Aug 24, 2014

Posted by in Articles, Featured | 1 Comment

Oregon Olive Mill’s Quest for Cool Climate EVOO Culture

Oregon is an amazing state, and I’m continuously marveled by what surrounds me in this beautiful and bountiful place I love to call home.  I’m incredibly enthusiastic about Oregon’s geological history and our existing terroir that makes our state the uniquely bountiful place that it is today – I’m endlessly awed and inspired by the land and the people.

The Pacific Northwest's only olioteca

The Pacific Northwest’s only olioteca

And it’s not just the bountiful wine grapes that are produced into world renowned wines that have captured my heart,  but it’s the two-foot long zucchini and the box full of the sweetest, juiciest strawberries on earth found at the local farmer’s markets.  It’s the Sunday brunches with eggs benedict made using farm fresh eggs alongside a brunch-style cocktail crafted from gin that was produced by a neighbor five houses down, who lives next door to the brew master of one of the local brew pubs.  It’s the foragers who sell their local prized mushroom finds to some of the finest restaurants in the state – the spirit of Oregon entrepreneurship is lit up like no where else I’ve ever seen.

EVOO-booklet and name tag

The first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest

An excellent example of the spirit and passion of Oregon’s people took place over the course of two days, Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, at the absolute perfect location for the very first Pacific Northwest Cool Climate EVOO Conference: Red Ridge Farm’s Oregon Olive Mill.  An eclectic mix of people (farmers, foodies, consumers and marketing gurus) gathered to learn and discover what it takes to cultivate olives in the cool climate region of the Pacific Northwest.  Capturing the attention of the extra virgin olive oil enthusiasts through a farm-to-table approach, industry leaders gathered to share their knowledge over the course of two days.

A tasting of different quality extra virgin olive oils

A tasting of different quality extra virgin olive oils

Saturday’s program focused on the agricultural and technical side of cool climate olive agronomy and olive grove management, including a pruning demo done on site in the grove at Red Ridge Farms, and was geared towards those interested or already vetted in cultivating cool-climate olives.

Sunday’s activities were geared towards consumers and trade folk, focusing on creating a well thought out olive oil culture for the Pacific Northwest.  Master Miller and owner of Oregon Olive Mill (which is part of the truly impressive Red Ridge Farms and Durant Vineyards), Paul Durant opened the discussion with his olive visions of exploration, discovery and even failures.  His passion for the importance of olive oil’s history shone while he talked about creating a culture through varietal selection, agronomy, milling, packaging, marketing and educating the consumer.

The dining room set in the events center above the olive mill is ready for dinner prepared by Vitaly Paley

The dining room set in the events center above the olive mill is ready for dinner prepared by Vitaly Paley

I didn’t attend the first day’s program because I’m not farming olives and have no immediate plans to do so.  But as an avid lover of the complexities found in different types of extra virgin olive oils, I knew the focus of day two was going to be the one for me.

We learned a great deal about the varietals that work well in our cooler climate; as well as, the impacts of freeze on the trees. I was amazed to discover that olive trees are evergreens, and that site selection and soil types are oh so important (much like wine grape growing).  Propagation of olives trees has been going on for 6,000 years, and it’s immersed in rich symbology, leading it to be, “historically very significant,” explained Paul Durant.

Olive oil poached prawns

Olive oil poached prawns

Over the course of several hours, we became well educated about how to create an olive oil culture in the Pacific Northwest, starting by learning about the history of EVOO – the panel of experts clearly impressed every person in the room.  The day ended with a fabulous wine tasting in the Durant Vineyards tasting room with Hors d’Oeuvres of petite sausages, mignonette, dark rye bread and a fabulous oyster bar,  prepared by one of Oregon’s most famous and beloved chefs (and a personal favorite of mine), Vitaly Paley – who also prepared an epic  EVOO-centric dinner that was paired with several of the Durant Vineyards wines.  The gratifying and palatable courses that Vitaly made using Oregon Olive Mill’s EVOOs was unforgettable.  Check out my photo essay of the conference and dinner here.  

Paul Durant talks about cultivating cool climate olives

Paul Durant talks about cultivating cool climate olives

Several weeks later, I returned to Oregon Olive Mill to participate in their “Blue Glass EVOO tasting,” an educationally delicious experience that can be booked by visitors of Red Ridge Farms and Oregon Olive Mill.  With a detailed tour of the olive mill by Master Miller Paul Durant, I learned the entire process of how he creates his delicious extra virgin olive oils.  The Oregon Olive Mill is the only estate olioteca in the Pacific Northwest.  Paul also took us to where some Arbequina olive trees are growing just outside the milling room, a varietal that seems to take well to the cool climate of our region.

Durant Vineyards delicious 2013 Dundee Hills southside Pinot Gris

Durant Vineyards delicious 2013 Dundee Hills Southview Pinot Gris

Before we toured the mill and olive grove with Paul, we started the day at the Durant Vineyards tasting room, within walking distance from the olioteca,  with a taste of the newly released Durant Vineyards 2013 Pinot Gris.  I had tried this Pinot Gris during the EVOO Conference several weeks prior, and I was just as impressed the second time around.  It’s crisp, vibrant and totally refreshing with fresh white fruit characteristics that glide onto the palate with juicy ease.  Mid palate lemon zesty acidity rounds out the fruit and a smooth finish simply beckons another sip.  Light enough to be enjoyed on its own while relaxing on the patio in the summer heat, yet complex enough to be savored by the fire in the middle of winter with a plate full of robust cheeses.  I love this Pinot Gris.

Ready for the blue glass tasting

Ready for the blue glass tasting

After the wine tasting and informative tour of the mill and grove, we sat down for the blue glass olive oil tasting.  The cobalt colored blue glass simply camouflaged the color of the EVOO; therefore, any assumptions or speculations of the oil’s quality couldn’t be  influenced by the color of the oil – they’re the same glasses used by professional olive oil judges.   We first sampled a basic EVOO that can be found on most grocer’s shelves, and I found it to be somewhat flat with a hint of a metallic-like flavor on the finish.  Then we tasted four Oregon Olive Mill EVOOs: Arbequina, Koroneiki, Tuscan and Frantoio.  The rich and distinctively complex characteristics of Oregon Olive Mill’s oils popped with flavors from the front of the palate to the finish, where spicy, peppery qualities would climb back up my throat with exquisite vibrancy.  I was told their Arbequina and Tuscan oils are their top-sellers, but I am totally drawn to the vivid and electrifying flavors of the Frantoio, which I currently use in multiple recipes from popcorn to hummus.

The blue glasses professional judges use to taste olive oils

The blue glasses professional judges use to taste olive oils

After the tasting, we were given a delicious tapas style lunch of basic foods; such as, fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced boiled potatoes, fresh salami, cheese, zucchini ribbons and fresh mozzarella – all drizzled with different Oregon Olive Mill EVOOs.  What an eye-opener to realize that simple everyday-foods are able to be totally jazzed up by these incredibly tasty olive oils.  

It’s all a part of reveling in a food that is steeped in history while recognizing its unique and healthy attributes that aid in creating a culture that can, and should, be enjoyed by all – thanks to Paul Durant and others who see a future and culture in cool climate olive oils.  I have no doubt their quest for creating a cool climate olive culture will be a successful one.

Everyday foods livened up by drizzled olive oils

Everyday foods livened up by drizzled olive oils

Check out and give a like to the Pacific Northwest Cool Climate EVOO Conference Facebook page, and check out the Oregon Olive Mill/Red Ridge Farms/Durant Vineyards website at: redridgefarms.com.

 

Thank you to Paul Durant, Libby Clow and the ladies of Trellis Growth Partners.