The Olive Press Mill - CCOF Certified Organic
“Smooth and delicate. Herbal notes. Great finish.” As tasters sip and swirl the golden liquid, rhapsodizing about its aroma and flavor, it might be assumed that they are sampling Sonoma’s most famous crop—wine. But this group is savoring olive oil, the county’s second-largest crop, at The Olive Press Tasting Room.
The Olive Press was the first facility in Sonoma to offer custom processing of olives, opening in 1995. A partnership of Ed Stolman and Deborah Rogers, the mill was originally located in the hamlet of Glen Ellen, moving in 2007 to a location adjacent to the Jacuzzi Winery where they have a tasting room, retail shop and the pressing operation. Sleek, stainless steel Italian Pieralisi processing equipment provides both commercial growers and hobbyists with a means to press their crops. As growers discovered this new resource, fall harvest found The Olive Press crushing around the clock as olive farmers brought in tons of fresh-picked fruit.
“The process is fairly rapid,” says Deborah Rogers. “You bring in your harvest, it’s weighed and in two hours we can crush one ton of olives—which yields 30 to 35 gallons of olive oil.” Most olives are hand-harvested: green in the earlier pickings, burgundy as they become riper and black, ripe olives in the late fall. During a community day each year, people can bring in small lots of olives to have them pressed.
The olives are dumped into a hopper, then a conveyor belt transports the load. Stems and leaves are vacuumed out, and the olives drop into a water bath where they are quickly bubbled. A hammer mill crusher shatters the whole olives (with pits) into a paste, which rests for 30 to 45 minutes. A mechanical “massage” helps the oil separate from the paste and the glistening mash is then pushed into a centrifuge where the oil goes one way and waste goes the other, ending up as compost. Another centrifuge “polishes” the oil, eliminating all remaining fruit water. No heat or chemicals are used in the process and the result is extra virgin olive oil.
Unlike wine, olive oil does not get better with age—just the opposite. “We bottle as needed. It means you get the best-tasting, freshest oil possible.” Both tasting rooms—at Jacuzzi Winery in Sonoma and Oxbow Market in Napa—offer free samples and helpful explanations of the numerous varieties. Oils range from delicate and light to hints of green and grassy, to complex aromatic flavors of artichoke and pepper—and for the savvy palate, bold, pungent and intense. A highly labor-intensive undertaking, olive oil production takes dedication and hard work, acknowledges Rogers. “We’re fortunate to have the recognition of our peers and the public; and have received more awards than any other producer in California for our extra virgin olive oils.”
The Olive Press Mill is located at 24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma, Ca 95476. 800.965.4839