The 1st Annual Texas Olive Oil Tasting and Contest is over and the results are in.
South-Central Texas’ booming olive oil industry was on display on Saturday, March 26th at Threadgill’s in Austin before a large, enthusiastic audience. Olive growers from all over Texas were on hand to find out how Texas olive oils compared to those from Italy, Spain, and Argentina, countries recognized as the top producers in the world.
Jim Henry, Texas olive pioneer, owner of the Texas Olive Ranch, and one of the founding members of the Texas Olive Oil Council celebrated a banner Texas 2010 olive harvest, “I’m delighted to see so much interest in Texas olive oil and such a large crowd at this event” said Henry, “and it’s great to see that what we’ve been doing is now supporting efforts in Northern Mexico to plant olive orchards.”
It looks like Jim is taking his pioneering spirit to Mexico as well. And now for the results of the contest.
The Texas Olive Ranch took second and third place in the large producer category with their Arbosana varietal olive oil and their Grove Master’s Blend. Azienda Guarino, an estate olive oil from Sicily, Italy, took first place in the competition overall. “This is still a great day for Texas”, insisted Antonio Guarino, representing Azienda Guarino. “Texas is definitely going to be a world class contender in the years to come.”
Jeff Conarko, owner of Con’ Olio Oils and Vinegars in Austin, coordinated the Showcase. In the Artisan Grower Category, Jewett Farms from Moulton, Texas was awarded first place with their oil milled from a mix of Frantoio, Arbequina, Leccino, Picual, and Mission olives. “This was unexpected”, said a surprised Dunham Jewett from Houston, Texas. “2010 was the first harvest from our trees that we were able to press into olive oil”.
Second place was awarded to Bel-Asher Olive Oil from Asherton, Texas, from 100 year old trees of unknown variety that inspired olive growers to plant again in the Carrizo Springs area. Third place honors were awarded to Qualia Orchard Olive Oil in Del Rio, Texas, part of the Val Verde Winery estate, the oldest winery in Texas.
“All of the olive oils represented in the showcase are winners, because for the last 50 years anyone who wanted to grow olives in Texas has been told it wasn’t possible,” said Henry. “Now we know it is not only possible to grow olives, it is possible to make a world class olive oil with a Texas crop of olives.”
The crowd at Threadgill’s also previewed a rough cut of “El Camino, the Texas/Mexico Olive Trail,” a documentary film produced and directed by Bill Millet, coming to PBS stations June 2011. Segments of the Judging and Showcase were shot for inclusion in the documentary.
The Judges of the 1st Annual Texas Olive Oil Tasting and Contest were:
- Jeff Conarko (owner, Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars)
- Virginia Wood (Food Editor, Austin Chronicle)
- Kathleen Scott (Writer, San Antonio Express News)
- Scott Boruff (Executive Director, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)
- Tracy Dufault (HEB Stores, Carbs & Oils BDM)
- Elsa Gramola (Celebrity Chef, Central Market, Sicily, Italy)
- Don Jesus Ramon (Ciudad Acuña, Mexico)
- Don Maurovio Cordoneda (Resistencia, Argentina)
- Don Ricardo Reguera Blanco (León, Spain)
The olive producers who participated:
- Texas Olive Ranch (Carrizo Springs, Texas)
- Anderson’s Olive Farm (Dilley, Texas)
- Sandy Oaks (Elmendorf, Texas)
- Farrell’s Olive Orchard (Artesia Wells, Texas)
- Azienda Guarino (Partanna, Sicily, Italy)
- Indalo Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Catamarca, Argentina)
- Villa Blanca Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Seville, Spain) certified organic
- Rancho La Espiga (Ciudad Acuna, Mexico)
- Jewett Farms (Moulton, Texas)
- Corpus Christi Olive Oil (from cir. 1942 olive trees)
- Bel-Asher Olive Oil (Asherton, Texas from cir. 1914 olive trees)
- Qualia Orchard (Del Rio, Texas)
- Tejeda Middle School Olive Oil (San Antonio, Texas)
May the sun shine through your branches.