July 29, 2020
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It’s no secret that California creates some of the best olive oil in the world—and the state has rightfully earned its reputation as a world-class olive oil producer. After all, the sunny astate is an optimal destination for olive production, creating approximately 99 percent of the nation’s olive oil.
California’s olive culture dates back to the 18th century when Spanish missionaries planted olive trees from Sonoma to San Diego. Now, with over 75 olive varieties and a wide array of oil-producing methodologies—ranging from labor-intensive traditional to highly mechanized methods—the Golden State is home to several acclaimed olive oil producers. The olives here are grown in a myriad of soil types, climates, and microclimates and are harvested at varying degrees of ripeness, capturing a tapestry of flavors.
Several SoCal olive orchards offer tours and tasting events to acquaint guests with different olive types. Many olive oil connoisseurs often skip the bread altogether and dive right into the tasting; when tasting the olive oil, it’s important to study the fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency of the oil. The variety in taste represents the spectrum of flavors and the Golden State’s agricultural and environmental diversity.
The 5 Best Olive Oil Producers in Southern California
Looking to learn more about the differences between olive oils? There are several SoCal companies producing high-quality, all-natural olive oils that are bound to please your palate. Here are a few of the best places to get acquainted with the wonderful world of California olive oil.
1. Ojai Olive Oil
Escape to Ojai—which is well-known for its variety of balsamic vinegar and olive oil-based skincare products—to taste award-winning oils at Ojai Olive Oil. This is a certified-organic, family-owned farm and is the valley’s oldest and largest producer of extra virgin olive oil. The farm is also home to over 150-year-old heritage olive trees and uses biodynamic farming principles. Ojai Olive Oil is typically open seven days a week and offers free olive oil tours and tastings, so don’t hesitate to swing by.
The Ojai Valley is a wondrous world, and thanks to its unique geography, has been regarded as a magical place for thousands of years. When in Ojai, plan your oil tasting around the Ojai Tennis Tournament, and enjoy an elevated stay at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa or Meditation Mount.
The elegantly packaged Brightland bottles contain rich, extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) derived from California-grown, hand-harvested heirloom olives. Featured in The New York Times, Vogue, and The Wall Street Journal, the bright, bold oils are crafted on the nutrient-dense soils of this family-owned farm. These oils can handle serious heat, too, with the smoke point reaching up to 410 degrees, which is more than enough when cooking with EVOO.
Brightland oils are specifically designed to enhance the flavors of specific cuisines. The Awake olive oil, for instance, is a winner for stews, pastas, and roasted veggie dishes thanks to its herbaceous, green, and grassy notes. The limited-edition Arise is lovingly blended with basil and heirloom Frantoio olives and boasts a peppery flavor profile of cloves, mint, and anise; it pairs perfectly with roasted eggplant, pesto, and fish.
Regardless of which olive oil you choose, you won’t be disappointed here. You can captivate your senses with non-olive products as well. Brightland produces fruit-forward vinegars, Chardonnay and Zinfandel grapes, navel and Valencia oranges, and triple-crown blackberries.
3. Lot22 Olive Oil Co.
Informal gatherings in the kitchen morphed into oil tasting events, which eventually led to the formation of Lot22 Olive Oil Co. In 2012, Lot22 planted its first Koroneiki olive tree, and now, the Redlands-based grove boasts over 200 trees of multiple varieties. In addition to producing excellent extra virgin olive oil, the company crafts dark and white balsamic vinegars, specialty vinegars, and scented soaps.
Priding themselves on responsible farming and continuing to network with oil-producing communities—and educating themselves in sensory analysis of the oil and milling practices—the Lot22 founders have created a fantastic olive-oil brand you’re bound to love. Become more acquainted with the olive oil process by participating in educational events hosted at Lot22.
4. Temecula Olive Oil Company
The family-owned Temecula Olive Oil Company was established in 2001 by Catherine Pepe and Nancy Curry. Committed to practicing sustainable agriculture, harvesting a wide variety of olives, and hand pressing the olives using traditional methods, the duo's yielded product is exceptional. They pride themselves on using only California olives when crafting extra virgin olive oil.
The olive ranch is located about 25 minutes from Temecula’s Old Town, where you can take a tour of the ranch (on the second and fourth Saturday of each month), taste the olive oils, and learn about the harvest and pressing techniques. The best part? You can purchase your own little olive tree to take home with you.
With additional tasting rooms in Old Town San Diego, Seal Beach, Laguna Beach, and Solana Beach, there are several opportunities to savor free samples of the company’s extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Temecula Olive Oil Company also sells olives, hand-blended flavored oils, spreads, sea salts, herbs, soaps, lotions, and candles made with its extra virgin olive oil.
5. Nuvo Olive Oil
Featuring extra virgin and flavored olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and a gourmet pantry, the L.A.-based Nuvo Olive Oil is a prime choice. The olive oil crafted at the company's 125-year-old family-owned olive orchard is unparalleled.
With the help of an Italian master miller, brothers Josh and Nathan Mardigian brought forth their first harvest in 2012, and Nuvo Olive Oil was born. Less than a decade later, the company received gold medals for its 2018 and 2019 Early Harvest and Expert Blend. Nuvo also received two silver medals from the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition (one of the largest olive oil competitions in the world) and the Los Angeles International EVOO Competition. With just one taste of the extra virgin or fused olive oils, you’ll understand why these products are internationally acclaimed.
The fused olive oils are made by simultaneously crushing ripe olives with fresh fruits, herbs, or vegetables at the time of crush. Try something new and purchase a bottle of the jalapeño oil, which is perfect for salsa, tacos, eggs, and sandwiches. For more familiar flavors, opt for the Meyer lemon—which goes well with Mediterranean chicken, fresh seafood, and asparagus—or the blood orange oil, which complements salads and whitefish. These delicacies are certainly must-try items, and there’s a fused olive oil to satisfy every palate.
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