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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.)

                1. Go to the Olive Press, a coop press just north of Glen Ellen, and taste the oils from their members and see what you like. The last time I did that I found that Marqeusa stood out for me (I prefer full, rich flavors). But of course your taster will tell you your own preference and it's fun and a friendly place.

                  1. Hands down my favorite is Bariani's, available in Whole Foods and Andronico's. They also sell slightly cheaper at the Berkeley and SF Farmer's Markets on Sat.

                    Argghh, never mind. I finally read through the original post. ;-0

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: kevine

                      Hey, I like the peppery bite of Bariani as well. It's the not so secret ingredient in Bakesale Betty's egg salad and coleslaw.

                      1. re: kevine

                        I love Bariani's- unfortunately, though, they haven't been to SF Farmer's Market (civic center) in a very long time- more than a year.

                        1. re: Chowsmurf

                          They are still at the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Blg on Sat. Guess I didn't indicate that, apologies. ;-)

                          1. re: kevine

                            This is good to know- though I assume they had to raise their prices from the Civic Center FM. I can rarely bring myself to stomach the mark-up at Whole Foods!

                          2. re: Chowsmurf

                            Bariani is at the Alemany Farmers' Market on Saturdays.

                            1. re: Euonymous

                              Bariani's also at the Berkeley, Oakland, Pleasanton, and San Mateo farmers' markets, and many grocery stores.


                        2. I love Sciabica. It is just my favorite. They sell a little sampler pack of their various oils.

                          It is too bad about the pepper thing. That happens as other mentions when the oil is just pressed. I love Sciabica' first presses in the fall, the oil is emerald green and has that pepperiness. However, I never use it as a dressing or bread dip, but for frying peppers and sausages. The perfect fall dinner ... is it fall yet?

                          They are really good working with you at the Ferry Plaza stand to match the oil to your taste or use.

                          The other thing is to visit the farmers markets. Most have samples of their oil. There's someone new at the Temescal farmers market that was giving samples. Nice oil, but I forget the name.

                          Big Paw also sells there. They are not my favorite oil, but they have some nice salad dressing mixes.

                          Oh, if you try Sciabica, no vinegar. Not the greatest in the world. I was not a fan of flavored oils either, but, again, Sciabica has a tiny sampler pack of their flavored oils and they use pure fruit and it is just the best tasting oil

                          1. Definitely try Apollo Olive Oil. The oils are fantastic in flavor and they're winning awards left and right. We use them in our restaurant and people love them. The Sierra is is milder and a little grassier and the Mistral is a little sharper. They're out of Oregon House, CA, not much farther than the Bariani production facility. Check out their website www.apollooliveoil.com Enjoy!

                            1. I like Stutz, although I guess that's more Sacramento area.

                              1. Hmmm. DaVero's good. Heard there's some to be had in Bernal Heights.

                                1. Bernal Heights, huh? Whereabouts, anyways?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Daniel Duane

                                    An appellation on the Northwest side. Perfect conditions.

                                  2. I've bought some wonderfully smooth tasting olive from a very small producer in the Winters/Vacaville area called LaFerme Soleil. I think it's only sold retail right now at the Winters Chamber of Commerce. It was a great find. A little pricey, but it is a small vendor... in our last friends olive oil tasting, came out on top.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ritabenton

                                      Did you try Costco's Extra Virgin?

                                      1. re: wolfe

                                        Well it’s not a Bay Area olive oil but last year I discovered Moulin Jean Marie Cornille olive oil from Provence. It’s available at Kermit-Lynch wine shop in Berkeley. It’s expensive but worth it. It is not good on salads. The flavor is mild and gets lost. Where this olive oil shines is when drizzled over hot pasta. The heat from the pasta releases wonderful jasmine like floral aromatics in the oil. The jasmine notes flavor the pasta as you eat it. This is hands down the most amazing olive oil to drizzle over pasta. It is so good that now I frequently make pasta that I only dress with this oil, shaved cheese, salt pepper, a pinch of red chili flakes and a touch of garlic.

                                    2. This is a link to a short article in today's SF Chronicle/SFGate about a newly opened oil-porium, Amphora Nueva:


                                      [if the link doesn't work, just go the the food section of SFGate


                                      There also are some small producer oils around that you may be able to find--e.g., we're currently using (sparingly, and for special dishes) a tasty olive oil from Diamond Springs Vineyards in El Dorado County. I think you'd need to order from their website.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Rapini

                                        I stopped by Amphora Nueva yesterday and liked the place. The owner, Mike Bradley, is passionate about olive oil and clearly loves the business. He and a partner have an oil extraction plant in Tunisia, which supplies part of his inventory. The current events there have him concerned but optimistic. He loves to spend time with each customer and gently guides them to defining their likes and dislikes. I was curious if he was going to press the current Tuscan-grassy-peppery fad on me. Instead, without prompting, he talked about how weather and climate conditions create harvest periods of differing lengths and thus different flavors in oil. When I confessed to being partial to the fruitier olive oils, he gave me a number to taste but within a spectrum that slid to the spicier oils as a control. We were still talking when I noticed my 30 minutes at the parking meter were overdue. I abruptly excused myself, bolted down the block, fed the meter, and when I returned, I leisurely spent time sampling the oils we had talked about. I left with a bottle of nocellara del belice from Sicily, a frantoio from Portugal, a Chilean arbequina and an hojiblanca from Australia. They have a special offer: if you buy two bottles, they will give you a third 200 ml bottle of your choice free.

