Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rancho Olivos Olive Oil

Olive oil is one of the most historically precious products, having been used for cosmetics in Ancient Egypt and in religious ceremonies in Ancient Minoa. Bygone people used it to give bright light while the modern use it to brighten their cuisine. The olive branch is a timeless symbol of peace, purity and forgiveness. Its oil has been used as currency and for fuel. It has been considered magical and medicinal. Olive oil is sacred entity with sacrosanct and pedestrian uses, fit for deities, athletes and cooks. No wonder Homer called it liquid gold.

Although Mediterranean oils are generally esteemed as the world’s finest, highly valued for their full bodied flavors, deeply rich hues and fragrant aromas, California is at the apex of quality oil production, a vital member of the industry. Spanish missionaries first brought olive trees to California towards the end of the 18th century and the modern market is thriving. American producers are giving the Greek, Spanish and Italian oil makers a run for their money, harvesting a diverse crop that yields dynamic and respected oils.

On a trip to the Santa Barbara wineries a few years ago, I made a stop at Rancho Olivos in Santa Ynez after being beckoned by a sign offering olive oil tasting. The proprietor, Shannon Casey, greeted us with warmth, hospitality, rustic bread, knowledge, and a few very friendly dogs. We were offered generous tastings of her olive oils and were thoroughly wowed by their complexity on the tongue, the intense strength of their fragrant aromas. Yet we somehow managed to leave without a purchase.

I thought of the superior oil every time I cooked so I finally contacted Ms. Casey and ordered a few bottles, which ended up being some of the most vibrant, richly flavored olive oils I have tasted. I continue to use her oils, which coax deeper flavors from ingredients and really stand out on their own, soaked up simply with bread.

At the moment, Rancho Olivos is selling three types of oils: Arbequina Extra Virgin, Italian Blend Extra Virgin and Garlic flavored. In the past, they have featured a wonderfully fruity Meyer Lemon infused olive oil.

Arbequina is a Spanish olive varietal. Rancho Olivos notes that this oil is “renown for its round buttery flavor.” They state that “Arbequina’s ability to pollinate itself allows the oil to be called by its own name”. While the Arbequina oil has a somewhat creamy flavor, the Italian blend is far more sharp, peppery and earthy. It is made from a blend of Frantoio, Leccino and Grappolo olive varieties.

Lastly, the garlic flavored oil displays the bold taste of roasted garlic. Rancho Olivos notes that since “there is no organic matter in the oil, it will keep like a regular olive oil.” The flavor is so upfront, so powerful, the garlic flavor anything but subtle. They have really captured the essence of garlic in a bottle and it is almost good enough to drink!

Rancho Olivos
2390 N. Refugio Rd.
Santa Ynez CA 93460
Phone: 686-9653
Fax: 688-6174

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