For decades, enthusiasts have hoped truffles can follow wine’s path to success in the state. So far this winter, a farm in Placerville (El Dorado County) has found 1 pound of prized, elusive black truffles, leading to its first sale to a Northern California restaurant on New Year’s Eve. Around the same time, a 10-year-old Santa Rosa orchard also found its first truffle. Meanwhile, a nearby Santa Rosa orchard owned by Jackson Family Wines has unearthed an astonishing 25 pounds of truffles this season, some of which are being served in San Francisco restaurants like Saison, Birdsong and Che Fico.
About a decade ago, California-grown black or Périgord truffles were at best a dream, and at worst a long shot. That’s when about a dozen farmers started planting orchards of hazelnut and oak trees, their roots inoculated with Tuber melanosporum spores. If the orchard was carefully tended, the first black truffles could form within five to eight years, though it would take a couple more years for an orchard to really bear fruit.