Fourteen years ago when we decided to plant 30 acres of the farm with something, the obvious choice was grapes. Our family had grown grapes in Yolo and Napa counties since 1870 and our family is currently growing grapes in Sonoma County at Tobylane Vineyards. The soils and Mediterranean climate were perfect, the experts assured me of the future success of the vineyard. So naturally we decided to grow olives.
The vast majority of oil produced in California is made from either old growth canning olives (Mission and Sevillano) now converted to oil production or the modern varieties of Arbequina and Arbosana grown in high densities. Both styles produce mellow more buttery oil, soft in flavor.
As a small producer, we wanted to differentiate ourselves. The most interesting oils to us are made from the Tuscan cultivars. These oils tend to be more pungent, peppery and, to us, more interesting.
After much research and tasting of varietal oils we decided to plant primarily the Frantoio (Fran-toy-ō) variety with an additional 2.5% of the orchard each planted with Pendolino and Lecchino for polination. We planted Frantoio Grove in 2005.
In 2017, we decided to bite the bullet and certify our farm organic. We made almost no changes in our process to get this certification. But we are now officially certified by CCOF.
A sign of the harvest, Olio Nuovo is an unfiltered "new oil" that goes straight from the mill to the bottle, and is available for just a couple of months each year - typically from the beginning of harvest (early November) through the end of the year. This ultra-fresh olive oil has a relatively short shelf life and should be used within a few months of pressing.
Its ephemeral charms are best showcased when used as a finishing oil - drizzled over leafy greens with a squeeze of lemon, quickly tossed in pasta or for dipping fresh-baked bread. Traditional Italian Harvest treat is to grill some fresh bread, Ciabatta or Baguette, rub with a clove of raw garlic slather with the fresh oil and a pinch of salt. Heaven!
One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked is: what does extra virgin mean? It's a fair question because the range of answers is all over the board. The International Olive Council, The California Olive Council and the USDA all have defined it as follows:
- It meets a specific criteria determined by laboratory analysis (see our Harvest Notes for our oil's chemical analysis.) These tests are designed to detect oil that has been heat extracted, adulterated , mishandled or oxidized.
- It passes a taste test by a certified panel of trained tasters. Olive oil will fail at one (or both) of the methods if it has been mishandled, adulterated, oxidized.