Carefully tucked inside Chef Ken Frank’s walk-in at La Toque restaurant in Napa last weekend sat 20 pounds of prized black Perigord truffles. Valued at more than $13,000 — wholesale.
They were destined to be the highlight of dinners, cooking demos and special restaurant offerings during last weekend’s Napa Truffle Festival.
And they all came from Italy.
For the past five years that this festival has been held, all the truffles used have been picked in Italy and flown in three days later to Napa.
But some day soon — possibly as early as this coming winter — black Perigord truffles may be harvested right here in Wine Country.
That’s because a burgeoning industry is taking root in Napa and Sonoma counties, as vintners and other property owners are gambling on growing truffles.
The American Truffle Company, which organizes the festival, has partnered with these interested folks to sell and plant filbert and oak trees that have been inoculated with the truffle fungus.
Once the trees are planted, it takes about five years for truffles to form. This winter, the trees of vintner Robert Sinskey, the first local client that signed on with the American Truffle Company, will be reaching that mark. His may become the first Perigords to be harvested in Sonoma County. Already this year, teams of truffle-hunting dogs have shown a much greater interest in his 1 1/2-acre orchard than ever before, Sinskey says, indicating truffles may indeed be forming under his trees.