Approximately 4 hours south of Perth and half way between Manjimup & Pemberton, is a boutique truffle farm called Stonebarn Lodge (http://www.stonebarn.com.au/).
Madame Truffles has been showcasing truffle from Stonebarn for the past 4 years. The truffle is exceptional, robust and aromatic. It is dark brown inside with strong white veins. It is arguably some of the best black truffle in the world.
The trufferie is hidden amongst tall gum and karri trees, 3km off the main road, down a dirt road, in a beautifully lush and perfectly sloped part of the world. Looking over the truffle trees is a stone barn built by Dion & Sharon Range and their two boys Jake and Ari. The barn itself, more like a turn of the century grand old home, is made from thousands of orange and brown stones sourced from the local area. Inside the lodge are grand ceilings, open fireplaces, a commercial kitchen, several lounge areas, a dining hall and six king-sized bedrooms with their own ensuite and kitchenette.
There is much to love about this place including the use of iron and wood furnishings collected from the old defunct railway at the bottom of the farm, the open cellar, the generous hospitality… and the copper fittings; the kitchen and bathroom taps & shower fittings are beautifully fitted with copper pipes. From the living areas, bedrooms and deck, you can look out over the truffle farm.
There are approximately 2,000 truffle trees planted here, on approximately 165 acres of land. The first planting was 50:50 oak and hazel. Due to the success of the oak trees and longevity of oak, the second planting consisted of many more oak trees, with the English oak proving to be the most successful producer of truffle thus far.
The trees are given quite a bit of space to grow, in contrast to the truffle farms visited in Manjimup, with approximately 5m between rows. The trees are also pruned in the Spring and look like a pretty upside down triangle. The pruning and the space allows the sun to heat the soil in the summer, and the light morning frost to cover the soil in the winter – sun and frost present perfect conditions for growing truffle.
When we visited last week, truffles were already cracking through the soil. The soil itself is loam, which is nutrient rich, retains the right amount of water and easy to handle. Whilst we wandered through the trees, Peri the golden Labrador sniffed out a number of early truffles. We tagged the trees and covered the truffles with soil so that they could continue to ripen and not be eaten by bugs. We noted many new trees producing for the first time. Unsurprisingly, Dion expects his trees to produce even more fruit this year, due to a combination of perfect weather conditions + tree development and new trees producing.
Dion has also planted some trees inoculated with white truffle spores, so we shall wait and see if anything appears in the coming years!
Whilst Pemberton is technically part of the Manjimup region, it is interesting to explore how the two areas differ. The yield from producing trees in Pemberton seems to be higher (although as is always the case with this industry, exact figures are hard to come by) but whether it is the soil, the slopes, the abundance of Karri trees, or something else altogether that improves truffle production, is hard to know.
We will explore what makes this part of WA, an area that in many ways shouldn't produce truffle as it is so close to the equator, such a phenomenal truffle producing region, in another post soon.
Key Stonebarn Facts
60% oak, 40% hazel
The soil is loam
You can stay at Stonebarn Lodge. Visit Stonebarn.com.au for details.