August 2013

Williams Sonoma Catalog Cover!

by admin on August 14, 2013


I finally get to announce the launch of our products with Williams Sonoma and the fact that we are on the cover of their Fall Catalog!  It’s been a challenging process that began over a year ago.  To see it materialize is truly exciting!

As you know I’ve stayed away from wholesale distribution but after meeting the WS team I had a sense that they shared in our passion.  Because of the high volume of their order my first reaction was to have a bigger operation produce and pack for us.  I quickly discovered that our methods of production were not condusive to such operations…too time consuming.  Not willing to compromise our quality levels, I told our WS buyer that we would not be able to do the deal.  When she heard the dilemna she was very passionate about their desire to have us stay true to ourselves and they would support us in all ways to produce in house.  Their desire to have authentic product motivated me to try to make it happen.

I still had to really think about this as we produce about 480 units a day…and their order was weeks worth of production…and we had to keep up with our internal production…and could I really ask my crew to pack that many cranberries into bottles?!!  Truly on the fence, I went to the powers that be…Margarita and Lourdes.  They have been doing all of our production for over 10 years…and I told them the situation.  They didn’t even hesitate…”we can do it”… they exclaimed…”we want to do it!”.  With them on board I decided that we would go for it.  It’s been a long road since that day….with lots of roadblocks and long days…but my entire staff pulled together as a team and made it happen.  They took pride in every step of the way…and so did our vendors…Cape Blanco Cranberries, our Balsamic Producer who we’ve known for 20 years, our olive growers….everyone who was a part of this venture did so with great enthusiasm…which as always translated through to the finished product.

Now that the last pallets are being shipped we need to shift our focus to our new exposure….and we would appreciate a little help from you!  We are obviously going to be exposed to a lot of people who do not know us like you do…so if you’d like to help us in spreading the word then we’d love it if you would give your honest feedback on the WS website.  If you use our extra Virgin Olive Oil perhaps you could write a short review on Our EVOO product page or if you’ve had our Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar, it would be great if you could share a review on the Cranberry Balsamic product page...if you just have a general comment about our Company you can share that on the featured story page.

Word of mouth is why we exist and now we have a great opportunity with your honest feedback to build our community so we can continue to grow and have positive impact!

Thank you for all of your continued support!

In gratitude,

Peggy

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Balsamico Tradizionale

by admin on August 3, 2013

If you’re familiar with our shop, you’ve no doubt tasted our traditional aged balsamic vinegar. Sweet with a thick, syrupy texture, it is one of our most popular items — meant to be savored in small doses, and nothing like any vinegar you can buy in the supermarket.

Our customers often ask if we make this balsamic ourselves and, while we’d love to take credit, the truth is that vinegar like this is traditionally only made in two cities in Italy — Reggio-Emilia and Modena. Ours is made in Modena by a small producer that we’ve been working with since we opened in 1994.

What makes traditional balsamic vinegar unique is the way it’s aged. The vinegar starts as grape must — a mixture of juice, skins, seeds and stems, typically from Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes. It’s cooked down until it reaches a certain consistency and then allowed to ferment, essentially becoming wine.

Over time, the alcohol converts to acid, and the vinegar begins its journey through the “batteria,” a series of barrels of decreasing size that are made of different types of wood such as chestnut, acacia and cherry. Each year, the vinegar is moved into the next barrel in the series. Because the vinegar tends to concentrate and evaporate with age (hence its thick sweetness), the barrels are often topped off with vinegar from different vintages.

Traditional balsamic vinegar is thus a very complex blend that picks up the nuances of the different barrels as it ages. This process lasts a minimum of 12 years, but that’s not all: To be certified a true “aceto balsamico tradizionale” the vinegar must be approved by a consortium of Italian tasters that meets twice a month to rank the region’s top vinegars.

Again, not something you’d typically find in a supermarket. And in fact, many of the balsamics you do find in the supermarket have been industrially produced, made with coloring or thickeners to emulate the qualities that a true balsamico achieves over time.

Because the producer we work with does not bring this vinegar before the Italian consortium, in Italy, it could not be classified as a true “tradizionale.” But in the U.S. we are allowed to say it is. We also carry a “baby” version of this vinegar, made in the same style but aged for a shorter period of time. It has a pleasant tartness that is perfect for vinaigrettes.

Our traditional balsamic vinegar, which we estimate has been aged for about 19 years, is so concentrated and sweet it can be drizzled on fresh berries or even ice cream — one restaurant here in St. Helena makes a counterintuitive but delicious “sundae” consisting of a scoop of chocolate gelato drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a scoop of vanilla gelato drizzled with olive oil.

But traditionally, balsamic vinegar is served with a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano, the aged Italian cow’s milk cheese that comes from the same region as balsamico tradizionale. Its rich flavor and saltiness are the perfect foil for the vinegar’s sweetness, and the pairing is a classic intersection of tradition, place and terroir.

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Simple Ideas for Methode Tradizionale

by admin on August 1, 2013

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