Our Olive Oils & 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, we took cuttings from some very special olive trees in an ancient olive grove in the hills to the east of Lucca, in the heart of the Tuscan countryside. It turns out those are some very special trees. While the varieties are common across Tuscany, that grove has very distinct clones (essentially, sub-varietals) whose fruit makes an oil with a flavor profile unlike any other. 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!
When we brought the cuttings to the US in 1990, the US Department of Agriculture informed us that we were the first to import olive trees to the US since the 1800s.
Like so many immigrants in our country’s history, the ‘children’ adapted beautifully to our soil and climate.
The 1997 harvest saw our first significant production, and we thought it was delicious. But we weren’t the only ones: that oil was the very first American extra virgin olive oil to win a blind tasting in Italy! (This happened with wine in Paris in 1974, when a 1972 Stag’s Leap cabernet took first place in the annual blind tasting. It shocked the wine world, and was a watershed for California wines; the rest is history.)
Just a year later, though, was the moment we enjoy the most. 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 December, they brought those oils to Mario Batali’s famous New York restaurant, Babbo, to show them off. What they didn’t know was that we had just sent Mario a sample of our brand-new 1998 oil. He slipped our oil into the blind tasting at his restaurant, and – you guessed it – the delegation from the Gambero Rosso selected our ’98 DaVero Dry Creek Estate as the top Tuscan oil!
And then in 2001, we became 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 matters isn’t awards from judges – which is why we stopped entering competitions – but rather the palattes of real people. And on that score we’ve received the ultimate award: top chefs and home cooks ordering again and again.
Dry Creek Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
‘Green-gold love juice!’ – Iron Chef Mario Batali
Our award-winning Dry Creek Estate oil is ‘extra-virgin elixir’ according to Appellation magazine, and star chef Mario Batali calls it ‘spectacular’ and uses it as the premier house oil at his legendary New York restaurant Babbo. Consistently placed among the world’s top olive oils, it is rich, fruity, peppery, and delicious. It’s great with salads, pasta, soup, new potatoes, and grilled vegetables – or just for dipping bread.
The olives are hand-picked, then pressed the same day. We use a traditional stone wheel for the early part of the harvest, which emphasizes the richness inherent in our fruit, then shift to a blade mill towards the middle of the second week to highlight the pepperiness.
The oil is unfiltered, first cold press, and is bottled in small batches throughout the year, with the unbottled oil stored under argon gas to keep it fresh.
Dry Creek Estate Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
‘I use it on everything!’ – Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis
This oil is made from our Estate olives (the same ones used in our award-winning Dry Creek Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but harvested a month later when they are extra-ripe). Many professionals regard it as the finest citrus oil in the world.
This is not an infused or flavored oil. Rather, our olives are crushed together with our fragrant Meyer lemons and organic Lisbon lemons using a traditional stone mill to bring out the oil that’s in the skin of the lemons. As a result, this oil has an amazing lemon ‘nose’ and flavor atop a wonderfully buttery foundation. (We juice the lemons beforehand, reserving the juice for our addictive Meyer Lemon Curd as well as for lemonade for our tasting room.)
This oil is a wonderfully versatile way to add interest to many dishes. Try it as a simple dressing for fresh salad greens, for marinating and finishing fish and shrimp, or for drizzling over vegetables like fresh-picked green beans, fennel, radicchio, and asparagus, or…
(Be sure to check out the Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake on our Recipes page!)
Harvesting by Hand
We now have about 4,500 olive trees planted on 22 acres here at our home farm, Olive Ridge Ranch, all descended from the original cuttings we took at Fattoria Mansi Bernardini outside of Lucca in 1988 and 1989. We have another 1,200 on three other properties that we farm, including the Valladares Vineyard where we also have our tasting room.
There are four varietals: Leccino, Frantoio, Maurino, and Pendolino, planted at a ratio of 50%, 25%, 15%, and 10%, respectively. Importantly, these are specific clones of each of those four varietals, which helps to explain why our oil tastes different than other California oils produced from the same varietals. (The same is true in wine: what matters isn’t just the varietal, but the clone.)
While each has distinct flavors, we made the decision to plant them as a field blend, following the time-tested approach used in Tuscany. This means that you harvest at the ripeness of the field, rather than the ripeness of each variety, and results in what we think is much more interesting – and delicious – oil.
We’ve always followed sustainable practices, but are now certified as both organic and Biodynamic®. The groves show it: the trees are healthy, happy, and productive, and the soil is too.