As many of you know, the olive harvest in California was off by more then 30%. Although our harvest was down significantly, we’d like to honor Mother Earth on her day by celebrating what she did give us! The only property that we could harvest this year was Twin Sisters in the Suisun Valley. This is our second year harvesting Twin Sisters and we are grateful for the partnership we have formed with the Smith Family…a fifth generation Napa Valley family.

We let the crop hang a little longer this year as the cold weather slowed the ripening process…it got a little precarious at the end because the olives were still very green but allowing them to stay on the trees any longer would put them at risk of frost damage…so I finally called the pick. Because our crop was small….9 tons vs. 30….I decided to bring a mill to the property so we could produce the freshest oil possible. The magic of the extra virgin olive oil being bottled while the crop was coming in was indescribable….I wish you could have been there! For the next best thing, check out this video of the Twin Sisters harvest created by one of our staffers.

In honor of Mother Earth, we would like to openly thank her for the crop that we did get this year. A little tough love reminds us to continue to take care of the planet. A very dear Peruvian Shaman recently told me …  “NOTHING on earth is yours but all of it is here for YOU” … we need to remember not to take things for granted and that the Earth does need care, consideration, reverence and love so it can continue to bring goodness to our future generations.

Happy Earth Day!



A New Harvest from the Talcotts

by Emily Shartin on January 31, 2012

The whirlwind of December’s olive harvest is done, and now all that’s left to do is wait.

We wait while our new crop of olive oils takes a breather. They need this time — usually a couple of months after they been pressed — to rest. The natural olive sediment settles out, leaving a clearer, more stable oil that is then bottled as the year’s vintage.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any new oils to share. If you follow our newsletter, you know that we released our own “olio nuovo” just after it was pressed in December. It was made from olives grown at Twin Sisters Ranch in Suisun Valley, and had a thick, meaty texture and a bold finish — a perfect, delicious way to celebrate the olive harvest.

We have none of our nuovo left, but we do still have few precious bottles of new oil from Napa olive grower Jim Talcott. Like us, Jim bottled a small quantity of his oil, which was pressed in mid-December, and is allowing the remainder to settle before he releases it this winter.

Jim and his wife, Patricia, moved to southernmost Napa to grow olives about seven years ago. Surrounded by the famed vineyards of Carneros, they now tend about 3,000 olive trees, mostly Italian varietals. When Jim gives directions to their home, there is no street address involved. Instead, there is a series of landmarks — wineries, a pond, mailboxes, a gravel road. So when you do find your way to the secluded house — and to the magnificent olive grove that surrounds it — you feel almost like you’ve stumbled into some kind of secret.

But this beautiful landscape takes some seriously hard work to maintain. A surgeon by trade, Jim spent several years as a grape grower in St. Helena before making olives his primary focus. As organic growers, the Talcotts must be exacting about the methods they use to control mold and ward off pests, such as voles, which eat bark and destroyed half of the couple’s trees during their first year. After rebounding from that setback, Jim now spends much of the growing season pruning his trees to ensure all of their energy is going into producing fruit.

This year, the result is an new oil that is fresh and green with strong fruity flavors, and just a hint of the pepperiness that often characterizes Italian olive varietals. Jim proudly declares it “the best oil we’ve produced so far.”

The Talcotts were lucky to have a bountiful harvest this year. Many local orchards were affected by springtime rains, which stripped trees of the flowers that are necessary to produce fruit, leaving many with limited or non-existent harvests. While the Talcotts’ harvest was somewhat smaller than anticipated, Jim believes the relative youth of their trees kept it from being severely hampered.

Jim, like many of his fellow growers, is happy to keep the momentum going in favor of quality oil. He sees an increasing number of consumers turning toward fresh, small production, extra virgin oils both for their flavor and health benefits.

“I do think that more and more people are using good olive oil,” he said.


Guess the Yield – Double H Ranch Oakville

by admin on December 13, 2010

It’s late and we have two properties to harvest early tomorrow so I’m just going to give you the facts of our latest property, Double H Ranch.  It was a last minute deal that came through Bettenelli Farming Co…our friends from Twin Sisters….and one that I couldn’t pass up.

We will get into the story later but for now here are the facts you need to guess:

We harvested today!

35 trees – 85 % Italian varietals and 15% Mission varietals.

Fruit is perfect….half green….half purple.

Heavy crop on 80% of the trees…much heavier then Rutherford Runway.  So, you can compare the two to help your guess.

