Wednesday, January 18, 2006

California Olive Oil?

January 18, 2006

From, Golden State's olive presses yield bottles on par with world's best.

For the most part, California olive oils aim for the high end of the market. The best -- handpicked, cold-pressed and unfiltered -- compare favorably to the most respected in the world, taking top honors in international competitions.
California's production is still small, about 400,000 gallons, and it is best used not for cooking, but for applying as a flavor enhancement. The greener the olive the more peppery, so many olive oil producers try for a balance between the black olives and green. It takes the olives from about three trees to produce a gallon of oil.
There are strong links between wine and olive oil. Both crops thrive in similar climates and soils. It's no accident the modern California olive oil industry took root in the wine country of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Table olives had long been grown in California, but little premium was put on the oil until vintner Lila Jaeger began making oil from old trees growing at Rutherford Hill winery, says Vossen, the UC extension olive oil guru.

Today, most growers follow the lead of Evers (Ridgley Evers, a software executive, had brought the first Tuscan trees to the States in 1990 to start DaVero oil company in Sonoma.), who fell in love with a Tuscan oil and planted trees on his Dry Creek Valley farm that were grown from cuttings propagated in Lucca, Italy. Tuscan-style oils tend to be more herbaceous, with a pungent, peppery kick, depending on how early the olives are harvested in the fall and how long the oils have been stored. Oils from more mellow varieties such as manzanilla and those that have been harvested when the fruit is riper are more likely to be softer and more buttery. Oils also begin to lose their sharp edges when they're stored, so an oil from last year's harvest will be less bitter than one that was just pressed.

Olive oil goes perfectly with the good breads that are baked here in Portland. A good restaurant here pays attention to both.

Bev & Mike
Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery

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