Sonoma County Unique August 28, 2006

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This time of year I like to write about Lee Walker and his family farm. Lee's grandfather (Arthur Upp) planted the first Gravenstein apple orchard on the property in 1912; and the apples we have in the crates are the fruit descendants of that planting. Today Lee grows 25 varieties of apples on his farm, each with a different maturity and pick date. Lee's harvest starts with the early varieties in August and stretches a few different varieties every one to two weeks into November. At this time of year if you follow the bumpy road down into Lee's farm, you'll end up in a quiet and peaceful bowl shaped valley where the apple trees spill down hills and pickers balance on 3-legged wooden ladders while filling their shoulder-slung canvas satchels with fruit. They bring the apples down from the hills to a small packing shed where the fruit is sorted by hand and wiped clean with a cloth. Lee's farm in Graton has produced apples that have consistently won the Sonoma County Fair's best apple awards since the 1960's. His trophies and ribbons line the one wooden back wall along the open packing shed.
Color and Taste:
Lee's Gravensteins come in two varieties - the red and the green kind. Last week we featured the green Gravensteins which tend to have a tarter flavor. This week we have his reds. The reds tend to be striped or spotted and are quite sweet. As I sample one right now Red Gravenstein Apples and write this – picking up minor hints of an almost cabernet like texture and flavor that is the darker Red Gravenstein's combination of the peel and inner fruit, I realize that this apple is truly an original taste. It is an apple from which other tastes should be described. Lee says that Gravenstein growing is special to western Sonoma County because of the climate. The Gravensteins love the fog in the mornings and the warm afternoons; and the winters aren't too cold but chill the trees enough to go dormant. We work with Lee every year and there is a clear reason why - his fruit is unique. Enjoy and be fruitful.


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