Gravenstein apples are an heirloom variety that is tricky to harvest and doesn't store well. They're grown almost exclusively in Sonoma County, where suburban development and the transformation of orchard land into vineyards seems never-ending. Such pressures mean that the Gravenstein apple is close to extinction as a commercial crop, despite its great flavor - sweet yet tar enough to avoid any hint of cloying, with a snappy but not rock-hard texture - and its stunning ability to be used as both an eating and a baking apple.
Gravenstein apples are usually ready to harvest in August. The harvest "season" lasts just about three weeks - short but sweet. If I'm up in Sonoma in August I'll stop at one of the hand-painted roadside signs that announces the availability of Gravensteins. I've learned to buy more than I think could possibly be necessary. It was a lesson learned the hard way: one year I bought some with the express purpose of baking an Old-Fashioned Apple Pie, but some houseguests managed to eat them all out-of-hand before I got a chance.
Their tart-sweet flavor and wonderfully crisp texture meant that "Mol, what kind of apples are these?" was asked more than once.