Olive Oil: Fresh, local and booming

OLIVE OIL IS ONE OF CALIFORNIA’S FASTEST-GROWING agricultural products, and our region is a major contributor. It is home to olive orchards, award-winning olive-oil producers, the prestigious UC Davis Olive Center, and some exceptional olive-oil merchants such as The Olive Groove in Grass Valley.

The accolades continued this spring when Wild Groves of Newcastle won Best of Show and Best of California, Large Producer from the California State Fair for its “robust blend” extra virgin olive oil — one of the most prestigious competitions.

Dewey Lucero and his family own Wild Groves. Dewey represents the fourth generation of Lucero olive farmers, producers, tasters and blenders, and his family’s groves in Corning are some of California’s oldest.

Frate Sole of Woodland (Yuba County) won best California artisan producer and a double gold medal for its “Tuscan Gold.” Owners Jim and Andrea Mayer planted their olive trees in 1999. The olives are transported to a mill near Gridley and made into oil within 24 hours.

Other State Fair gold-medal winners included Apollo Olive Oil in Oregon House (Yuba County) and Chacewater Winery and Olive Mill, among others. Chacewater’s olive orchard is located in Lake County, and its vineyard is in Nevada County. The owners, the Manuel family, are Grass Valley natives.

Apollo won gold for its “Sierra” and “Mistrial” blends, while Chacewater won for its organic “Allegra.”

This year, the judges were led by Orietta Gianjorio, an internationally certified evaluator of olive oil and former member of the UC Davis and California Olive Oil Council tasting panels. The judges analyzed and evaluated 189 of the best olive oils grown, processed and bottled in California.

The top extra virgin olive oil competition winners will be honored on June 21 at the State Capitol. The olive oil competition winners also will be featured at the State Fair’s “Taste of California Experience Classes” on July 13- 29. Fair-goers can learn how to taste, pair, and use the best California olive oils during the classes taught by olive oil experts.

“The purpose of the State Fair competition is to promote quality, and find olive oil made with passion and integrity,” says Gianjorio.

(Photo: Wild Groves)

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