Chef Becky gives her blessing to the olio nuovo, the first
pressing of the 2012 olive crop, and says it may be our best oil ever!
inspiration for planting olives was a trip to Tuscany in November of 2001. We
stayed at a B&B in Tuscany during olive harvest. On a warm, sunny day, with
our host, Georgio and 4 members of his family representing 4 generations we
picked olives by hand, into nets beneath the trees. While we picked they
prepared a lunch of grilled sausages and lardon, salad, bread and red wine. We
ate right there in the olive grove where we picked; nothing fancy, but
delicious and totally unforgettable. After, we took the olives to the mill with
Georgio and watched it being pressed. I’ll never forget the green color of that
oil and its’ peppery taste. Our dream is to make oil that good and this year’s
oil is a very good advance in that quest.
and fruity up front, followed by piquant grassy notes, and finishing with a
little ‘bite”. Becky strongly influenced my decision to pick the olives earlier
this year, wanting “greener” oil, a more traditional Tuscan flavor profile. It
I was also influenced by more
practical reasons: First, since greener olives yield less oil, with such a
large crop, having enough oil to sell is not an issue. Second, this year’s
olive crop is huge, and I knew it would take a week longer to pick it. (By the
way, the olive oil pressed from the olive picked first week will have a
slightly different character than the oil pressed from the last week and we are
going to see if we can taste the difference.) Third, this years’ California
crop of olives is heavy meaning there will be more competition getting mill
slots scheduled. And last, with such a large quantity of oil, it will take
longer to sell, so storage is a factor; greener oil, with higher polyphenol
content has a much longer shelf life than the “golden” oils (and more anti
oxidants and more health benefits.)
This years’ crop is unbelievable!
Our trees, 400 in all, planted along roads and property lines in single rows,
look like weeping willows, with their branches, laden with olives, bent
to the ground. One tree alone had 300 lbs of olives and it took my best picker
an entire day to pick it! Our crew picks the olives using their hands, finger
tips wrapped in duct tape, like a rake sliding the olives off the branch into
the picking tote. We then rush them to the mill in Petaluma within hours which
is critical in assuring the highest quality oil.
do you know if your oil is high quality? Here are a few tips on taste testing
The 4 Ss:
releases the oil’s aroma molecules. Keep one hand on the bottom of the glass to
heat the oil and the other hand covering the top to keep in the oil aroma.
Sniff – Uncover
the oil and quickly inhale from the rim of the glass. Take note of the
intensity and the description of the aroma.
Take a small sip of the oil while also “sipping” some air. This slurping action
emulsifies the oil and helps spread it throughout your mouth. Take note of the
retro-nasal aroma as well as the intensity of bitterness.
An oil’s pungency is judged by a sensation in your throat so you must swallow
at least a small amount to thoroughly evaluate it. If the oil makes your throat
scratchy or makes you want to cough, it is a pungent oil.
What positive attributes do you
look for when sampling oil?
– This refers to the aroma of fresh, undamaged fruit in the oil.
– This is the primary flavor of fresh olives and is perceived through the taste
buds located on the back of the tongue
– This is a biting sensation felt in the throat that will often time make you
What negative attributes do you
Naturally occurs as oil age.
– Caused by mold spores that develop when olives have been stored in humid
conditions prior to milling.
or Burnt – Occurs when the olives are exposed to excessive temperatures during
When oil is extracted from olives that have been damaged by frost prior to
Occurs when oil is extracted from olives which were preserved in brine.
The result of extracting oil from olives damaged by olive fly infestation.