Tuesday, April 21, 2009

McEvoy Olive Oil

Nan McEvoy bought 500 acres so her grand kids would have someplace to play. She bought olive trees because everyone else was planting grapes. Now 18,000 trees later they produce a high end olive oil, they call a fruit juice. The ranch is in a beautiful valley west of Petaluma. The scenery is outstanding. I think more beautiful than most wineries - not a road in site from the main house and factory and nothing but beautiful rolling hills planted with silvery olive trees, broken up by the occasional pond. The tour was pricey - $35. Someone else paid for me, thank God. But it was a lot fun and very interesting. Ask me a question about olive growing - the fruit only occurs on last year's new growth.

They trim the trees so there is no center branch. The four remaining branches aim outwards for easy picking. Easy picking by the 100 pickers who come to pick the 18,000 trees at harvest time in November. The fancy mill reminded me of an Italian sports car, maybe because it's the Italian Ferrari of pressing equipment. I was impressed by how shiny, clean and pleasant the building was where the pressing occurs, white tiles walls, big sunny windows and immaculate machinery, including the stone wheels were some of the pressing is done. The clean room where all the oil is bottled was not on the tour. But the guide said because of the square bottle which Nan insists on because she likes it, each bottle must be filled and labeled by hand. The tour ended with a tasting in the tasting room. first a sip from a cup with a noisy slurp at the same time to appreciate the fresh green and bitter notes. Then we tried it drizzled over some toasts spread with goat cheese, then greens from their garden. This is not a glug glug into the pan olive oil. It is a finishing oil, one where you want the taste of the oil to be a component of the final dish. A drizzle over a grilled steak or field green salad, like a quality vinegar. After the tour you can see why it is not a cheap olive oil - all those hands pruning, picking and labeling in place of machinery and because like a fine wine it is grown and produced for its distinctive flavor, specific to McEvoy. The smallest bottle goes for about $22. You can taste it for free at the Ferry Building at the McEvoy store and maybe buy some produce from their huge gardens. Would I do the tour again? Sure if someone else paid. Will I buy another bottle when the one I have is gone? Most definately.

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