Oregon Olive Mill
Olives are widely considered to be a warm-weather fruit. Mediterranean breezes, Côte d’Azur, etc. Although it should be noted that EVOO is produced in every Italian region, even the cooler ones.
In the US, only California is known for its olive oil production. Similar to wine, 50 years ago. Slowly, however, the production is starting to expand beyond the Golden State’s borders, to places like Texas, Arizona, and Georgia.
All warm climates, you might notice. Except for this one: Dayton, Oregon, about an hour south of Portland, home of Red Ridge Farms and Oregon Olive Mill, the only estate olioteca in the Pacific Northwest.
The cooler region means fruit needs to be harvested before its fully ripe – similar to North and Central Italy – resulting in pungent, bitter oils. Just the way I like it.
Interestingly, however, Red Ridge has a contingency plan. They source some of their olives from Northern CA, to ensure the cool-climate fruit doesn’t ruin their product. It’s a shame it’s not all local, but it is hard to blame them for wanting the best possible stuff in the bottle.
As for the product in the bottle? It’s damn good. Some of the finest US oil I’ve tasted.
My favorite is the Koroneiki. It starts out muted, but as it opens, an astounding complexity develops. Berries, grass, fresh dirt and even a hint of butter on the nose. In the mouth, more fruit, like blueberries, cherries, and chocolate. More grass. It changes over time, which is one of reasons it is so special.
There’s also this unbelievable toasted walnut flavor, the pleasing bitterness of slightly burnt skins. It’s probably the nuttiest olive oil I’ve encountered.
And then the finish hits with pepper, burning with life, everlasting, my palate still tingling minutes after I’ve swallowed it. It’s just… amazing.
The Frantoio oil doesn’t floor me in the same way, but it’s still great. There’s also complexity, with that grassy, herbal nose that one finds in Tuscany. There’s fruity and nutty notes, like with the Koroneiki, though perhaps not as intense.
It too, however, has that ineffable feeling on the finish, that burning, tingling grasp that tells me this thing I’m dealing with is real, persistent and alive. That’s how I know I have in front of me a truly great olive oil.
To order, visit http://redridgefarms.com/taste. Prices start at $12 for 375ml.