It was an idyllic California day. The sun was shining. The ocean mists billowed off the Pacific. San Quentin stood majestic in the distance. Car racing enthusiasts clogged highway 121 on the way to Sonoma, and on the journey back, on the 101, Mother Goose ran in front of my car and shortly after Bambi came and trotted alongside.
Mother Goose was shooed back to the side of the road. Bambi stuck to her own lane. The racing enthusiasts weren’t avoidable – let me insert some “Sarge” of “Beetle Bailey” language here #@!^%$#. And, I had the pleasure of being regaled by Mr. Olive Crazy of every San Quentin resident, past and present. Btw, he wins at trivia a lot.
Now to the topic at hand.
Folks know California’s Sonoma Valley for its wineries and wine tasting tours, but that’s not why Olive Crazy went there. I went to Sonoma to taste extra virgin olive oil and the reviews are mixed.
I tasted extra virgin olive oils in three locations: Viansa Winery and Marketplace, The Olive Press located at the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, and Figone’s Olive Oil Company. I also visited Hook & Ladder Winery in Santa Rosa, but will make an appointment to meet with the De Loach family another day to discuss and taste their olive oil.
What I was looking for were extra virgin olive oils that were grown and milled locally, with the identity of the grower and the olive variety easily obtainable.
The Viansa Winery and Marketplace is a beautiful location with lots of vines, flowers, and olive trees. Viansa sports a Tuscan-style building with inviting patios and a large, cool room which houses the marketplace. Inside the marketplace are two opposite walls lined with wine tasting bars. Along the back wall are food and drink cabinets tended to by helpful employees. In the center and along another wall are tables of items for sale, and the condiment and olive oil tasting cart.
After getting the lay of the land I approached the condiment and olive oil cart. I asked the young lady offering samples if Viansa had an extra virgin olive oil produced from it’s own or local olives. She said she wasn’t sure where the oil came from or what variety(ies) made up the oil. She said there was a guy who worked there who might be able to help me but he was busy that day.
I looked over the selection of oils and all but one was a flavored olive oil. I am always suspicious of flavored olive oils, so I tried the one non-flavored evoo available. The young lady took a little plastic cup, tossed a piece of bread in it and attempted to pour. I stopped her and asked to taste the oil on its own without the lump of bread, then I made my best attempt to follow all the evoo taste testing lessons I have gleaned from the internet and books. I don’t want to be overly dramatic here but it was not good – it reminded me of the gloopy little bottle of bad tasting olive oil my Mom had when I was a kid, only this olive oil hadn’t thickened up yet.
Now, in all fairness, Viansa is a winery, and judging from the number of friends who asked me to pick them up a bottle of their favorite Viansa wine, it must be a good one. I am guessing the few folks that wander over to the condiment and olive oil tasting cart aren’t like me, looking to have their socks knocked off by a spectacular extra virgin olive oil, but I would like to make a suggestion: Dear Viansa, please open a fresh bottle of extra virgin olive oil and keep the cap on. I’ll be back with a U-Haul for the wine.
May the sun shine through your branches.