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California Winery Olive Oil Tasting


Posted: June 23, 2003

 
  California's New Olive Oils  
 
  Artisanal Olive Oil  
 
  B.R. Cohn
A rock 'n' roll winemaker harvests olives from 100-year-old trees
 
 
  Preston
A desire for diversity
 
 
  Pietra Santa
Tuscany inspires a winery near Monterey
 
 

Wine Spectator gathered a wide range of estate olive oils produced by California wineries and sampled them in a blind tasting. We included several Italian and California artisanal olive oils as touchstones. The overall quality of the winery-made oils was good, with six excellent bottlings. tasters Harvey Steiman and Tim Fish concluded that, in general, these oils don't yet match the best oils of Italy. Still, they show promise. A list (in alphabetical order by olive oil name) of a sampling of winery-made oils, with retail prices and average annual productions, follows.

Araujo Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
Araujo Estate
$25/375ml; 1,200 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Farga, Manzanillo, Nevadillo
Rating: Average
Slightly rancid aroma marked by smoked almonds. Peppery flavors turn bitter.

Barbitta & Benziger Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Benziger Family Winery
$18/250ml; 350 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Mission, Manzanillo, Picholine
Rating: Good
Light-bodied yet well-balanced and loaded with spice.

Cakebread Cellars Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cakebread Cellars
$25/375ml; 270 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Picholine, Frantoio, Leccino
Rating: Excellent
A lovely oil. Fresh and buttery, with a lively finish that emphasizes pure fruit and pepper.

Chalone Olive Oil Estate Grown Extra Virgin Cold Pressed
Chalone Vineyard
$18/375ml, 840 bottles made; $10/200ml, 840 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Picholine, Aglandaou, Bouteillan
Rating: Average
Has a strong peppery bite, but the flavors turn slightly musty on the finish.

B.R. Cohn Sonoma Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
B.R. Cohn Winery
$50/500ml; 1,800 bottles made
Dominant olive variety: Picholine
Rating: Excellent
Elegant yet complex, with a hint of green in the color. Aromas and flavors of green tea, fresh olive and a trace of pepper on the finish.

Dutch Henry Winery Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dutch Henry Winery
$34/375ml; 200 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Picholine, Pendolino, Manzanillo
Rating: Average
Overpowering cucumber aromas and flavors.

Edge Hill Winery Olive Oil
Edge Hill Winery
$NA/500ml; 2,000 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Manzanillo, Mission
Rating: Average
Butter and roasted nut aromas, with a hint of green pepper, but flavors turn stale. (Debut release in June.)

Fetzer Vineyards Estate-Grown Olive Oil 2002
Fetzer Vineyards
$21/375ml; 400 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Frantoio, Leccino
Rating: Excellent
Authentic Tuscan-style, but with less intensity. Has a rich green color and appealing herbal and green tomato aromas and flavors.

Grace Family Vineyards Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
Grace Family Vineyards
$35/375ml; 480 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Picholine, Sevillano, Mission
Rating: Excellent
A cloudy yellow color, with understated fresh olive and herbal aromas, and a peppery catch in the aftertaste.

iPrestoni Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2001
Preston Vineyards
$25/500ml; 1,080 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Leccino, Casaliva, Frantoio
Rating: Excellent
A delicate yet complex oil that has attractive aromas and flavors of fresh olives, kale, roasted nuts and butter.

Iron Horse Vineyards Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2001
Iron Horse Vineyards
$25/375ml; 300 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Mission, Frantoio, Leccino
Rating: Good
A subtle oil, with delicate fresh apple aromas and flavors and a dash of pepper on the finish.

Jordan Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
$25/375ml; 3,000bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Frantoio, Leccino
Rating: Good
Appealing texture and vivid yellow color but lacks intensity.

Olivita Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
Pietra Santa Winery
$50/700ml; 900 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina
Rating: Excellent
Our favorite oil. Color is light green and slightly cloudy. Complex, intense and thoroughly balanced, with aromas and flavors of fresh herbs, pure green olive and sweet fruit.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
$20/375ml; 1,000 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Frantoio, Leccino
Rating: Good
Delicate aromas and flavors of butter and pure olive fruit, with a zesty pepper finish.

Prato Lungo Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2001
Long Meadow Ranch
$45/500ml; 2,000 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Frantoio, Leccino, plus a number of 130-year-old trees not yet identified
Rating: Good
Has bold aromas of butter and green peppercorn, with appealing yet subtle flavors.

Roy Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Roy Estate
$22/200ml; 1,300 bottles made
Dominant olive variety: Manzanillo
Rating: Good
Olive oil's answer to a big, buttery Chardonnay. Nice texture and appealing herbal and pepper aromas.

Silverado Vineyards Soda Creek Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2002
Silverado Vineyards
$32/500ml, 1,000 bottles made; $16/250ml, 2,600 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Mission, Picholine
Rating: Good
Cloudy yellow color. Aromatic but subtle flavors, finishing with a peppery bite.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery Olive Oil 2002
Spottswoode Vineyard & Winery
$25/375ml; 363 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Manzanillo, Mission, Sevillano
Rating: Good
A zesty oil jammed with personality. Has a supple texture, with aromas and flavors of pepper, green tomato, nuts and butter.

Wente Vineyards Organic Oro Fino Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Wente Vineyards
$25/375m1; 680 bottles made
Dominant olive varieties: Lucques, Manzanillo, Picholine
Rating: Good
Color has a hint of green. Thick texture. Subtle.


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