California Wine Country Finds Boom in Olive Oil

By Michelle Locke

Yes, there’s liquid gold hidden among the vines, part of an olive oil boom in recent years. You can tour an orchard, learn what extra-virgin olive oil really means and taste your way through lemon-, herb- and even chocolate-infused olive oils. Harvest is usually around the end of the year, but any time is good for a visit. Here are five recommended “pit” stops:

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Olive Press

The Olive Press offers a tour of its mill in Sonoma, where you can learn about how the oil is made, get tips on how to taste oil like a professional and browse the large store. Tour reservations are required at least a week in advance, and cost varies from free to $20 US per person depending on activities selected. The mill is located within Jacuzzi Family Vineyards so there’s a complimentary wine tasting as well. theolivepress.com.

Lucero

Walk into the downtown Napa tasting room of Lucero Olive Oil and you know you’re in for some serious tasting. The walls are lined with bottles of olive oil including several infused oils that range from zippy Meyer lemon to a chocolate-infused oil that is as delicious on ice cream. Lucero also produces a range of balsamic vinegars, table olives, tapenades and mustards which are available for tasting. The company mill and groves are based in Corning, a major olive producing area in Northern California and there’s also a tasting room in Portland, Ore. lucerooliveoil.com/

Round Pond Estate

A family-run winery whose owners branched out into olives some years ago, this estate produces four gourmet olive oils and has an on-site olive mill. If you’re pressed for time, you can do the “splash and dash” tasting, enjoying olive oils and the estate’s red wine vinegars. Available April-November, $20 per person. For a more leisurely approach, take a tour and tasting, by appointment only. You get a tour of the mill followed by sit-down tasting of olive oils, vinegars and syrups paired with estate wines, vegetables and other fresh edibles, $45 US per person, roundpond.com/olive-mill.

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