OUR OLIVE GROVES
To understand why our oil has received so much acclaim around the world, it’s probably best to start with a quick history.
In 1988, after careful research and some incredible luck, we took cuttings from an ancient olive grove in the hills to the east of Lucca, in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. The trees from which we took the cuttings are over 800 years old, and the farm has been in the same family since the 1400s!
It turns out those are some very special trees. While the varieties are common across Tuscany, and the proportions typical (50% Leccino, 25% Frantoio, 15% Maurino, and 10% Pendolino), that grove has very distinct clones — essentially, sub-varietals — whose fruit makes an oil with a flavor profile unlike any other.
When we imported the cuttings to the US in 1990, the US Department of Agriculture informed us that we were the first to bring olive trees into the country since the 1800s.
Olive Ridge Ranch, as we named our home farm, now boasts over 4,000 of these unique trees, with another few hundred planted at our winery.
The olives are harvested by hand over several weeks in the fall. They are pressed the day they are picked. We use a traditional stone wheel for the early part of the harvest, which emphasizes the richness inherent in the fruit. Towards the middle of the second week, we shift to a blade mill to highlight the pepperiness. The oil is unfiltered, first cold press.
We bottle in small batches throughout the year, with the unbottled oil stored under argon gas to keep it fresh. But it’s never better than the instant it’s pressed!
Our Meyer Lemon Oil is made from olives harvested a month later when they are extra-ripe. This is not an infused or flavored oil. Rather, our olives are crushed together with the fragrant skins of organic Meyer lemons using a traditional stone mill that extracts both the oil in the olives as well as the oil in the lemon skins. (We juice the fruit beforehand, reserving it for our addictive Meyer Lemon Curd as well as lemonade.)
Our first harvest was in 1994, and the 1997 olive harvest saw our first significant production. We loved it. Others did too: the ’97 oil turned out to be the very first American extra virgin olive oil to win a blind tasting in Italy!
The best was yet to come. Each year, Italy’s Gambero Rosso – sort of a Gourmet magazine meets the Michelin Guide – selects the best Italian olive oils of the new harvest. In January 1999, they brought samples to Mario Batali’s famous New York restaurant, “Babbo”, to show them off. They didn’t know that we had just sent Mario our very own sample of that year’s production. He slipped it into the blind tasting at his restaurant, and – you guessed it – the delegation from Gambero Rosso selected our ’98 DaVero Dry Creek Estate as the top Tuscan oil! (For about ten minutes, until Mario revealed the origin. But that’s what led us into the wine business…)
Also worth noting, we became in 2001 the first recipient of the Top Gold Award in the Olive Oils of the World competition, the industry’s most prestigious event and award.
Ultimately, though, what we seek isn’t awards from judges, so we have stopped entering competitions. Our most valued award comes instead from the chefs and home cooks who delight in our oils, and consistently come back for more.