Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wolfskill Fig Tasting

We had a luxurious fig tasting at Wolfskill yesterday, under the 150 year-old olive trees which are, according to Ray Bruman, "like something out of Tolkein."

The good folks there had already laid out both figs and grapes for tasting. Very attractive - people were buzzing around with their cameras. The staff spoke briefly about their programs, figs and grapes in particular, including the startling (to me) fact that there is no organized breeding program for figs. Anywhere.

Then we began tasting. Figs: 'Ischia Black,' 'King,' 'Violette de Bordeaux,' 'Santa Cruz Dark,' 'Zidi,' 'Kadota 1,' 'California Brown Turkey,' and 'Calimyrna.' The favorite seemed to be 'Zidi.' Orchard manager Howard Garrison again presented his legendary grilled figs, 'Excel' stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, and 'California Brown Turkey' with walnuts. It was interesting to compare the tastes of the grilled and fresh 'California Brown Turkey' - completely different.

And grapes too - a wonderful assortment: V. vinifera 'Autumn Black,' 'Chasselas Rouge' (an old classic), 'Alicante Bouschet,' 'Pirobelle' (very richly sweet), 'Longyan' (thought by some to taste like lychees), and 'Sultanina Marble' (fruit green flecked with brown, variegated foliage); V. labrusca 'Woodruff;' and, a hybrid, 'Muscat Angel.'

Disappointed not to be "out in the field"? Not to worry! At last year's tasting someone drove over and broke some irrigation risers so they didn't want us all driving out there ourselves. Instead, we piled into air-conditioned vans for the trip out to the trees. We enjoyed a running commentary on the various blocks of trees as we went (lots more persimmons scheduled to be planted! pomegranate tasting coming up....), and once there they invited us to sample all the figs we wanted from the trees.

It was hotter out there, so we didn't stay long. They drove us back to the parking area under the olives, where the top temperature inside a parked car was 85F.