The Making of a Great Olive Oil

Kelly admires the olives

Thanks to our good friend Dale Benson, Kelly and I got to see how a really high quality olive oil is made. Dale knows Matt Norelli, the wine and olive oil maker at Preston Vineyards of Dry Creek, an organic family farm near Healdsburg in Northern California. Matt was nice enough to let us watch the complicated olive oil machinery in action.

First the freshly picked olives go into a big hopper (above). They are then crushed and churned (below).

After the churning process (called malaxation) the pulpy olive mass goes into a high speed centrifuge:

Matt (left) Dale (right) with the centrifuge

At the end of all this machinery the oil pours out of a spigot and into a steel drum:

We all had the great privilege of tasting the freshly squeezed oil. I won’t soon forget that heavenly flavor. Matt told us that it takes around a ton of olives to make 25 to 30 gallons of oil. The olives come from a thousand trees that are tucked around the vineyards.

If you’re ever in Northern California the Preston Vineyard is well worth a visit. We got to taste a Barbera wine that they make–quite amazing. They also bake a delicious sourdough bread, keep a flock of laying hens and sell cured olives. And the scenery? Let’s just say it was difficult to come back to gritty Los Angeles.

Preston Vineyards website with visiting hours and map.

Lou Preston’s olive curing recipe (scroll down towards the bottom of the page).

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. My husband and I have been buying a, gosh, Spanish I think, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil in a three liter can for awhile. I don’t remember what prompted us to do it, but we finally got around to actually tasting it, and discovered that it was….AWFUL! It was bitter and acidic and just plain yucky!

    So we’ve determined that going forward we’ll spend a bit more on olive oil and invest in only Californian olive oil going forward, as it has the best reputation, bar none.

  2. I have always suspected that the oil we get in the supermarket – even those labeled as superior, etc and priced accordingly- do not represent true olive oil. It tastes, to me, almost industrial. that cannot be the stuff Frances Mayes raves about, and dips her bread into! I am gonna order some from this source.

  3. Nice post, it conveys a lot of enthusiasm!

    Paula, I am sorry to read you had a bad experience with a maybe Spanish olive oil. Let me humbly propose these sites to read more about the issue:
    http://www.oliveoilfromspain.com/
    http://spanishfood.about.com/od/cookingtipsandbasics/a/buyoliveoil.htm

    And these to buy. Unfortunately delivery costs double or even triple the price of the product to what it costs here in Spain :(
    http://www.olivaoliva.com/olive-oil/
    http://www.tienda.com/food/olive_oil.html

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