olive orchards

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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Grounded by David Picci

by admin on April 9, 2009

I continue to amazed at the people I’ve met on this journey….the passion….the heart…..the soul….it’s everywhere….and David Picci was no exception. I will admit that I had my doubts…I’ve met enough “experts” in my industry to be a little jaded. I also have less patience to listen to ego….so as I shook David’s hand….in a small parking lot in Figline….I was guarded. He immediately began to speak about the olive tree…the conversation started with pruning…went to varietals….pressing….harvest….oils….all over the map. I let him do most the talking as I have learned the art of listening…I have found if you listen as if you can hardly hear then you can discover not only the content of the words but also that of the person behind them…and as we neared the end of all we could say in a parking lot, I had a sense….that David was a man not only passionate about his trade but also about the earth that it was connected to….so needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to take him up on the invitation to see his orchards.

The drive to the orchards was framed with fields of olive trees….everywhere….and no straight rows….or plowed fields….but all pruned the same…..the centers wide open….at home the olive tree is the side show, if that, to the vineyard…..here, it steals the show….

I have attached the video of some of our conversation. I thought you might enjoy hearing knowledge passed down from generations….and although the content might not be pertinent to you, maybe David’s soul will come through, as it did on that day…and maybe you will feel the inspiration of a man who is driven by passion for his trade…..because David does not drive around with a “green” sticker on his car nor does he brag about his “sustainability”….because once again….it is simply who he is….and if there is one lesson that I have learned on this journey… it is that when you are true to yourself then you don’t have to say a word….you radiate your message because you are IT.

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