I recently woke from a sound sleep at 6 a.m. when my cell phone rang. I'm typically up much earlier than that to get ready for the drive to our company headquarters. But on this particular morning, I happened to be in a hotel room in Oroville getting a bit more shut-eye than usual. (I'd decided at the last minute to stay in town after meetings at work ran late into the night.)
The caller had expected to find me awake and multi-tasking at the steering wheel. Instead, he unwittingly provided the perfect wake-up call and the right topic to get me talking. He wanted to know about a unique product we make and will start shipping in November: Olio Nuovo.
I was soon wide awake and extolling its virtues:
-- For starters, Olio Nuovo is the freshest possible extra virgin olive oil you can find. It’s practically like drinking milk from a cow. When you put a spoonful of Olio Nuovo in your mouth, you experience a peppery, fruity, pleasantly bitter burst of fresh olive oil taste.
-- Olio Nuovo heralds the new olive oil season. But it’s fleeting. Its limited shelf life means the oil must be used within a few months. California Olive Ranch employees bottle Olio Nuovo only once a year, in the first half of November. It’s an olive oil you can’t get every day. We make it to order – and we’ve just begun taking orders.
-- Olio Nuovo also is potentially the healthiest extra virgin olive oil. It delivers a higher level of polyphenols – the chemical substances found in plants that may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.
How is Olio Nuovo different from our other oils?
We bottle it immediately after we press the olives. Unlike other oils, we don’t put Olio Nuovo into tanks at our two mills for a few months to allow the fruit particles and other sediment to settle. That’s why you need to consume Olio Nuovo by early March. Otherwise, those fruit particles will begin to ferment.
To craft Olio Nuovo each fall, we harvest our olives and then quickly press them to preserve their freshness. We process the resulting olive paste in a centrifuge to separate the oil from the water and sediment.
Bob Singletary, our veteran miller who has extra virgin olive oil in his veins, personally tastes each batch of oil as it flows from the centrifuge spout. He then records the quality of each batch. After he’s tasted all the oil, Bob selects the best four or five and brings samples to a conference room at headquarters.
There, about a half dozen of us sit around a table and taste the oils. We’re a particular lot. Our goal: Choose the very best oil for each year’s Olio Nuovo. We smell, sip, slurp and swallow the oil. We analyze the aroma and pungency of each sample. We talk. And then, voila! We make a decision.
There’s no stopping there. Our employees then fire up the bottling line the very next day and we begin bottling the oil. It’s November. By contrast, we typically start bottling our other oils the following February.
The taste of Olio Nuovo is intense and bursting with freshness. There’s nothing like it. The flavor profile combines a strong and fruity aroma; the oil is smooth and buttery on the tongue; and it delivers a nice peppery finish.
The color, meanwhile, is a very dark green. When you hold the bottle up you can see the sediment that’s escaped the centrifuge.
I particularly like Olio Nuovo on salads because the flavor just explodes. It’s also great drizzled over brushetta and roasted vegetables – or tossed with pasta. And, of course, it’s great for dipping. Cookbook author Fran Gage recommends a pasta of spaghetti, garlic, fleur de sel sea salt, red pepper, and Olio Nuovo.
Here’s one more important note. Our Olio Nuovo is different from Olio Nuovo shipped from Europe. Ours hasn’t been sitting on a ship for four to six weeks.
As I said, we’ve begun taking orders for Olio Nuovo. You can purchase it in 500 ml bottles as well as 2.5- and 5-gallon boxes. The boxes have the added advantage of preserving the oil’s flavor a couple of extra months. That’s because the boxes use a bag-in-the-box design, so the bag inside collapses as the oil is dispensed. The Olio Nuovo doesn’t come in contact with oxygen because the bag is flushed with nitrogen.
Oh, one last thing. If you want to start doing your Christmas shopping now, Olio Nuvo makes for great gifts during the holiday season.
Needless to say, that phone call went on for a while. I didn’t mind. In fact, by the end I was hankering for a taste of Olio Nuovo to start the day.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing