Ask anyone from the Middle East, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, or California where the best Olive Oil comes from and they’ll most likely say their hometown. As with wine, Olive Oil producers take great pride in their product and Artisan Oils are becoming increasingly popular. California in fact has increased its EVOO, or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (thanks Rachael Ray), production from 123,000 gallons in 1997, to 384,000 gallons in 2005. With a lot of these 375ml bottles selling at around $25 a bottle, that’s quite an income for these producers, many of whom also make wine.
So far, I haven’t personally been blown away by any artisan oils from California. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, just not amazing. That green pepper character I’ve tasted in many just doesn’t harmonize with my palate. Perhaps I’m spoiled though. I have a friend that travels to Italy annually and brings back her â€˜family press reserve;â€™ a rich, soft buttery oil with a hint of almond, that subtly coats the palate like velvet. I bet I could sell it for $25 in 100 ml bottles, itâ€™s amazing stuff. A fresh baguette, this olive oil, and a nice bottle of wine is a match made in heaven.
For more on the Californian Olive Oil industry, and it’s 300 producers, visit the California Olive Oil Council’s website, or this article from the Contra Costa Times.