The Truffle-Winery Connection

Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo by Andrea Johnson

It seems like a natural fit. The luxury of wine and the exoticism of truffles; hard to find, intoxicatingly aromatic and wildly expensive, so it’s no surprise wineries are getting into raising truffles. And, in some cases, the truffles found the winery.

At Angela Estate (angelaestate.com) in Dundee, Oregon, Winery General Manager Jessica Endsworth points out, “We have naturally occurring truffles in a small patch on our property. We haven’t cultivated them, they found us! We are a household of myco-enthusiasts, so it works.”

When Angela Estate started making wine from the Abbot Claim vineyard, which is close to a patch of Douglas fir trees, Endsworth was sure she smelled and tasted truffle in the wine. Folks at the Oregon Truffle Festival confirmed that Angela Estate had an active, healthy truffle patch beneath the firs.

“We don’t cultivate them,” says Endsworth, “but we do a couple events a year where chefs and guests can come up and truffle hunt.”

At Left Coast Estate (leftcoastwine.com) in Rickreall, Oregon, adjacent to a vineyard planted with pinot noir, there are four acres of hazelnut trees inoculated with Périgord truffles that were planted between 2008 and 2010. While this orchard is old enough to produce truffles and, as the winery indicates, there have been visual indicators that there is truffle activity, no truffles were found last season.

At Left Coast, Hospitality Manager Will Craigie and his Lagotto Romagnolo truffle dog, Maeva, are the truffle hunters and, at six months, Maeva has already been training. Craigie explains, “The approach to this point has been intentionally hands off, letting the trees grow and allowing the underground network of mycelium to form and create the appropriate conditions for truffles. The goal is to have the truffles for use in our culinary program at Left Coast. If we happen to have a bumper crop, I’m sure it won’t be hard to find a home for them.”

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