                                        Amphora Nueva also sells flavored oils and balsamic vinegars. While I love a good balsamic, my taste in vinegars wanders elsewhere so I did not spend time on these. The other customer assistants were helpful, enthusiastic and friendly. The only regret I have is their location. I was lucky, but parking could be a challenge. They are open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

                                        Amphora Nueva
                                        2928 Domingo Ave.
                                        Berkeley, CA
                                        Tel: (510) 704-9300

                                      2. There are lots of great local oils available, but my current favorite is Suncoast Organic Farm from Hollister. They're at the Mountain View Farmers' Market. I really enjoy the added bite from the recent November 2010 harvest, but if you don't prefer that style, then wait a couple more months until it mellows some more. It's great either way.



                                        1. Spanish olive oil is king in the olive oil world, particularly the Picual variety. The American’s pallet is just not as sophisticated as the Europeans, not yet. UC Davis 'First Press' did a taste study a few years ago (2007) and the Spanish and Greek oils won hands down to the Italian and California oils. Believe it or not much of the touted Italian oils are made from Spanish imported olives. Three primary positive attributes should be part of any real tasting. The three positives are; fruitiness, pungency, and bitterness. Olives naturally contain various compounds that taste bitter or pungent, and these compounds are the antioxidants and other phytochemicals that make olive oil so good for you. Fine olive oil is like appreciating fine wines and yes, better oils cost more, just like high end wines. Also, don’t forget the health benefits from high Oleic Acid levels (Omega 9) that doctors recommend, Piqual delivers over 80% of these valued heart friendly compounds.
                                          It seems as though the first press extra virgin Piqual olive oils always rank at the top of the ‘best of’ lists. Attention to detail, from harvesting at the right time, to the careful pressing of the olives and bottling, is paramount throughout the entire process.
                                          I found a wonderful organic Piqual olive oil from Andalusia in the south of Spain from a local importer from the Santa Cruz area. Vida Oliva sells locally at a few specialty markets such as Rainbow Groceries in San Francisco in bulk form. I also found it bottled at Whole Foods and number of other organic markets.
                                          Great product, wish i could find it in the East bay...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: real5151

                                            They don't have it at Spanish Table?

                                            I prefer Greek oil to Italian. If Spanish were more affordable I'd check it out again.

                                            Spanish Table
                                            1814 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                            1. re: real5151

                                              >>Also, don’t forget the health benefits from high Oleic Acid levels (Omega 9) that doctors recommend.

                                              Welcome to Chowhound. Just a tweak or two to your post:

                                              Oleic acid appears when olive oil degrades, so a high amount is not desirable, and also means the olive oil is not extra virgin. For an olive oil to meet "extra virgin" standards, it must less than 0.8% oleic acid. Though oleic acid helps promote lower blood pressure, a lot isn't a good thing -- it indicates age and rancidity.

                                              You and read more info and find links about two more recent UC-Davis olive oil studies here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/720875

                                            2. I think Berkeley Olive Grove has really amazing olive oil. They show up 2x a month at the Berkeley's Saturday Farmer's Market on MLK (though...i think their farm is from somewhere up north). Anywhoo, I usually dont care for Mission/Spanish Olive Oils but theirs is really lovely. It has prominent grassy & fruity notes, slightly spicy but not as overwhelming as Bariani (wayy to harsh IMO). I personally prefer the early harvest oils that they have as it tastes fresher & fruitier, but the more buttery & smoother oils are pretty darn good too. The price is $15 for 500ml

                                              Also, I would never use this oil for cooking; too precious. I use costco's tuscano olive oil for quick sautee.

                                              1. California Olive Ranch Arbequina. I don't think Oroville is Bay Are though. Nevertheless, fruity, floral, not too aggressively peppery but very full-flavored and just plain gorgeous. I'm over the McEvoy thing. There are a gazillion winery based olive oils these days- you could probably sample tons at Dean & DeLuca, Oakville Grocery, Ferry Building, etc

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: demitasse04

                                                  I'm a big fan of the COR Arbequina as well. Very fruity and very little pepper or bite. The arbequina lends it's self well to mechanical harvesting so production cost are not so high but it's a small olive so not as much oil per olive. I love it.

                                                  1. re: demitasse04

                                                    Andy's in Sebastopol sells a house label California Arbequina EVOO that is excellent and well-priced.

                                                  2. Does anyone know anything about the house-bottled olive oil they're selling at the Milk Pail in Mountain View -- where it's from, what it's like?

                                                    I noticed it last weekend, but the place was so cram-packed and frenzied that it wasn't a good time to pester anyone. I'll ask about it next time I'm there at a quiet time, but in the meantime, I thought the odds were decent that someone here might have something to say.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: loosestrife

                                                      I remember it being very good, but I haven't gotten it lately since we now get most of our olive oil at the Mountain View Farmer's Market. Don't remember sourcing except I think it was California.