filet mignon with a biscuit top and vegetables around

Willamette Valley Wine Country: Your Destination for Oregon Truffle Culture

Newberg’s Chehalem Ridge B&B Gets to the Root of Oregon’s Truffle Love

As Oregon Truffles and the mystique surrounding them continues to pick up steam in the contemporary food scene, Willamette Valley wine country gains recognition as a destination for truffle lovers.  The valley’s forests and fertile soil surely account for the growth of the Oregon Truffle, but add to that a culture of discerning palates, hard-working vintners, and innovative chefs – and Oregon Wine Country starts to look a lot like Oregon Truffle Country.

a bowl of shaved Oregon white Truffles
Shaved Oregon White Truffles wait for the last moment to be added to dishes at the Joel Palmer House in the Willamette Valley.
a hand holding a dirty oregon truffle
Stefan Czarnecki uses the winter and spring months to hunt for truffles and take visitors on private truffle foraging tours.

In the winter months, visitors find Willamette Valley wine country abuzz with truffle events and experiences. Wineries hold sought-after truffle dinners prepared by visiting celebrity chefs. Acclaimed wine country restaurants curate menus highlighting the seasonal delights in new and intriguing ways. Tour guides like Stefan Czarnecki of Black Tie Tours take truffle lovers on foraging excursions complete with truffle sniffing dogs and truffle-centric picnics. 

The season culminates each year in February, in the wine country town of Newberg – home to our very own Chehalem Ridge B&B – plays host to then the annual Oregon Truffle Festival. In 2021, the Oregon Truffle Festival is limited to hosting some virtual events while Taste Newberg has assembled a myriad of small business to celebrate Truffle Month in Newberg

As if that weren’t enough, we happen to have our own little secret… in December as Kristin was digging out some old lavender bushes, she spotted a chunk of something in the soil.  She picked it up, brushed it off and inhaled deeply to find a musty, earthy scent.  With a little research, and after reaching out to Stefan, we realized that we had an Oregon Spring Truffle!  So not only are we a bed and breakfast in the thick of all this truffle fanfare, we had to throw ourselves into learning more about what we might – maybe – hopefully! have right under our feet.  Here’s what we learned about the elusive fungi.

FUN-gi Facts about Oregon Truffles:

1.  Truffles are fungi typically grown in the wild.  While the Black French Truffle is the most famous, there are four popular culinary Oregon species: Oregon Black, Oregon Winter White, Oregon Spring White, and the lesser known Oregon Brown. 

2.  Truffles are actually the fruit of fungi grown at the root (they mature underground unlike the mushrooms we’re used to) of hardwoods like Oak trees. In northwestern Willamette Valley, they tend to flourish in Doug Fir forests and can also be found to grow – if the conditions are right – in the valley’s countless hazelnut orchards. 

a labradoodle sniffing an oregon truffle in its owners hand
Ella the Truffle Dog of Black Tie Tours

3.  The wild nature in which truffles grow is part of what makes them so fascinating. A tree’s relationship with the fungi is quite an interdependent one; the tree provides it with sugar, in exchange for the fungi’s access of water and nutrients that the tree wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

4.  The tree isn’t the only thing the fungi depends on. At its core, a truffle is a spore-spreading organism that needs to do just that – spread spores. It does this by emitting an aroma that attracts forest animals to seek them out, digest them, and multiply them further via the animal’s excrement; allowing intact spores to germinate and continue the cycle.  Humans have tried to inoculate tree roots with spores to germinate truffles, but it’s been difficult to accomplish.

5.  Truffle foragers know it’s best to harvest from the roots of trees 15 to 30 years old, usually varying from January through March, sometimes earlier & sometimes later, depending on the year’s conditions and the species of truffle. Our Oregon Spring Truffles should ripen a little later, so we’ll let you know.

6.  Half the fun involved in truffles is foraging for them! Foragers look for tell-tale signs under mature trees: typically holes where an animal would have burrowed to find the tasty treats. The best way to find truffles at the peak of their life-cycle is to employ highly trained truffle dogs who sniff them out in exchange for a doggie treat. The human gets the truffle, the dog gets a bone!

filet mignon with a biscuit top and vegetables around
The Joel Palmer House is renown for using wild mushrooms, including truffles, in is menu.

7.  The taste of a truffle is hard to define and it comes down to several factors. To name just a few: what species, when in its cycle it was harvested, and, of course, the pallet of the person eating it. It is commonly said that they impart a smoky, earthy, gamy or musky flavor.  No one can argue that no matter how indescribable the flavor might be, they add a distinctive richness of flavor to any dish.

Visiting Oregon Truffle Country 

cupped hands holding Oregon Truffles

If you’re wondering how to participate in the truffle frenzy when you come to the Willamette Valley, we’d love to be your home base for all your truffle fun and help you find all of the experiences nearby.  While the Oregon Truffle Festival has gone virtual this year, Taste Newberg has mobilized Chehalem Ridge B&B and several area businesses to offer truffle-themed products and/or smaller, personal experiences to visitors in lieu of larger gatherings and events in 2021. Their blog has links to all the special events in Newberg and a few virtual events. 

Chehalem Ridge B&B is participating by discounting nightly rates when guests add a specially curated Truffle Love package to reservations at the inn throughout February 2021. 

The Truffle Love package* includes:

  • 10% discount on nightly rates 
  • In-room truffle-inspired 3-course gourmet breakfast
  • Silk rose petals scattered in a heart on the bed 
  • One box of 6 Briar Rose Fromage Blanc Truffles (the “other” truffle) 
  • One bottle of Et Fille’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 
  • One in-room truffle-themed dinner for 2 provided by The Newbergundian Bistro, delivered by B&B staff to guest room
cocoa dusted chocolate truffles
As part of Chehalem Ridge B&B’s Truffle Love package, guests will also be delighted by a box of Briar Rose Fromage Blanc Truffles…we like to think of them as the “other” truffle.

*The Truffle Love package can be reserved on www.chehalemridge.com, excluding the 3-day weekend around Valentine’s Day.

Whether it’s for truffles, wine or simple relaxation, come find out why the Willamette Valley is the right choice for the vacation you had in mind. Chehalem Ridge Bed & Breakfast would love to be your host to all that wine country truffle country has to offer.

By Liz Bethell, Assistant Innkeeper

February 1, 2021