California produces 3.5 million gallons of extra virgin olive oil annually from more than 400 growers/producers, according to the California Olive Oil Council.
Rob Akins and Mark Berry of Olive Queen Olive Oil in Forestville are among the smaller growers. But they make up for that in quality. The oils they produce are exceptional, as I found out when they sent me some samples to try.
Akins and Berry moved from Southern California to Sonoma County to buy an old, forlorn apple orchard, which they replanted with olive trees.
The olives are grown organically, and pressed within 24 hours of harvest. They currently sell three varieties of extra virgin olive oil: French Blend, Spanish Blend, and Italian Blend. All of them come in distinctive squat dark bottles (the opaque glass help minimize the effect of light on the oil inside.).
You can really taste the difference between the varieties. They are all incredibly lush tasting, the kind of oil that will make anything from a simple green salad to a slab of grilled bread into something special.
The French Blend, made primarily of Picholine olives, is the softest tasting, with a round fruitiness. The Spanish Blend, made of Arbequina olives, is very buttery tasting, with a tomato leaf aroma, and a lilt of pepper on the finish. The Italian Blend, featuring predominantly Frantoio and Maurino olives, is the most robust of the three, with a full body and plenty of pepperiness throughout.
They are priced at: $18 for 250 ml, $25 for 500 ml, and $32 for 750 ml.