2014 truffle season underway

This is our first truffle newsletter for the 2014 season. It was sent to subscribers a couple of weeks ago. If you’d link to sign up for future missives, use the form in the right sidebar.

Welcome to the first Limestone Hills truffle harvest newsletter for 2014. It’s raining outside – the tail end of a tropical cyclone is nudging us up towards 100 mm of rain for March, and we’re only halfway through what’s normally a dry month. Rosie the truffle machine is a little under the weather as well:

Rosiepaw 1

She has a sore paw of unknown cause, and will be off to the vet in the morning so that we can get it fixed before the truffle season starts in earnest. [Update April 8: Dog and paw doing fine, and finding truffles.] The rain is helping prospects for winter truffles like our Perigord black and bianchetto, but with grapes still hanging in the vines I’m hoping we don’t get too much more wetness. Four nice warm dry weeks to bring in the pinot noir is what’s required…

Burgundy truffles: The first perfect Burgundy truffle of 2014 turned up on January 1st. Rosie was performing for friends who’d joined us for a New Year’s Day lunch, and put her paw on a fine ripe truffle of 59 g. Since then, we have had something of a mixed bag of an early season – a few good truffles have found their way to the Harlequin Public House in Christchurch and to Kent Baddeley at 1024 in Pakowhaishire (Hastings, in Kent-speak), but we’ve also had a fair number of truffles that haven’t made the grade. They’re not wasted – they’ll be used to produce more trees infected with Tuber uncinatum, and thereby contribute to future harvests.

We do have more Burgundy truffles in the ground ripening, so now would be a good time to get in touch if you’re interested in finding out what the fuss is all about. As always, first come first served, and no guarantees. We only sell the finest truffles we harvest, and we only have a tiny patch of trees in production.

Bianchetto & Perigord black truffles: The current wet weather should be good news for our winter harvest – triggering fruiting and helping truffles to grow – but it also means Gareth is being kept busy mowing and trimming and weeding. We’re hoping for another good bianchetto season (from May/June), and improved yields of Perigord black (June/July). More information in our next newsletter.

Waipara Valley Wine & Food Festival: This year’s wine & food festival is being held in the Waipara domain next Sunday (March 23rd), and includes a series of food and wine masterclasses to go with the fine wine, food and music. Gareth has been roped in to lead a session about truffles, so with luck there will be Burgundy truffle to taste and a beagle to meet. Find out how to get tickets here. [Update April 8: The masterclass went very well – photos on Facebook here.]

Truffle tours: Rosie has already accompanied a few people around our truffières this year. She should be able to show you a truffle in the ground in any month of the year, but if you really want to take some home for dinner, it’s best to come during the peak season — May to September.

To make a booking for a tour, contact Gareth. Cost is $75 for a 45 minute tour (max 6 people), but you get to keep the first $50 worth of truffle found (if any). Guests staying with us at The Shearer’s Cottage can have a complimentary truffle hunt or truffiere tour. We’re also very happy to arrange truffle masterclasses/tastings/demonstrations. Contact Gareth to discuss the options…

The Hermit Ram Limestone Hills 2012 Pinot Noir is now out of stock, but that hasn’t stopped Joelle Thompson in yesterday’s Press reviewing it as part of a feature on winemaker Theo Coles:

[Coles] always wanted to make a light-bodied, intense red; the red equivalent of an aromatic white. This elegant pinot succeeds, with its silky red fruit flavours – a lovely style.

There may be some bottles still available at Decant in Christchurch, or from Whole Bunch Wines in Australia, but we’re now looking forward to getting the 2013 pinot out of the barrel and into bottle. Theo says the wine is coming along very nicely. For further information and wholesale availability of the 2013 vintage, contact him direct: winemaker@omihihills.co.nz

Olive oil: Gale force norwesters – fierce, hot dry winds – during flowering in December have resulted in a very poor fruit set throughout the grove (and in many olive groves in the region). If we do end up with enough fruit to make oil, it will be in small quantities and unlikely to go any further than our kitchen. Roll on 2015…

That’s all for now. Expect another update in a month or two – when the grapes have been harvested and Rosie’s marking the first ripe white truffles of the winter.