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Out With Wine, In With Truffles

Sonoma County vintners are trading wine for truffles

June 13, 2011

If black truffles thrive in California, they would be much more profitable than wine

Black truffles, one of the most expensive and luxurious ingredients in the world, may soon be the big crop for Sonoma County, California. Farmers and vintners believe that the Sonoma terroir mirrors that of Perigord, France, where the truffles are historically foraged, and are buying up land and ripping up vineyards to make room for what they call "black gold."

Northern California's cool climate and volcanic soil has made the region a huge success in the wine and olive industry, and truffle experts from New World Truffieres Inc. have high expectations for Sonoma. Jackson Family Wines has already planted 10 acres of hazelnut and oak tree seedlings inoculated with the fungus in Santa Rosa, the county seat, and hopes to eventually expand to 60 acres. The orchards take five to seven years for the first harvest and ten years to mature, where they will then produce 35 to 100 pounds of truffles an acre. Black truffles go from $800 to $1,000 a pound at wholesale price, with many chefs paying as much as $1,500 a pound.

If black truffles thrive in California, they would be much more profitable than wine, especially with the Bay Area's thriving culinary scene. The trend is growing in popularity, and interested investors are also looking to plant in Mendocino and as far south as Santa Barbara.

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(Updated: 06/13/11 JC)

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