No record from prior years.

I know you want more facts then this but it’s all I have.  Remember, you are being a virtual olive farmer :)     We don’t always have perfect information so we have to compare and feel our way through it.

OK..back to it.  So, here are some pictures.  I’m not going to comment because I’m too tired and need to get some rest before the alarm goes off at 5am.  Get some clues from the pictures.  Remember bins are 1/2 ton bins IF full.  A ton of olives normally yields between 30-35 gallons of oil.

Take your guess in the comments section of this post for your chance to win a New Harvest Oil from Double H!

Good Luck!


Guess the Yield #2 Rutherford Runway Olives

by admin on December 6, 2010

As we were leaving the Flower Market, I found out that the crew I was counting on for Fridays pick was a no go.  Hmm…a no go…I was scheduled to begin a pick the next day with NO crew.  I then received a message from the Mill hoping they we could put a larger crew on the pick so they could have the olives earlier in the day.  A larger crew?  Larger then 0?  After a bit of discussion with Shari at McEvoy, we decided that a 10 person crew would be the best scenario…ok then I only have to add……10.

Sue took the wheel so I could get on the phone and call every Vineyard Management Company that I knew.  I wasn’t having great success until I spoke to my sister.  She could get 10 guys but no foreman so I would have to lead the way…which would be fine except that I took French….my Spanish is no bueno.

About halfway home, Sue decided to mention her friend who is “connected to the Vineyard Mgmt business”…she said it so nonchalantly that I didn’t have much hope but agreed we should call.  Long story short…we did…and he was…..and they could….and all I needed to do was bring the tarps!  HUGE relief.  All was set and we were to meet at 6:30am at our newest property, Rutherford Runway Vineyards.

Rutherford Runway Vineyards is located on South Whitehall Lane….neighbors to the Hornbergers.  The Moreland Family has a history of farming….almonds, bees, olives, grapes…and I have yet to get their detailed story but it sounds as if they are a motivated bunch.

Their property on South Whitehall Lane has 37 olive trees…most are Italian varietals with a few Sevillano trees mixed in.  They keep their trees beautifully manicured and low to the ground which eliminates the need for ladders.  One look at their trees and you know the Morelands are dedicated to the land.

NOW….onto the contest…..here are some facts pertaining to the possible yield…..

This is a very difficult yield to guess because it is our first year.  We can only go by what the owner tells us and how the trees look compared to other properties that we have.  We were told that the tonnage two years ago was about 1600 pounds…..there are 2000 pounds in a ton.

We were also told that there were a few trees that came into production from the last harvest so tonnage should be up.  Remember from Twin Sisters that there is an average of 30-35 gallons of oil per ton.

The olives had a little frost damage so we would lose some crop but very little….10% maybe.

You can see in the pictures that the olives were at a nice ripeness…50/50 to be conservative…and remember…the riper the olive, the more yield.

The olives will be milled using a Blade Press at McEvoy Ranch..thank you Shari!  A Blade will usually give you a little more yield then a Stone.

I think that is all the info that is pertinent….you can try to get some clues from the pictures below and then go to the comments section and make your guess!


Back to the day…………

I didn’t sleep well the night before as I had never used this crew before…and this was a new client…..and there was a possibility of rain…and the appointments available at the Mill were getting tight.  I tossed and turned and was grateful when my alarm went off at 5:30am.  I threw on layers of clothes and my trusted work boots and out the door I went with Matcha tea in hand.  I arrived at the property at 6:33am.  As I turned the corner of the drive, I felt the adrenaline rush of harvest.  There were trucks and cars and men….plenty of men putting on picking buckets and getting ready for the day. I felt an immediate sense of relief…this crew was professional and on task….I could sense it before I even got out of my car.

It was still too dark to begin so their leader, Eduardo, and I walked the property and noted the trees that were going to be picked.  He was very pleasant and assured me that it was all under control.  We discussed a few things and as the light of the day began to peek through, his team began to pick.

Hand picking is a whole different ballgame.  It takes a lot of time..and patience.  The tarps are laid below to soften the fall of the olives but the majority are picked and put right into the bucket.

Just as we discussed in the Twin Sister posts, it never ceases to amaze me how one tree will be turning black and the one next to it will be green…varietal type can make a difference but that’s not always the case.

Here are olives nice and purple…..

and the tree next door is nice and green…..

