June 05, 2003
The Los Angeles County Fair has turned into the premier olive oil judging event in the U.S. What started out as a California competition grew to a competition for oils grown in the Americas and now has become truly international. This May a tasting panel comprised of International Olive Oil Council trained talent swished and slurped their way through a bewildering number of oil classes.
The "Best in Show - Domestic" award went to Stella Cadente Olive Oil Company for their Mission/Italian Blend. Stella Cadente is a small artisan Anderson Valley company, with less than 500 gallons of production each year. Their olives are hand-picked the old fashioned way and they blend their oil to bring out the unique flavors of five different varietals of olives.
"We were elated to learn that we had won the top award" said Tom Hunter, co-owner of Stella Cadente. "There are so many great olive oils being made in California right now and to receive this accolade is a great honor". Sue Ellery, co-owner is also a Board member of the California Olive Oil Council. Stella Cadente also received a Silver Medal for their Meyer Lemon flavored oil.
"Best in Show - International" category went to Blumenfeld Olive Oil of New Zealand. Cited as "the Grandfather of the New Zealand olive industry", Dr. Gidon Blumenfeld brought olive plants from Israel to New Zealand's South Island in 1986, starting the industry's recent resurgence. According to company publications the label is now owned and supported by over 25 private olive estates from throughout New Zealand and has become New Zealand's largest olive oil company.
Nick Sciabica & Son's "Jalapeno's Crushed & Pressed" won "Best of show - flavored olive oil" category. The Sciabicas crush fresh herbs or fruit with the olives to create a cleaner and more intense flavor than oils infused with dried ingredients. Nick attributes their win to "great olives". They also won a medal for their garlic flavored oil and pressed olives for several other award winners at their Modesto facility.
Judging results were confusing with classes for just about every possible blend of olive varieties. Multiple gold medals were awarded in some classes while others had none.
Several of the judges work in the industry and were pleased to see their oils had won after the unblinding. Tasting panel member Deborah Rodgers of the Olive Press, sometimes frustrated with the classes imposed on the tasters, was surprised at how well some "common" varietals such as mission did. The Olive Press won Best of class for their Mission Organic, Sevillano, and lemon organic oils and 6 Gold medals. Deborah proudly noted that 26 of the award winning oils were pressed at the Olive Press with their sometimes maligned hammer mill grinder and Pieralisi decanter.
Panel taster Roberta Zecca's Zedez label garnered a gold medal for Arbequina Blend - intense. The Oil was stone ground at his Frantoio in Mill Valley.
Awards were also given for label design. Da Vero was favored with a gold medal for best label series. Their Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino blend also caught a gold medal in the oil judging.
Round Pond nabbed the best of class for Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino - Intense oil and also won a gold in Innovative Design for their tin container.
Gold Medal Winners:
Balzana Olive Oil - Ascolano Blend
B.R. Cohn Olive Oil - Mission blend
Cakebread Cellars - Other Blends
Castle Peak Ranch Estate - Picholine
Colline Solari - Mission Blend
Da Vero - Ascolano Blend, Fran/Lecc/Pend
Delio Olive Company - Arbequina - Intense, Arbequina Blend
Frantoio-Zedez - Arbequina Blend - Intense
Graber Olive House - Manzanillo
Hills Vineyard, Inc - Other Mono cultivar
Le Colline Di Santa Cruz - Fran/Lecc/Pend-Intense
McEvoy Ranch - Fran/Lecc/Pend
Nick Sciabica & Sons - Jalapeno
Oliodessa Olive Oil - Mission Blend
Pope Creek Ranch - Mission - Intense
Poplar Hill - Other Mono cultivar
Remezzano Olive Oil - Picholine Blend
Round Pond Olive Oil - Fran/Lecc/Pend-Intense
Roy Estate - Manzanillo blend
Saltonstall Estate - Fran/Lecc/Pend
St. Pierre/P.J. Foods - Sevillano blend
Silverado Vineyards - Mission Blend
Sonoma Grove - Manzanillo Blend - Intense
Stella Cadente Olive Oil Company - Mission Blend
Sylverleaf Olive Oil - Mission - Intense
Talcott Vineyards - Fran/Lecc/Pend-Intense
The Olive Press - California mission, Sevillano, Ascolano, Fran/Lecc/Pend-Intense, Lemon, Orange
Thornton Ranch - Mission Blend
Villa Mille Rose - Fran/Lecc/Pend-Intense
Willow Creek Olive Ranch - Fran/Lecc/Pend
For the complete results go to:
The Tasting Panel:
Nancy Ash is a sales and marketing consultant to the specialty foods industry and a member of the California Olive Oil Council’s Official Tasting Panel.
Patricia Darragh of the California Olive Oil council
Karen Guth is an olive grower in Paso Robles, Ca., a member Board of Directors of California Olive Oil council and member of Tasting panel.
Nancy Lilly partner in Chez Panisse Restaurant since 1972.
Marvin D. Martin is owner of the Oliodessa Olive Oils & Carneros Olive Oil Company and a C.O.O.C. Taste Panel Member.
Stephanie Prima-Sarantopulo , is a member of the California Olive Oil Council and serves on the Master Taste Panel.
Agusti Romero was born in 1962 in Reus, Spain and is an Agronomical Engineer and researcher of the IRTA's Food Division since 1987. He is a member of the official olive oil taste panel of Catalonia, Spain, where he contributed to its formation and is responsible for its continuous training.
Mark Roper California Olive Oil Council Taste Panel Member
Deborah Rogers co-founder/former owner of V G Buck California Foods 1994, managing partner of The Olive Press in Glen Ellen, California and also a supporting member of the California Olive Oil Council and a Tasting Panel Member.
Fabrizio Vignolini is Chairman of Italian Olive Oil School of Tasters – O.N.A.O.O.
Paul Vossen is a Farm Advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension since 1981. He coordinates the UC/COOC Olive Oil Sensory Taste Panel as Co-Panel Head to provide unbiased evaluations of oils submitted into the California Olive Oil Council Extra Virgin Certification Program.
Dean Wilkinson Vice President of Int’l Delicacies Inc., a specialty food importer and distributor and is a Member of the California Olive Oil Council Taste panel.
Roberto Zecca created Frantoio Ristorante in Mill Valley, California, the only restaurant in the United States with full olive oil production facility. Roberto is Co-Leader of the University of California/California Olive Oil Council Panel of Tasters.