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Oct 26, 2008 08:22 PM

Walker Apples, Graton

Since I had some trouble finding details about the legendary Walker Apples outside of Sebastopol, I thought I'd report back on my adventure today.

Walker Apples sells over 25 varieties of apples over the course of the season. They're located about 6 miles outside of Sebastopol, and Google maps has no problems finding it. You go through the village of Graton (which appears to basically consist of the polenta place), and to the signed turn onto Upp road, which rapidly disintegrates into a one-lane unpaved track. Once you've gone past the point where you start to feel lost, you come to the farm, drive past the house and out to the packing shed. (there are periodic signs once you make the turn onto Upp road).

Once I found it, they were tremendously friendly and gracious. The current varieties are stacked in boxes, and they cut samples of each of the varieties for me (with a couple of dogs waiting for the occasional treat). Once I tried everything, she explained the pricing - $1 a pound, $14 for a half bushel box (approx 20 pounds), $22 for a full bushel (approx 40 pounds). The only exception was for a full box of pink lady apples, which was slightly more expensive. I decided to go with a half bushel, and was handed a box to fill with my choice of apples. Once I thought it was full, I was encouraged to add more and more - I actually stopped before they considered it full.

She gave me a brochure the showed the list of varieties with approximate timing:
July - August: Gravenstein, MacIntosh
Early Sept: Macintosh, Red Gold, Empire, Red Delicious, Greening, Bellflower, Golden Delicious, Winter Banana, Jonathan.
Mid September: Northern Spy, Baldwin, York Imperial, Winesap
Early October: Granny Smith, Rome Beauty
Mid October: Ben Davis, Arkansas Black, Ortley, Pippen, Winter Permain, Wagner, Pink Lady

This made a great mid-October adventure. They're open until November 15th, and I definitely recommend this as a destination.

Walker Apples
10955 Upp Rd, Graton, CA

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  1. While I'm at it, I figured I'd recap the other apple stops I made in Sebs today.

    The Sebastopol Farmer's Market was a solid, small-town market. There were 4 or 5 stands that had local apples, each with 3-4 varieties. Most only offered samples on request, and I think they were all $2 a pound. One of the stands has lots of varieties of pears that looked interesting, but I only got one of them.

    On 116 North out of Sebs, there was a large stand selling apples and pumpkins - I believe it was called "Hale's" or something similar. They had about 8 varieties, a couple that were not available at Walker's. They prefer to sell by the box (10 pounds for $ 14, all the same variety. Larger boxes were slightly less per pound), but they will sell you smaller quantities at $2 a pound. They had a large selection of decorative pumpkins that were very unique, and some butternut squash and other edibles. Not a destination to my mind, but if you're collecting apple varieties, it's not a bad stop en route.

    1. >>> Once you've gone past the point where you start to feel lost, you come to the farm


      I didn't pay close enough attention to the details of the journey, being distracted by the large selection mentioned in your post. They really need a few more signs and I prayed another car wasn't coming in the other direction because I have no clue how that would work. Even when I got there I had to ask if this was it.

      Yesterday was the first day and they had Gravenstines. The price is still the same ($1 lb). It is very cool watching the half dozen people sorting the apples on the conveyor belt, apples dropping down chutes here and there.

      Andy's Market also sells their apples. There was a woman who asked about it. They are maybe 30 cents more a pound, though it is hard to tell since Andy's doesn't say where they buy produce. Anyway, for the faint of heart, that's another way to go.

      All those trees ... so many apples on the ground.

      The food related places in tiny downtown Graton are Graton Market, Willowwood Marrket Cafe, Mexico Lindo and Underwood Bar & Bistro. Didn't stop, so don't know much about them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        Everytime I'm near Graton I always stop at Willow Wood Cafe. They have a really interesting menu and while they have a great variety of polenta dishes I always order the open face egg salad with pancetta and pesto. great back patio with climbing roses.

        1. re: cakebaker

          cakebaker: I totally agree. We went up to that farm that sells only one kind of mild, delicious cheese around there and we stopped at the Willow Wood Cafe. Hadn't been there in about 5 years. It's a bit more tres chic than it used to be, but they still have that wonderful back patio. It's like eating lunch in paradise.

      2. The road to Walker Apples is just a one lane road and for all but the last bit, the drive way to their shed, paved. it should not deter the true chowhound. Walker Apples dry farms their apples and that means better flavor; that and the wonderful people the Walkers are keeps me going back.

        1. Last weekend I made my first trip to Walker. I'd never braved the trip up the mountain, but was encouraged by your description of the drive. There are many signs pointing the way, still I was glad to have a friend riding shotgun to keep me on track.

          When we stepped out of the car, the air was completely scented with the sweet smell of ripe, fresh apples. We sampled everything, and bought Arkansas Black and Pink Lady apples, $15 for a half-bushel (20-25 lbs.). The Pink Lady apples are especially crisp, juicy, sweet and complex.

          Apple bins

          1. Walker Apples had a stand at the Santa Rosa farmers market last Saturday.

            Here's Walker's best guess at a harvest schedule.

            Walker Apples
            10955 Upp Rd, Graton, CA

            Santa Rosa Farmers Market
            1531 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA

            6 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Melanie: They already have Arkansas Blacks? I begin to dream of them around the end of June every year.

              1. re: oakjoan

                I don't know. Again, that schedule is a "guess" and this is an unusual year. There were no Arkansas Blacks at the farmstand, only Gravs on Saturday.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  Arkansas Black apples are end-of-the-season apple, and because its been a cool summer, they'll be later than normal. A couple of weeks ago when I got my second box of Gravensteins at Walker, Mr. Walker said that this year, the Arkansas Black skins would be ugly because of the rain but the fruit itself would be very good.

                  Walker Apples
                  10955 Upp Rd, Graton, CA

                  1. re: Ericruo

                    Yeah, I know that Arkansas Blacks are always late, but when I saw them mentioned I got my hopes up. Actually, I probably love them more because I have to wait for them.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      Mentioned . . . oh, I see. My post about buying Arkansas Blacks was on November 15, 2009. The harvest calendar I linked above in this year's post puts them in the November time frame.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Went to Walker apples today. They had Pippins, Greenlings, Winesaps, Golden Delicious, Pipins, Jonathans, Baldwins, Fuji, Rome and more I can't remember. I got some Winesaps, Baldwins, and some sweeter varieties like Golden Delicious, and Fujis for my nine-year-old who only likes sweet. I like fruit that has some complexity and a depth of flavor.

                        A box of 40 pounds is now $27, up $2 for the first time in a few years. The dry farming makes a big difference in flavor.

                        Mr. Walker said that they'd have Arkansas Blacks starting in two weeks for about a month thereafter. He said that there would be Pink Ladies on the same time frame. I am going back up there in a couple of weeks because my daughter likes the Pink Ladies and love the Arkansas Blacks.

                        I had lunch, smoked lamb ribs, and two sides at Pack Jacks in Sebastopol. Still nice but I really don't like all of what seems to be cinnamon in the beans, and they seem undercooked. They had pulled pork today, unusual for them. The plates are $15, service is by the owner's son and he's nice but untrained - he makes empty trips back to the kitchen.