The Rutherford Runway estate is a very special property….and as the name implies…it sits right where the runway in Rutherford used to lie.  According to Jonathan Westerling, this small private airstrip ferried many of California’s famous winemakers in and out of the Napa Valley over several decades.  It was located on Inglenook Ranch Winery and constructed by John Daniel Jr., whose father managed the vineyard from 1919 – 1933.  According to a 2006 article by the California Farm Bureau Federation, John was a Stanford University graduate, aviator and talented businessman.  He worked closely with his friend, Robert Mondavi, to establish the basis for the Napa Valley wine industry.

My favorite part of working with new growers is listening to their story….this is no exception.  I look forward to learning more about who they are because in the limited discussions that we have had, it is apparent that they are a driven family…very motivated and serious about their land….and their crops….

Ryan is a budding winemaker, no pun intended, and anxious to release his first wine under the Rutherford Runway Vineyards label.  He will be releasing their “crown jewel”, Rutherford Runway Vineyard barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc in the Spring.  He notes that it has lots of sur lie so it should be creamy with a nice mouthfeel and it’s showing bright acidity with flavors of lemon zest and green pear.  It sounds like a fun pairing with their extra virgin olive oil!

We picked the trees on the left side of the drive.

This is the back side of the driveway….grapes to the left…olives to the right….my kind of path.

First Bin has filled up.  Because these aren’t ventilated macro bins, we only fill them 3/4 full to prevent anaerobic fermentation….

We lost about 10% to the frost.  It’s pretty easy to see frost damages fruit….they are brown and slimy to the touch…see the brown ones in the bunch?  Those olives are left on the tree and then the crew comes back around and picks them off and throws them out.

All went without issue today…we arrived at McEvoy at about 2:30….ahead of schedule!

Unloading at McEvoy….you know the drill!

Bin one……

Bin 2…..

The day was done….the olives would be pressed the next morning so I jumped in my truck and headed home.

As I was driving out of the Ranch, I was taken back by this young buck grazing in the field right next to me.  I wish I could have gotten a better picture…he was so stunning.

As I came to the end of the driveway, I decided to stop and appreciate my surroundings before heading home.  I leaned against the fence post and couldn’t help but think about the day….all the effort that went into the olives…so many hands involved….so much care taken….so much respect shown…all as it should be but seldom is…
And then these cows caught my eye…the calf was running around having fun and mom was headed up the hill, looking back at her calf in a way all mothers could relate to…the calf was oblivious.  I had to smile.

Then I gazed at this view and I wondered….I wondered how it would be to live on so much land that you could never walk it all?  Or on land where you go for a hike in your backyard?  Or land with a beautiful barn that you converted to a house?

The ringing of my cell phone in the distance reminded me that my day was far from over.  It was time to head home……


Twin Sisters Harvest Day Three

by admin on November 27, 2010

Day Three was the most special of all because my parents came along.

Here are my parents talking with Stephen Smith, one of the many family members who own Twin Sisters Ranch.  If it wasn’t for my parents, I wouldn’t have known not only how far back the family goes (SIXTH generation Napa Valley) but also that we grew up with a portion of them.  As they were all comparing notes, the harvest continued.

I was so thankful for the good weather because the orchard was pretty dry.  My dad could take the hike in to see the action up close.

Paul, Bettenelli Vineyard Mgmt, was the perfect host….

Once the truck was loaded, we headed over with the olives to McEvoy Ranch.  It was a good thing my mom was with us because we were detoured in Petaluma because of the Veterans Day Parade.  She was able to navigate through the neighborhoods of Petaluma to get us back to the Point Reyes Highway….not an easy thing to do with a semi truck full of olives counting on you.

We arrived at McEvoy in time to see the continued flow of our oil from the olives brought in the night before.  Today I was having 6 tons of the olives go into the Stone Press rather then the Blade…it was ready and waiting.  So, our olives came right out of the field and went directly into the press while we were there…

A big thank you to all the people who made this a great day…from the Ranch to the Mill…..and of course, to my parents!


Twin Sisters Harvest Day 2

by admin on November 23, 2010

There was not a lot of space between day one and two so it all seems a bit garbled to me.  I know I rushed to the office first thing to take care of the bare minimums that needed to be done for the other 90% of the business.  As I was working away the phone rang….it was Paul, the orchard manager.  The crews were jamming and it would be an early finish with another truck full today.  Needless to say, I put my papers in the appropriate piles, said my good-byes and ran out the door.

