Jul 012011

Right after the Olive Crazy family’s visit to the Viansa Winery and Marketplace we quickly came upon the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. I saw the sign for The Olive Press, Mr. Olive Crazy executed a quick right turn, and the young olives groaned. They all asked to wait in the car and I was happy to oblige.

The Jacuzzi Family Vineyards have a lovely Tuscan replica building which houses their retail activities. Mr. Olive Crazy parked in a far corner so I entered a side door that took me through an art show. I did my best not to look, since I know I can barely resist the siren song of “works of art”. I held my breath until I made it into a courtyard where families licked ice cream cones. It wasn’t my destination so I kept on moving. I had this vague feeling of being in the library labyrinth in the fictional Italian monastery from Umberto Eco‘s novel, “The Name of the Rose”. At last I reached the main entry way and was presented with three choices: on the right, wine tasting; in the center, the door out; and on the left, The Olive Press. Into The Olive Press I went.

The room was large, but not as large as the wine tasting room, and the walls were covered with olive and olive leaf decorated items, condiments, olives, and olive oils. Keeping my mission in mind; to find and taste extra virgin olive oils that were grown and milled locally, with the identity of the grower and the olive variety easily obtainable; I headed to the olive oil tasting counter.

I was greeted by one of the three enthusiastic women who were working the counter and told her what I was looking for, she deferred to another woman who showed me the four extra virgin olive oils that fit my description. The four extra virgin olive oils I tried were: Lunigiana, bold and peppery; Marquesa, mild; Grove 45, fruity up front, grassy, with a peppery finish; Jacuzzi, mild up front, then peppery, with a strong bitter finish. I had some help with the taste identification from the third of the women behind the counter, since I am not yet able to name most of the different attributes and defects using the correct lingo, but I do know which oil is good and which is bad. Each oil was very different and I could easily identify which would best complement different dishes.

I then took notes on my tasting and decided to return another day, preferably during the week, when I could spend more time tasting, testing and buying. I thanked the ladies and headed for the car, but not before eavesdropping on the conversation between two men from Miami who were chatting about their wealth and how they were sure they could buy huge tracts of land in Sonoma for their own vineyards – blah, blah, tacky.

May the sun shine through your branches.