Beyond Bread & Salad
“No Virginia. There is no Santa Claus.” One of the great lies of our civilization. Right?
When I found out that many imported olive oils were not 100% olive oil, I had the same reaction as a 7 year old learning that there was no Santa Claus. What do you mean they’re filled with soybean oil, hazelnut oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, peanut oil and more? So they’re taking lower-priced products and putting them into and blending them with or putting them into bottles and labeling them extra virgin. In fact olive oil is the most common fraudulent product today. If you don’t believe me check it out at www.foodfraud.org. Also, you can read Tom Mueller’s book “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil”.
However California is different. In an effort to self-regulate all olive oil producers have strict labeling and grading standards they must follow. Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the state must pass chemistry and taste test by a master taste panel at UC Davis. Then you can put it on your seal of your can. All olive oil cans will have a harvest and mill date. That is how you will know they are authentic.
Ann and Mark Sievers, owners of Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company in Suisun City (a city not far from Napa) are incredibly passionate and inspiring people. Il Fiorello translates from Italian to little flower. As in the little white flowers on the olive tree. Suisun is the Indian word for Westwind. This wind is strong and it pollinates the trees. (Olives are wine pollinated, not bee pollinated.)
On their estate they grow thirteen olive tree varieties with Arbequina being their major tree. Ann likes this olive because, it has a higher yield than other trees, it’s mild tasting and the oil is delicious. They are also well-known for their Frantoio variety, the most popular variety in Tuscany. It is very fruity with a wonderful aroma, with a hint of green apple.
By the way, speaking of fruity, did you know that olives are a fruit? Yep.
I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the olive processing area. Their machine, imported from Italy processes 3 tons per hour. One ton of olives yields 30 gallons of olive oil. That is why it is so expensive. But when you taste the real thing, you know it. It stops you dead in your tracks and then you know what I’m talking about.
Ann loves to create through olive oil and food. To this they are building an event center where they can have cooking classes.
After the tour patrons go to the tasting room where they are offered an olive oil and food pairing. Small bites of different foods pair with the different oils and vinegars. This is a great way to actually taste the differences. My favorite was their roasted blood orange balsamic vinegar.
So, when you see a higher price for “real” olive oil, please support the cause. Support honest labeling, support the California growers who are honest and sell only pure olive oil. Yes, it costs more, but after you taste the real stuff and appreciate the vast richness and complexity of the fine oil, you’ll understand the difference in quality, value and price.
For more information go to: http://ilfiorello.com/. Next time you’re in the Napa area, I highly recommend taking a tour and enjoying a tasting.