When I arrived at Twin Sisters, I was amazed to see how many macros (1/2 ton bins)  had already been loaded.  I was a bit anxious because it felt like it was going so fast…and I was missing out on the moments.  I jumped out of my car and  quickly headed for the action.  With every step I took into the orchard, I felt more and more calm.  It was as if I was doing a walking meditation though unaware….until I began to look around me at the trees that were now bare.  They looked tired….and a little worn….but you could still see and sense their strength.  Finding the crew was no longer a priority.  Being present was.

When the tree is glowing and full of fruit, you only think of its beauty and the quality of its olives….when it is freshly picked, you see the core…the heart.   The tree is battered and bruised but NOT broken….and given a little rest, it will be right back on top and ready to go again.

After paying my respects and embracing the overwhelming sense of gratitude, I moved on to the task at hand…..olives.

The truck was loaded and we were ready to go by 3pm.  The sun was out and all was going as planned.

Unlike Day 1, we reached McEvoy without issue.

We drove in peacefully and they began to unload the truck.  I walked into the mill to say hello and as I looked up, I saw it….this almost neon green elixir spewing out into a stainless steel bucket.  I began walking toward it as if nothing else existed.  Pepe, the mill operator, was standing by smiling…”your oil”, he said with a grin..”this is your oil”.

I couldn’t stop staring at it….Pepe couldn’t stop grinning.   He handed me a tasting cup…I looked at him….then at Paul….and they both said, “taste it!”…so I did.

Wow…it was softer in the mouth then I had expected…and had a huge peppery finish.  It was so green…so fresh…tasted like the earth…like grass….like alfalfa…buttery….spicey….very true to its core.  All my worry went out the door….Mother Nature had given us her blessing.

I stood and simply stared at the oil on several different occasions that night.  At one point, Paul came up from behind me and quietly said, “All because of a seed”.  It was at then that I collapsed and began to weep uncontrollably….ha…just kidding….but it was a very cool moment….

I eventually disconnected from the oil and began to look around me.  Watching this process will never get old to me…..it’s so magical.

The olives come are poured from the macro bin into a hopper that separates the leaves and takes them to be washed.

Once washed, the olives head for the blade mill.  The mill is the top container on the machine below.  The olives are chopped up into paste and then dropped into the malaxation process below.  This system has a double malaxation process….you can see the two tanks on the bottom.  Here the pasted is mixed until the oil begins to separate.

Once the paste has passed through the malaxation process, the solid is waste and the liquid is put into a centrifuge.  The liquid consists of the extra virgin olive oil and vegetable water.  You need to separate the two quickly as exposure to vegetable water can cause defects in the olive oil.

Above is the paste begin dumped…..

The leaves from the olives are blown into this bag and used for compost.

This is our tank…where all of the xxxxx of gallons will settle for about a week.  They will then fill our barrels from the top…leaving the bottom sediment for our soaps.

The process will continue all week.  We bring in the olives at night and they press them the next day.  We should have our last oil coming out on Thursday and then will know our total yield…..hmm…..wonder who won this one?!


Twin Sisters – Harvest Day One

November 10, 2010

I hope you kept up yesterday via facebook and twitter but if not, here is a summary of the day.  I’m in a rush to get back at it so I’ll keep it short! I woke up yesterday to the beautiful rays of the sun…Mother Nature was shining upon us and allowing us to pick!  [...]

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GUESS THE YIELD #1 – Twin Sisters Property

November 9, 2010

OUR FIRST PROPERTY FOR THE CONTEST IS TWIN SISTERS, SUISUN VALLEY, CA.  ANTICIPATED HARVEST DATE: TUES. NOV 7. This is the first year that we are in contract with this property.  We have limited information as the only data known is from last year.  Here is everything I know: Property Facts 1. Total number of [...]

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Contest – Predict Our Yield and Strike it Rich

November 8, 2010

We have an bountiful harvest this year….and it’s ready to start coming in!  It’s the biggest year in the history of St. Helena Olive Oil Co. We anticipate harvesting up to 30 tons of LOCAL olives….all within 60 miles of our home in Rutherford, CA.   This translates roughly into 1,000 gallons of oil!  Although it’s [...]

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Harvest Rain Delay – Twin Sisters Property

November 8, 2010

Everything was set.  The crew was scheduled, equipment washed and the frantoio (olive press) was ready to receive our first 8+ tons of olives from the Twin Sisters Property.  Yes, we were ready to begin our harvest on Monday, November 8….or so we thought. The anticipated light rain storm today was not so light….and now [...]

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