Six Sonoma Wineries That Make Extra Virgin Olive Oil To Rival Their Wines
Go olive oil tasting in Sonoma or create your own Sonoma olive oil tasting at home
High-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is one of the most delicious ingredients available to chefs and consumers, and the cornerstone of the lauded Mediterranean diet. Like fine wine, the best olive oils make everything from cheese to vegetables to seafood taste better. Fortunately for consumers, olives tend to grow well in the same places as wine grapes, and winemakers from some of the top Sonoma wineries are producing some exceptional pure, artisan olive oils on par with the quality of their wines. Here, we’ve compiled a list of favorite Sonoma wineries that also make extra virgin olive oil. Details about olive oil tasting experiences are included, but if you can’t visit Sonoma County soon, use these links to buy these delicious olive oils online.
Why buy Sonoma olive oil over popular Italian olive oil brands? There is little argument that high quality EVOO is a wonderful thing, but buying quality extra virgin olive oil can be tough for consumers, as there have been many well publicized cases of mislabeling, especially with imported oils, and “60 Minutes” did a big expose on Italian olive oil exports, which in part led Congress to order the FDA to step up testing of imports for adulteration. Oils from overseas also typically take much longer to reach store shelves here, and olive oil is a short-lived, perishable commodity. California has stricter state olive oil standards and labeling rules than the rest of the country—stricter than most of the world—and fresh, delicious, high-quality extra virgin olive oils are available both at wineries and gourmet stores shortly after the fall harvest, which typically occurs in late October to early December in Sonoma County. Thanks to its well-known heart healthy status and ability to lower cholesterol, extra virgin olive oil is one of the few foodstuffs specifically approved by the FDA to carry health claims, and has also been linked to myriad other potential benefits, everything from an anti-inflammatory to an Alzheimer’s preventative. When you buy extra virgin olive oil from Sonoma wineries, you’re supporting California small businesses and ensuring the best quality product for your kitchen and dinner table. (Don’t miss Jordan Winery’s video, How Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Made, at the bottom of this article).
Top Sonoma Wineries That Make Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Four different varieties of olives, all known for their excellence in making olive oil, are grown on the Jordan Estate in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Since 1997, Jordan Winery staff have been hand-picking Italian and Spanish olives in the brucatura tradition, though hand-combing has been added in recent years. Olives are quickly taken to the nearby state-of-the-art Olivino oil milling facility to be crushed. The winery’s Executive Chef Todd Knoll takes a hands-on role in the harvest every fall and uses his expert taste to fine tune the varietal blend based on each year’s growing conditions, just as winemakers do. He also creates wine country recipes featuring Jordan Extra Virgin Olive Oil to pair with Jordan’s elegant wines. All of Jordan’s tour and tasting options include samplings of its estate grown extra virgin olive oil, and the winery also hosts seasonal Vineyard Hikes with olive oil tasting surrounded by olive trees, as well as an Olive Harvest Celebration Luncheon each November. As a result, Jordan’s Estate Tour & Tasting was named the nation’s single Best Vineyard Experience in 2017 by American Airline’s in-flight magazine, Celebrated Living. Jordan’s vintage-dated Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil is available exclusively at the winery and on its online shop.
When B.R. Cohn pressed its olives into oil in 1990, they became the first estate olive oil produced in California in more than a century. B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company in Sonoma Valley helped launch California’s EVOO renaissance, and 27 years later has mastered the craft. The marquee Olive Hill Estate contains more than 450 picholine olive trees dating back to the mid-1800s, which are hand-harvested and used to produce the top tier Olive Hill Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Because it is made in very limited quantities, this label is only available at the winery. B.R. Cohn also makes its regular EVOO, which has won numerous medals, from a blend of olive varieties, and offers an organic version, both of which are more widely distributed. Nine different extra virgin olive oils and eight flavored olive oils are available to buy online. Their oils and vinegars are available to taste complimentary in their gourmet shop, as well as featured in the winery’s Taste of B.R. Cohn experience.
