Olio Nuovo from The Olive Press. (Courtesy of The Olive Press)

Virgin Territory: Where to Taste Sonoma County's Finest Olive Oil

By

Estate-grown, small-batch olive oil has been making a name for itself in Sonoma County since the 1990s, and today is considered some of the best in the country.

Get a taste of freshly pressed olio nuovo—first extra-virgin olive oil off the press each season—and vinegars at these six artisan orchards.


Beltane Ranch.(Courtesy of Beltane Ranch/Facebook)

Beltane Ranch

Beltane Ranch has a storied history that dates back to 1878 when the property was purchased by pioneering viticulturalist and winemaker John Drummond, who was also the first to introduce merlot to California. Since the 1930s, Beltane has been in the hands of the Hein family who, over time, has added olive orchards and other small-scale agricultural operations. Today, Beltane Ranch is planted wit 100 old world variety olive trees that are hand-harvested in late fall and pressed into their Sonoma Estate extra-virgin olive oil ($25). The best way to taste here is to reserve a night at the historic B&B, named one of America's best by Food & Wine magazine, then order up a chef-prepared ranch-grown picnic complete with estate-grown sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, salads, sandwiches and, of course, olive oil ($32/person). // 11775 Sonoma Hwy (Glen Ellen), beltaneranch.com


Olive groves at the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.(Courtesy of The Olive Press/Facebook)

The Olive Press at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

In 1995, olive growers Ed Stolman and Deborah Rogers began producing olives and pressing their oil at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards (yes, the hot-tub making Jacuzzi family). Inspired by the mills of Italy and Southern France, The Olive Press produces a huge range of estate-grown oils as well as oils from olives grown at other California orchards, such as the Delicate Master Blend with a fruity, buttery, sometimes nutty flavor. The Olive Press also creates herb-infused oils (think sage and tarragon) and dipping olive oils infused with the likes of white truffle and basil-parmesan. The tasting room offers free samples, as well as guided tours (one week advance notice required). // 24724 Hwy 121 (Sonoma), theolivepress.com


The home of Dry Creek Olive Oil Company and Trattore Farms.(Courtesy of Trattore Farms & Dry Creek Olive Oil Co/Facebook)

Dry Creek Olive Oil Company at Trattore Farms

Most people know Sonoma as Wine Country. But to artisan producers in Dry Creek Valley's Geyserville, this is olive country—farmers have been growing olives in this region for over 100 years. At Dry Creek Olive Oil Company, the on-site stone mill—the design of which was inspired by those in Italy's olive-oil-producing region of Perugia—can produce only unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil; the varieties they offer, however, including estate-grown, blended and heritage-grown from historic orchards, are anything but one dimensional. Taste the full portfolio of extra virgin olive oils along with four to six estate grown wines daily ($20), or schedule a 90-minute tasting and tour to learn about the art of olive oil making ($70/person, advance reservations required). // 7878 Dry Creek Rd (Geyserville), trattorefarms.com


Figone's olive oil and balsamic vinegar.(Courtesy of Figone Olive Oil Company/Facebook)

Figone's Olive Oil Company

In 1928, Egildo Francheschi purchased 65 acres of land where he grew asparagus alongside a single olive tree to keep the family supplied with the cured fruit year round. Fifty years later, Liana Giovannini Figone and her husband, Aldo, planted a grove of mission and manzanillo trees in honor of her grandfather, and later began selling their fruit to stores and canneries. When the Figones' son (Egildo's great-grandson) Frank purchased an olive oil press in the 1990s, the Figone family began producing their own olive oil. Today the estate has more than 4,000 trees, including those 40-year-old mission and manzanillo trees, and an orchard of seven different Tuscan varietals. In addition to tasting Figone's wide menu of extra-virgin and infused olive oils and vinegars in their Sonoma tasting room ($10/person, by appointment only), you can take a tour of their historic orchards and taste with the oil master himself ($20-$50/person, by appointment only). // 483 First St W (Sonoma), figoneoliveoil.com


B.R. Cohn's Gourmet Shop sells olive oils, vinegars and wines.(Courtesy of B.R. Cohn)

B.R. Cohn

Bruce Cohn, former manager of The Doobie Brothers, purchased an old Sonoma dairy in the 1970s and dubbed it the Olive Hill Estate. He began growing grapes there early on, but it wasn't until 1990 that the crew at B.R. Cohn began harvesting the olive trees and pressing their own olive oil. At the time, B.R. Cohn was the first single estate olive oil to be produced in California in over a century. Today, Olive Hill's Picholine extra virgin olive oil is considered one of the state's finest. In addition to their oils and wines, B.R. Cohn produces a line of vinegars from chardonnay, syrah and cabernet grapes. Get a taste of perfectly paired wines and gourmet bites made with the estate's own olive oil on weekdays at 11am, 1pm and 3pm ($50/person, advance reservations required). // 15000 Sonoma Hwy (Glen Ellen), brcohn.com


Estate grown olio nuovo from McEvoy Ranch.(Courtesy of McEvoy Ranch/Facebook)

McEvoy Ranch

Straddling the line between Marin and Sonoma counties, McEvoy Ranch grows 56 acres of olive groves from Tuscan cuttings that were brought here in the 1990s. McEvoy mills its oils on site, including this year's Traditional Blend Olive Oil, with a slightly peppery finish and hints of artichoke and sweet green almond. The beautiful, sustainable ranch also produces flavored oils (such as lemon or jalapeño); a new olive oil–infused skincare line, called ODE natural beauty collection, launched in June 2017; and estate wines from 25 acres of pinot noir, Montepulciano, and syrah vineyards. Go for the table tasting of wine and olive oil served with local artisan cheeses ($30/person). // 5935 Red Hill Rd (Petaluma), mcevoyranch.com

Related Articles