Mendocino County offers some of the finest olive oils available in California.
This is partly due to its great olive-growing climate, with somewhat chilly winters and hot
summers, but also because of the high concentration of small artisan producers here who
grow olives on their own or in their vineyards. The region lends itself lends itself to growing
well-known olive varieties like Mission, but also such popular Tuscan varieties as Frantoio,
Leccino, Pendolino, Maurino and Coratina. There are three attributes of extra virgin olive oil
that are considered “positive”: fruitiness, pungency and bitterness. The last two are acquired
tastes, and most people in this country prefer olive oils that are less pungent and bitter.
Good producers will try to achieve a palatable balance.
In addition to the olive varieties chosen at time of planting, Mother Nature’s kindness plays a big role in the outcome. Rain, drought and frost can affect the quantity and quality of oil produced.
Are you confused when buying extra virgin olive oil? That’s because there are so many factors to consider. Much like wines, olive varieties largely determine the flavor profile. Nevertheless, Spanish and Greek olives tend to produce oils that are fruitier than Tuscan olives, which are more pungent and slightly more bitter, in part because the Spanish and Greek olives tend to be allowed to ripen longer.
Air, light and heat can affect how long the oil lasts. Unopened good oils can last up to two years. However, once opened they should be consumed within a month, since air will begin to oxidize them. Keep several oils on hand for different purposes, but not so many that they will go rancid in your cupboard. It is important to store them in a cool dark place, but not the refrigerator.
To learn more, tour the county’s first certified organic olive mill located in Hopland, Terra Savia. The facility offers olive oil tastings and resources for growing olives and crafting premium olive oil.
WHERE: 14161 Mountain House Road, Hopland
MORE INFO: 707-744-1114