August 31, 2004
Paso Robles, Ca - Organizers should be congratulated on a hugely successful first year event which showcased this burgeoning olive oil production area. The rectangular Paso Robles Main Park, framed by the old business district, was filled with art, food and olive oil booths. Two stages offered music, cooking demonstrations and live auctions of olive oil related products. All of the vendors we interviewed were overwhelmed with the attendance and interest in olive oil and olive growing. Hot dry weather tempered by afternoon wind gusts which tore at displays did not discourage attendees.
At the Olive Oil Source booth we met dozens of "casual" olive growers who had a "few thousand" trees in the ground but who were still thinking of a company name and where the olives will be pressed in a year or two. Mission, Arbequina, and the Tuscan varieties were the most common varieties we heard being planted. Brochures for Pieralisi centrifugal presses and Il Molinetto presses were snapped up quickly and Several growers expressed interest in installing systems in the coming years.
San Luis Obispo County is in the middle of California half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles and is a major wine producing area. Unlike Napa county further north which supports many small boutique vineyards, large wine companies have planted vines as far as the eye can see in this area. Olive growers seem to have taken the same cue and are planting trees on a large scale.
There were many olive growers from the San Joaquin valley who normally sell to the canneries attending the show. Many were interested in converting to oil production.
Wendell and Jennifer Davis of Big Trees Now had a booth selling every type of olive tree from dwarf varieties for bonsai to plants already loaded with olives.
The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) booth offered tastes of COOC certified oils. Executive Director Patty Darragh says she and booth assistants ran out of bread for dipping by noon and ended up scrounging the shelves of local supermarkets to resupply.
Eleanor Krause of Lockridge Olive Oil had a run on her garlic flavored oil which sold out early in the day. Event organizer Gary Brown of We Olive Oil had olive oil tasters lined up in front of his booth. Merritt Edmunds of Balzana was pouring tastes of his olive oil. Napa Valley producer Round Pond was showcasing olive oil in a new bottle. Vineyard Canyon Olive Ranch owner Dean Kahan reported doing a booming business with their Tuscan blend. Olea Farms from down the road in Templeton had a booth with tasting of their Arbequina Extra Virgin oil. Fusano Olive oil has resurrected the colorful fruit box labels of the 1920's for their label. Joelle Olive Oil of Bangor offered their extra virgin oil in bottles, gift boxes and bulk plastic containers. Chapel Hill of Shandon and McEvoy Olive Oil of Sonoma county also attended.