napa valley olive harvest

A New Harvest from the Talcotts

by Peggy OKelly 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.

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Rutherford Runway

by Emily Shartin on December 15, 2011

The only sign that David Moreland’s land used to be part of an airfield is the modest hangar nearby. Otherwise, you probably would have no idea that this property off Whitehall Lane – now replete with olive trees and grapevines – was once part of the Inglenook Ranch airstrip, which shuttled winemakers in and out of the Napa Valley.

David is the grower behind our aptly-named Rutherford Runway extra virgin olive oil. He and his family moved here from Silicon Valley in the early 2000s, but the Morelands are no strangers to farming. They previously owned a cattle ranch and, along with olives and grapes, currently grow walnuts and almonds, and keep honeybees.

There were already olive trees growing on the Rutherford property when the Morelands arrived, and the family has planted more, bringing the total to about 40, all Italian varietals. Their harvest, on a warm December day, yielded about half of what it did in 2010 – like many growers in the valley, David’s trees were not immune to the springtime rains that stripped them of their flowers and, in turn, their fruit. His crew patiently picked each tree by hand and later that afternoon, the olives were transported to the mill for pressing.

Historical records show that the Inglenook Ranch Airfield was established in 1947, and was originally an unpaved airstrip that was used for emergency landings. It was eventually paved and used as a private airstrip — its last known use was sometime around 1990. After Francis Ford Coppola bought the remaining Inglenook property, the runway was taken out and replaced with grapevines.

Proof that an interest in the valley’s agricultural roots runs in the family, David also grows about an acre of grapes for his son Ryan, who makes wines under his own label Corvalle. Ryan produces a Rutherford Runway Sauvignon Blanc that aims to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the Napa Valley and its pioneering farmers.

David meticulously cares for his grapes throughout the growing season, and is proud of the wines that they become. But he also notes that olives undergo a much simpler process in becoming olive oil and, unlike wine, there is no way to alter an oil once it has been pressed.

“It’s a more true expression of its environment,” he said.

Look for the release of the newest Rutherford Runway extra virgin olive oil sometime in early 2012.


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Contest – Predict Our Yield and Strike it Rich

by Peggy OKelly on 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 exciting, it can be worrisome as well.  We don’t ever know exactly how many tons will come off a property nor how much the olives will yield in oil….not to mention what it will actually taste like.  Sure we can judge by industry averages and prior year experiences but it’s not an exact science…and that makes a former CPA a little nervous.

So, to calm my nerves, I’ve decided to make a game out of it.  It may seem a little complicated at first but it’s really not…and you can win the first bottles of  limited Napa Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oils ranging from $60 – $500!

The Game Overview

When harvest date is closing in, we will post a blog about that property and it’s historical trends….we will give you all the information that we have….and some industry averages…you guess (in the Comment section of that post ONLY)  how many tons will come off of that property and how much oil it will yield.  The person or persons who guess both the yield will receive a free bottle of the Olio Nuovo (new oil) from that property.  The bottles will be the first that come off the line and they will be numbered and signed to indicate the authenticity.

We harvest multiple properties in the Napa Valley and surrounding areas so you have mulitple chances to win.  And….there will be a GRAND PRIZE WINNER.

The Grand Prize Winner will be the person who comes closest to our total yield for all properties.  There will be a post at the end of our harvest season that you will then guess the total yield for all properties.  The one who comes closest to our actual Total Harvest yield will win a mixed case of all of the oils from the various properties….a $500 value.

ONE AND ONLY ONE CATCH……In order for us to play the game, we have to have a minimum of 100 participants.  They don’t have to guess on every property…just 100 different people who have taken part on any level.  If at the end of harvest, we tally the participants and it is under 100, then NO prizes will be given out.  We will help by tweeting, facebooking, emailing our lists, etc… but you have to pass on the word…we need you to help generate the buzz….so let your friends and family know what’s going on and build the game so you can STRIKE IT RICH!

I sound like I’m a game show host but honestly, I think it will be fun to share this experience with you.  I will post constantly about what’s going on with the properties and you will see pictures and videos of the harvesting and pressing of the olives….and you have a chance to score the first bottles from the yield!  Hey..those are usually mine!  It’s the next best thing to being there…and maybe better because you don’t have the stress of the business side of it all….wow…that would be nice. 🙂

To get into the contest, read the following posts and take a guess!   Guess the Yield #1 Twin Sisters Property and Guess the Yield #2 Rutherford Runway

Good luck to us all!

Ciao. Peggy

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A Long Day But All Good

by Peggy OKelly on November 10, 2008

Some days you snooze….some days you cruise…..but most days you….hmmm can’t find a rhyme that means you pack a ridiculous amount into your day……well, today was that day! We harvested both Hornberger and Stagecoach today…..trucked around 3500 pounds of olives to Healdsburg to press….not much went as it was intended….never does in agriculture….but all went as it should…..lots of stories that I will tell and really good video of the pick and press….you just have to give me a bit to figure out imovie and some quiet time to get inspired to tell the stories…so many great moments today…but now I am beat…and am crashing to awake early to pick up our bounty….stay tuned!

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Hornberger and Stagecoach in Today

by Peggy OKelly on November 10, 2008



After the second snooze hit, I realized that I had to get up or I’d never hit the aggressive deadlines of the day. I rolled out of bed…threw on some old jeans….shirt….sweatshirt….jacket……and boots……brushed my teeth…..pulled my hair back and headed for the door. Today was unlike other days…..there was no time for tea….or to think about what shirt went best….no time even to pack kids lunches….today was the day…..the day we wait for all year long….today was game day.

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Harvesting Hornberger Estate Tomorrow

by admin on November 9, 2008

The good news is we are bringing in the Hornberger olives tomorrow, Monday, November 10, 2008…..the not so good news is it is a very light harvest this year…..I’m expecting less than 10 gallons of oil…..this is always such a beautifully balanced oil….we have a 3pm press time……so we should have the oil by 9pm tomorrow night….I will give you the taste report on Tuesday…..and more details on the estate as well….gotta say goodnight as it is an early morning tomorrow with the coordination of the Stagecoach and Hornberger harvests…watch for our video of the day!

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Tuttle Estate Harvest Report

November 9, 2008

THE TUTTLE EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL HAS ARRIVED!!!! The Tuttle Estate is located on the Valley floor north of St. Helena. Our take this year was 15 gallons….our largest yet from this Estate….I will taste the oil for the first time tomorrow and give you all the scoop…….

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Pedregal Estate Harvest Report

November 9, 2008

The Pedregal Estate is located in the Eastern HIlls of Oakville, Napa Valley. The Mendelson’s trees are a mix of older Spanish varietals that were originally brought over by the missionaries … and Italian varietals that were planted to border the Pedregal vineyards. Because the olives are harvested early, the estate always produces a BIG […]

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OLIVAI "It should only be this good"

November 5, 2008

Just talked to Judy…..the olives are turning fast and she has set her harvest date for November 14, 2008. We will hold the oil for about a month so it’s release date will be mid December. Her harvest is down about 30%….better than expected….so, we should get at least 50 gallons this year…a bountiful harvest […]

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The call is made at Stagecoach

November 3, 2008

I know…bad picture…it was pouring rain and my camera was malfunctioning….it was the best I could do.The good news….the flesh is turning purple…positive sign for the pick! It has been pouring rain! I know I shouldn’t complain because we need the rain and we have had a beautiful Fall…but…it was quite an abrupt change in […]

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