EVOO, extra-virgin olive oil, is getting a lot of attention in my studio lately. I received a tour of two wonderful olive oil growers here in California. My tour cohorts were Roberta Klugman, food and wine educator, and Cheryl Koehler, Edible East Bay Magazine Publisher.
Did you know that an olive tree uses very little water and can live for 500 years? Plus there are so many varieties of oil olives and the oils they produce are vastly different and very fun to taste! I learned to gently warm the olive oil tasting cup and to taste buttery, grassy, tomato, and pungent flavors. Another thing to note is that the farming of the trees, the harvest, and the milling of the oil can make a huge difference in flavor among all EVOO varieties. And the enemies of olive oil are time, temperature, light, and air. That is why it is always best to store olive oil in a cool place in a sealed dark bottle.
Our first stop was at Bondolio, where we were treated to a breakfast pizza, a tour of their facility, and a tasting of their delicious hand-milled olive oil. The way they chose their tree varieties (based on tasting oil in Italy for 3 years!), space, prune and hand-harvest their trees really sets them apart. But they also have an expert milling room and procedure that carefully preserves and enhances the flavor of their oil. I can’t imagine anything better. I suggest you tour their website to read their story! And then sign up for a tour of your own!
Take a look at the beautiful Bondolio estate:
After tasting Bondolio we ventured off to one more orchard at Seka Hills. Look at this oak tree in the middle of the Seka Hills orchard!
Seka Hills is very large and offers many types of olive trees. They bottle their oil to order.
You can purchase these oils from their website, their tasting rooms, and also at Rockridge Market Hall. Or check out the California Olive Oil Council list of certified EVOOs from the 2020 harvest.
Some other fun facts about olive oil:
- There are well over 1000 olive cultivars (varieties)!
- In California there are about 75 cultivars grown to produce olive oil.
- Some olive varieties are better for oil, others for table olives.
- There are about 45 olive mills in California. Try to visit one during harvest!
- Growers without mills go to custom crush facilities or sell their olives to a producer.
Check out Market Hall’s EVOO Buying Guide.
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