DaVero is the rare example of a Sonoma olive oil producer that became a winery, rather than the other way around. When the family found their farmland ideally suited to olive production, they brought trees from Tuscany—the first imported into California in a century—in 1990. A decade later, DaVero began planting Italian grape varietals, raising both crops using biodynamic practices. The fruit is hand-harvested, but unlike most producers today, who use centrifuges or blade crushers, they still crush a portion of their olives with stone wheels, like in ancient times. DaVero produced its first oil in 1994, and just four years later they had Sonoma’s EVOO equivalent of wine’s “Bottle Shock” Paris Judgment when their 1998 harvest beat the best of Italy in a blind tasting—by Italians. DaVero offers several tour options including the Biodynamic Farm Tour and Seated Tasting—a sit-down tasting of wines and olive oils, accompanied by salumi, cheeses, and small bites from the farm. DaVero Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Weight Utility Oil for Cooking are sold online.
Farmer and self-proclaimed “tractor enthusiast,” Tim Bucher named his estate after the Italian word for “tractor,” and in Old World tradition planted it with olives and grapes. Today it is home of the Dry Creek Olive Oil Company and is one of the very few Sonoma wineries with its own on-site mill. Inspired by the milling techniques from Italy’s Perugia Region, Bucher decided to import an entire Gruppo Pieralisi mill piece-by-piece. The custom-designed system incorporates a traditional granite stone mill and a state-of-the-art hammer mill, combining two pressing techniques into one mill. This allows Trattore to select the milling style based on olive varietal, ripeness and desired oil style. Trattore Farms offers a range of wine, oil and Sonoma specialty food tastings in addition to a variety of EVOO and flavored oils. Some favorites include a rich “Healdsburg blend,” a softer and complex “California Tuscan,” a limited edition “Heritage” single varietal oil made from 100% estate grown Trattore California Mission olives, and a smooth “Home Chef’s Blend” made from seven Italian, Greek and Spanish varietals. An olive oil tasting area is located at the front of the winery’s tasting room bar. More than a dozen extra virgin olive oils and flavored olive oils are sold on their website.
One of the largest and well-known Sonoma wineries, Ferrari-Carano actually has two different properties: the valley farm, focused on white wine grapes and the mountain ranch, focused on red grapes. Both properties grow olives to make one estate bottled extra virgin olive oil which uses the best lots from the mountain and valley floor ranches, a combination of four varieties of olives, Frantoio, Coratina, Leccino and Pendolino. The fruit is pressed in four separate batches at area specialist, Olivino, using a custom mix of stone milling and blade crushing. The results are blended to attain Ferrari-Carano’s signature olive oil full of flavor and aroma, fruit driven and intense, showcasing the ripe olives. The winery produces both a Meyer lemon olive oil and a vintage-dated extra virgin olive oil from its Dry Creek Valley estate, which are only available for purchase in the tasting room or online.
Jacuzzi’s owner, the Cline family, also operates The Olive Press, which was Sonoma’s very first olive oil mill back in 1995 and today also has a stand-alone retail store in the popular Oxbow Public Market in Napa. Jacuzzi Family Vineyards’ winery is housed in an Italian-style stone farmhouse modeled on the family home of Fred Cline’s grandfather, who resided in Italy’s Friuli region. The winery also houses the state-of-the-art olive press, set behind glass so visitors can see it in all its glory. The Olive Press at Jacuzzi has the widest variety of olive oils of any Sonoma winery, ranging from mild to robust, plus several co-milled and infused oils and an array of balsamic vinegars, along with olive-related accessories and gifts. The highlight is a slate of estate oils, both from the olive trees on the Jacuzzi winery grounds and several others pressed from the fruit of nearby family farms, an unrivaled selection. While Jacuzzi does have its own extra virgin olive oil brand, all Sonoma olive oil tasting experiences, including olive mill tours, are hosted at The Olive Press side of the building.