Tour an olive orchard and mill – and taste the oils

2011-11-29T10:20:00Z 2011-11-29T10:24:30Z Tour an olive orchard and mill – and taste the oilsBy PAUL FRANSON Napa Valley Register
November 29, 2011 10:20 am  • 

Soon after Napa Valley grapes are harvested, it's time to pick the olives.

Although Napa Valley is known for its grapevines, it's also full of olive trees. The climate is perfect for the long-lasting trees, and they keep their leaves during the winter to provide color as well.

Many wineries in Napa Valley also maintain olive trees, either a few as landscaping, or whole orchards.

Olives are harvested after the grape harvest, making them complementary for growers who can use the same workers.

Olive trees, however, don't produce much of their precious oil, so it's a labor of love for most growers and vintners; many make so little oil they keep it for their own or their winery's use, though many sell some as well at their tasting rooms.

A number of stores in Napa Valley offer olive oil tasting, but only two companies - both noted wineries - process their own fruit.

Long Meadow Ranch and Round Pond Estates, both in Rutherford, have both olive orchards and mills or frantoios. Both allow visitors by appointment, and have tasting as well. November and December are generally the best times to visit to see the processing of the olives.

 

Long Meadow Ranch

Long Meadow Ranch in the hills above Rutherford has Napa Valley's oldest olive orchards. Abandoned for years, the orchards were hidden from view by new forests that grew over the original sites. Although aware of a few olive trees when the Ranch was acquired, no one knew of the mysterious treasures to be uncovered.

Owners Ted and Laddie Hall discovered a large olive orchard hidden among much taller trees. This site contained more than 250 mature trees that were last cultivated in about 1920.

More trees were found over time, and now the ranch has restored more than eight acres of olives with nearly 1000 organically farmed mature trees.

Experts have been unable to identify the variety of olives, but they make fine oil. The Halls propagated cuttings from the original olive trees to grow 1,500 new trees and developing other orchards of traditional Italian cultivars of Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino and Moraiolo.

Long Meadow Ranch had a traditional stone grinding wheel among its modern olive-processing equipment. They make two organic extra virgin olive oils: Prato Lungo ($49/500 ml), the estate oil from Napa Valley's oldest olive orchards and Napa Valley Select ($25/375 ml), a blend of organic olive oils it crushes and blends.

Tasting and oils are available at the Long Meadow Ranch and Farmstead site in St. Helena. Call about visits to the frantoio.

 

Longmeadow Ranch and Farmstead Restaurant

738 Main St., St. Helena

707.963.4555

 

Round Pond Estate

Round Pond Estate grows eight distinctive varietals of Italian and Spanish olive trees, each selected for flavors, aromas, superior reputations and compatibility with Napa Valley's climate.

It began importing and planting olive trees in 1998. Today, its olive orchards' 12 acres contains 2,200 trees, some more than 100 years old and imported from Spain.

These estate-grown olive trees produce rich and fragrant extra virgin olive oils from the Tuscan-style fruity, green essence of Leccino olives to the rich and buttery flavors of Spanish Sevillano olives.

Each of our four gourmet olive oils is crafted from hand-harvested olives using traditional stone mill techniques with state-of-the-art technology. Traditional stone mill pressing provides less stress to the skins and pits, thereby exuding a smoother, less pungent oil; whereas, the hammer mill perforates the skins and pits of the olives to produce sharper, more robust flavors.

Round Pond makes four varieties of olive oil, Italian Varietal and Spanish Varietal (each $26 for 370 ml), as well as two flavored with citrus crushed with the olive, Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon (each $28). They also sell 50-ml nips for tasting for $7 each.

 

Round Pond Estates

875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford

888.302.2575

 

Olive oil stores

In addition to the companies that process olive oil in Napa Valley, a number of stores here specialize in olive oils, some they process elsewhere.

 

Napa Valley Olive Oil

Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St. Helena is a quaint old-fashioned Italian grocery store hidden away on a back street.

It sells authentic Italian food, but olive oil is its specialty. Though it no longer processes the oil on site, some of the equipment is still around. Family owned and operated, it have been in business since 1931 and its techniques and processes in olive oil making have not been altered.

The extra virgin and regular olive oil are sold by the jug and the prices are very reasonable. They're not the peppery stuff, but mellow oil suitable for cooking as well as drizzling on food.

 

Napa Valley Olive Oil

835 Charter Oak Ave St. Helena

707.963.4173

 

Olivier

Established in 1995, Olivier began producing fine gourmet oils and savories for specialty stores. In 1999 it opened a retail store in St Helena. It offers tastes and bulk and packaged oils.

 

Olivier

1375 Main St. St Helena

707.967.8777

 

St. Helena Olive Oil Co.

St. Helena Olive Oil Co. confusingly opened its store in Rutherford, and that remains its largest site, though it has also opened in St. Helena now, too.

The store has a tasting bar at each site, and sells oils and related products at each.

 

St. Helena Olive Oil Co.

8576 St. Helena Hwy

800.939.9880

1351 Main St.

707.968.9260

 

The Olive Press at Oxbow Public Market

The Olive Press at Oxbow Public Market is a retail arm of the Olive Press at the Jacuzzi Winery in southern Sonoma. The actual pressing is at that site.

The Olive Press also presses olives for wineries and other olive growers. It, too, offers tastes, packaged and bulk oil.

 

The Olive Press at Oxbow Public Market

610 First St., Napa

(707) 226-2579

 

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