We really enjoy giving olive oil to family and friends during the holidays, but it isn’t always easy to find an oil that is somehow “special.” As olive oil’s popularity in the United States has grown over the years, so has the number of brands available on grocery store shelves. So many to choose from — from all over the world — but the imported olive oils we’re buying and using may not always be what they purport to be. We mention this in light of much press and controversy surrounding the integrity of olive oils produced across the Mediterranean region, especially — a flurry of questions and claims regarding dilution, adulteration, misleading labeling, and other questionable practices.
We are in no position to render judgment as to the purity of imported olive oils — and we do continue to enjoy some of the best of them — but such uncertainties have nevertheless motivated us to explore more domestic, estate-produced oils. The fruits of our venture have been many, as we have enjoyed olive oils from California, Arizona, Washington, and other states, and have found them to be fresh, flavorful, and versatile. Many are “vintage” dated, as well — with the month and year of harvest printed on the label — which provides welcome assurance as to provenance and quality.
One of our favorite domestic discoveries is Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company, which is located in California’s Suisun Valley, in Solano County, roughly 20 miles east of the city of Napa. Owners Ann Fiorello Sievers and Mark Sievers produce a broad selection of olive oils — including single-varietal, blended, and co-milled (with a variety of fruits and peppers) — from olives they cultivate and mill on the estate. Il Fiorello’s oils are hand-crafted, very fine, and gorgeously bottled — each a reflection of the Sievers’ devotion to this age-old craft. They are a world-class alternative to imported olive oils.
And, they would make for a thoughtful and delicious holiday gift. If you’re looking for something other than wine to give for the holidays, visit Il Fiorello virtually at www.ilfiorello.com and peruse their selection of olive oils as well as balsamic vinegars infused with fruit grown on the estate. Il Fiorello olive oils are not available in stores, but you can order them directly by calling the tasting room at 707-864-1529. If you happen to find yourself in the Suisun Valley area — just outside of Fairfield, California, along I-80 about half-way between San Francisco and Sacramento — we recommend you pay a personal visit to Il Fiorello’s tasting room (call ahead before you go). We visited this past summer, and the process of tasting their oils (and balsamic vinegars) side-by-side is truly a palate-opening experience.