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Sep 10, 2006 05:31 PM

best Bay Area olive oil?

I want to hear candidates. I'm buying Stonehouse, but convinced I couldn't do better. And I find Bariani much too sharp for my taste. Open to some variety--don't mind having a few different oils, with different characters--but seem to shy away from excess pepper of the kind that hurts your throat on the way down. also, zero interest in flavored oils.

McEvoy? What? Help.

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  1. Next time you're in St. Helena, try the 'barn' at end of the same road Tra Vigne is on (Charter Oak?)...excellent Napa Valley oil without the fancy packaging.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Husky

      I second this recommendation. The extra-virgin is wonderful,
      and I've conducted blind taste tests to confirm this. There
      are slightly better olive oils, at four times the price though.

      1. re: Husky

        I love this olive oil as well. You can find an interesting variety of dried beans and porcini there too.

        1. re: Husky

          The olives for Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufactory come from the central valley. The olive oil is great - just bought some today - but it isn't really "Bay Area." I'd vote for McEvoy Ranch.

          1. re: Junie D

            The olives for the very nice (and fruity) Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil come from the Sacramento-Chico area,
            the north end of the Central Valley.

            The olives are a combination of Manzanilla and Mission.

            BTW, if I were you, I'd taste a whole bunch of different olive oils -- from all over the world, different countries,
            different regions, and find out what your palate really likes.

        2. Burning is a function of age. The same oil a few months later will mellow.

          The best I've had came from some old Portugese farmers in Orland. Used to be the house brand at Molinari.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            A just-pressed olive oil will cause a burning sensation at the back of the throat (and so will require a few months aging)
            but a too old oil will also cause the same sensation.

            Look for
            the most recent harvest on the label -- this would be anywhere from November 2005 to February 2006. Don't buy olive oil that's older than this -- it won't taste as good and you'll have wasted your money. If the bottle doesn't have a harvest date, don't buy it. It it says 2004 or early 2005, it's too old.

            McEvoy's olive oil isn't as good as it used to be; DaVero is very lovely and fruity but pricey. I like the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company in St. Helena on Charter Oak very much.

            But in general, domestic olive oil is expensive for what you get. (Not the Napa Valley O.O., though.)

            The best buys (fruity plus well-priced) IMO come
            from Spain: L'estornel, Unio, and Nunez de Prado.

            There has been some major deception in olive oils "from Italy"
            in the past few years. Any oil, from Tunisia or Spain, packaged in Italy could be called "Product of Italy." Italy has recently tightened the laws on this deceptive packaging, but it will take some time, I think, before the laws are really enforced, if they ever can be.

            For now, go Spain...

            1. re: maria lorraine

              I've never encountered that bite except from olio nuovo.

              Oil can go rancid but that's a very different issue.

          2. and do you folks share my feeling about Stonehouse? Fine but a little anonymous?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Daniel Duane

              I'm not a fan of Stonehouse or McEvoy. I also like a more mellow olive oil. The best I've had from local olives is bottled by Wente from their 100 year old olive groves. Expensive, though!

              I was looking for some info, and came across this site listing olive oil producers in the Livermore Valley. It looks like you might be able to put together an olive oil tasting crawl.


            2. It appears to me to be not only the quality of 'new' oil, but also a stylistic preference of Olive Oil producers in this area. The style is after the fashionable Tuscan oil, which comes from the pressing of slightly under-ripe olives to get the green, grassy, peppery and -I might even add- somewhat acrid taste that the current fashion prefers.

              Sciabica at the Ferry Plaza farmers market occasionally has a single varietal bottling of Picholine olive oil -though I haven't got it for some time now so they might not have it anymore- which has the more buttery and round -but not bland or mild- flavor that I prefer. They don't grow any Picholine themselves, that's what I understand, but buy the fruits from other farmers, which is why they don't always carry the Picholine oil.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pim

                I wouldn't call those olives underripe. There are various stages of ripeness that make different styles of oil. The riper the olives, the less green olive taste and the more ripe buttery olive taste.

                Oil from even the ripest olives has a bite when it's first pressed. The one exception might be in Liguria where some producers string nets under the trees and let the olives ripen until they fall off.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Well, I don't mean under-ripe in the demeaning sense. I just think that it's a stylistic choice that the producers make. Olive oils from California that I've tasted have that assertively green, grassy, and peppery flavors that seem to be the fashion here.

                  David reminded me today that we've also bought Late Harvest Mission oil from Sciabica which we like a lot. It's a bit lower in acidity than other local oil and has a complex and round quality that is very much reminiscent of the Catalan style olive oil.

                  I agree with you that new oil has a vivacity that's certainly unmistakable, and that quality, unfortunately, fades over time.

                  1. re: Pim

                    Fortunately or unfortunately depending on what you want to do with the oil.

                    Buttery, super-ripe oil requires warm, dry weather until very late in the year.

              2. Sciabicca's varietal olive oils--Manzanilla (my favorite), Mission, and Sevillano, plus some others--are available in bulk at Rainbow Grocery. The quality is terrific and prices can't be beat. Bring your own container (or they'll sell you a glass half-gallon bottle for a couple of bucks that you can use over and over.)