Photo by Yulia Grigoryeva
Photo by Jim Ekstrand/Shutterstock
A vineyard curves along a hill with a road bordered by olive trees in the rolling countryside of farms and ranches in the Santa Ynez Valley, California.
Tired of winetasting? Try olive oil tasting.
We love all things Italian—including, of course, olive oil. Unfortunately, according to the American Olive Oil Producers Association, as much as 75 percent of the extra virgin olive oil that is imported from Italy to the United States is unpure. The Italian Mafia is to blame: The Mob takes pure olive oil and cuts it with cheaper oils, then sells it at the higher price and pockets the extra cash.
In light of stories highlighting the health hazards of adulterated extra virgin olive oil—from a 60 Minutes exposé to author Tom Mueller’s book Extra Virginity—many Americans have started sourcing the staple ingredient domestically.
Loaded with antioxidants and healthy fats, extra virgin olive oil is now being produced in the United States at a rate like never before. In 2019, California, the leading American producer of olive oil, churned out 4 million gallons—more than 10 times the amount the state produced in 2004.
In addition to California, U.S. olives grow in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Alabama, and Hawaii (on the island of Maui). With so many olive orchards, Americans can find a new pastime: olive oil tasting.
Here are nine orchards in the U.S. that make their own EVOO and are gorgeous getaways, too.
This may be wine country, but olive groves have been around for almost as long as the vines. Spanish missionaries initially planted the trees centuries ago as they made their way north. The Golden State now features approximately 682 olive growers and 39,000 acres of olive orchards.
Buy it: $25, trattorefarms.com
Get your boots dirty and walk through the vineyards and orchards at Trattore Farms (Italian for tractor), home of Dry Creek Olive Company. Its seven-ton granite stone mill was shipped in from the Perugia region of Italy and combined with a modern hammer mill to produce unfiltered EVOO.
Try estate-grown olive oils infused with Meyer lemon, jalapeño, and lime or a more traditional blend that can be tasted during a wine, olive oil, and food pairing meal inside its cliffside mill, which has Tuscan-like views of the valley below. The 40-acre property includes 10 acres of olive orchards with 22 varietals that are mingled among the estate-grown vines.
Buy it: $50, mcevoyranch.com
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Just 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, this 550-acre organic ranch was founded in 1990. All olive oils are certified organic, and the entire olive oil–making process—from growing the olives to blending and bottling—is done on the ranch. Purists will love the Traditional Blend, which combines seven varietals, while a number of flavored oils (with lemon, jalapeños, or rosemary) add a kick to an already smooth product. Olive oil tastings are offered daily at McEvoy Ranch, from $25 per person.
Buy it: $28, jordanwinery.com
Besides cultivating its expansive vineyards, Jordan Winery has been making olive oil since the 1990s. It now has 18 acres of scenic rolling hills planted with olive trees in Healdsburg. The trees grow a mix of Frantoio, Pendolino, and Leccino style olives from Italy and Arbequina olives from Spain to create a soft and buttery unfiltered blend.
Olives are handpicked in the Italian brucatura tradition, where pickers use buckets harnessed around their necks to store olives they pluck off the trees. The oil is blended during the winter before being bottled in March and released in May.
Buy it: $40, bondolio.com
With its red clay tile roof and decorative Italian-style clay pots, Bondolio Olive Oil looks like a slice of Italy. Karen Bond and her husband Malcolm turned this former almond farm into an olive orchard after a trip to southern Italy. Then, they imported and quarantined 1,200 Sicilian trees for two years before they harvested their first crop in 2009. Conveniently, Bondolio is just under an 11-mile bike ride from Davis, one of the nation’s best bicycle cities: Once at the farm, take a tour of the mill and orchard (offered by appointment only). Then, enjoy an outdoor tasting of the farm’s balsamic vinegars paired with pizza made from the built-in-Tuscany wood-burning brick oven.
Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, this region of California is known as the fruit and breadbasket of the world—unsurprisingly, it has delicious olive oils, too.
Buy it: $12, amazon.com
Turn off Highway 99 and down a long driveway past hundreds of olive trees to Enzo Olive Oil Company, the largest organic producer of olive oil in California—and the United States. Ricchiuti Family Farms produces the 100 percent estate-grown organic extra virgin olive oil in its home of Madera, along with almonds, peaches, plums, and mandarin and navel oranges. Complimentary tours and tastings of its seven types of olive oil, which include garlic and citrus-infused varieties, are offered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday by appointment.
Thanks to its hot and arid climate, Texas is the second-largest producer of olive oil in the U.S. with approximately 250 growers and 4,000 planted acres.
Buy it: $30, texashillcountryoliveco.com
The rolling hills in this Lone Star region—similar to those of Tuscany—make it good for growing olive orchards. Located 30 miles west of Austin, Texas Hill Country Olive Company is home to a certified-organic olive orchard that has five varieties of olives and a built-in-Florence mill. Enjoy sangria and try EVOOs and fruit-infused balsamic vinegars while on its $15 lunch-and-tour, offered four times a day on Fridays and Saturdays.
Buy it: $25, texasoliveoil.com
The intimate Bella Vista Ranch is known for its small-batch varietals, including a peppery and pungent Coratina olive oil pressed onsite with an Italian frantoio (olive oil press). Owners John and Patricia Dougherty have been pressing oil since 2001 and are more than willing to share their knowledge with curious visitors.
The Roman-style farm in Wimberley also includes a vineyard and winery. Take a $15 tour at 1 p.m. on Saturday or noon on Sunday, and make sure to try the blackberry wine jelly or go berry picking while there.
The Peach Tree State is also known for pecans, and the warm climate and fertile soil here make it ideal for growing olives.
Buy it: $45, amazon.com
Take the long way around to Marietta—Highway 37, also known as “Georgia Grown Trail 37” is lined with farms selling everything from honey and pecans to grits and wine—on the way to Georgia Olive Farms.
The olive farm, which opened in 2011, claims to be the first to harvest olives east of the Mississippi. Wander through the high-density orchards—think 650 trees per acre—and then sit on a picnic table behind the Italian-made mill for a homemade pesto and olive oil tasting.
Tours are by appointment only, but visitors can come in the evening and do a tasting at their leisure—don’t forget to bring some wine to share.
The Willamette Valley wine region in the Pacific Northwest is home to two-thirds of the state’s wineries. With its warm summers and cool evenings, it’s an ideal setting for agriculture—and it’s just as great for growing olives as it is for growing grapes.
Buy it: $22, shop.redridgefarms.com
About an hour south of Portland, Red Ridge Farms has more than 10,000 olive trees on its 200 acres. Try the robust and spicy Oregon Olive Mill Tuscan EVOO, a blend of Pendolino, Leccino, and Frantoio olives that works well with grilled steak and roasted vegetables. Also don’t miss the koi pond, lavender fields, or the Durant Vineyard, which is known for its pinot gris, chardonnay, and pinot noir.
Take a free daily mill tour at 11 a.m. June 1 to September 31 or pay for one of the tastings or a meal that pairs food, wine, and olive oil. During the weekend before Thanksgiving, Red Ridge hosts an annual Italian festival called Olio Nuovo (meaning “new oil” in Italian) to celebrate the farm’s freshly milled oil.
This article was originally published in 2016. It has been updated with new information. Due to COVID-19, some of the olive oil orchards may only be open for online ordering. Please check each venue’s website for the latest updates.
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