being kept under wraps for now. But, that could change in the future. “We’re looking at offering experiences one day for guests to come in and participate in the hunt before enjoying a wine and truffle dinner using that harvest,” said Taylor.
For now, you simply get to taste them in the winery’s dishes.