ENZO Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I love a good story, don’t you? ENZO Olive Oil has a history and story to tell. We had the pleasure of meeting the owner of ENZO Olive Oil at the California Olive Oil Council Annual Member’s Meeting. Patrick Ricchiuti stood out amongst our peers at the table. He’s friendly, genuine, and a quite a character. We were intrigued to find out more about ENZO Olive Oil, it is our job after all. We’ve seen pictures and read stories about the team behind ENZO Olive Oil Company, so we felt lucky to be sitting at the table with the entire crew. I had so much I wanted to ask, but the first question out of my mouth was, “So, what’s the story behind the truck on your label?”
The Vintage 1939 GMC Truck
Patrick quickly realized that I didn’t want small talk. I wanted to cut to the chase and dig a little deeper. He told me that the truck was his father’s truck that was purchased when he returned home after serving in World War II. He said his father worked the farm in that truck and used to drive it to the market in San Francisco to sell his produce. “That’s cool”, I thought, and I felt privy to know such a tidbit. I also thought that it was an interesting choice for a label on a bottle of olive oil, but recognized the significance of the truck being a part and the start of the family business that would continue for generations to come. Patrick went on to say that the family still has the truck and it actually runs! He invited us to visit and promised that he’d even give me ride in the old GMC. I could barely contain my excitement as I gathered business cards from his staff to set up our future tour.
As the Story Grows…
Our adventure begins as we drive down a dirt road lined with rows of olive trees heading to ENZO Olive Oil’s headquarters in Madera, California. We meet up with Vincent Ricchiuti (Patrick’s son) and Ryan Grossman (Milling Manager) in a building whose architecture is a throwback to the 1970’s, indoor atrium and all. As we sit in the kitchen of ENZO’s offices, we are taken back in time to hear all about the humble beginnings of ENZO Olive Oil.
First Generation: ENZO Olive Oil is named after Vincent’s great grandfather, Vincenzo Ricchiuti. Vincenzo emigrated from Italy in 1914 with dreams for a good life. He rooted his family in the San Joaquin Valley where he started growing and selling grapes and figs.
Second Generation: Vincenzo’s son Pat joined him in 1946 after serving in World War II. They added plums and cotton to expand the business. They sold their produce at the side of the road in a small farm stand aptly named Bella Frutta. Pat would also drive their goods (in the 1939 GMC truck) to the market in San Francisco. This expansion of their family business proved to be successful and in 1956, P-R Farms was born.
Third Generation: Pat continued to grow and expand the family business and in 1965, his son Patrick joined the business. Along with the addition of another family member, they also added peaches, apricots, nectarines, almonds and olives to their crops. With this move, P-R Farms grew to become known internationally as premium fruit growers.
Fourth Generation: Patrick was on the Agricultural Board at Fresno State when the first test plots for Super High Density Olive Groves were being planted. This sparked an idea to expand his family business once again. Patrick decided to take it one step further and venture into the olive oil business. In 2008, Vincent Ricchiuti, (Patrick’s son) joined him to create ENZO Olive Oil Company.
They purchased enough land to plant 400 acres of Arbosana and Koroneiki olive trees. ENZO Olive Oil groves are not planted in the typical Super High Density style. Unlike others we have seen where the tree limbs are guided by wires similar to a vineyard, ENZO’s trees are standing free with their branches waving in the wind. This planting technique seems like a more natural way for the trees to grow as they are allowed to move freely and flourish.
After the planting was complete, they had to wait for the trees to grow, mature, and produce fruit. Vincent took this time for an opportunity of a lifetime. Since the next step in their plan was to invest in an olive mill, why not go back to the family’s roots where some of the best olive oils are produced? So, in 2010, Vincent traveled to Bari, Italy with his grandfather to explore the highest quality olive milling equipment available today. In 2011, the Amenduni Mill was installed and the first production of ENZO Olive Oil was produced.
The Oleologist and The Chemist
As ENZO Olive Oil began it’s expansion, Vincent asked Ryan, a friend and recent graduate and chemistry major, to join the team and help with the milling of the oil. Vincent continued his education in learning the business and has recently become a certified technical olive oil taster (a.k.a. – Oleologist). The chemistry and drive between these two players make the ENZO Olive Oil team a strong force to reckon with in the industry. Together, they have produced award winning extra virgin olive oils with too many medals to count. ENZO Olive Oil has recently been recognized as one of the best in the world winning Best In Class from the New York International Olive Oil Competition. The professional tasting panel describes the ENZO Delicate Olive Oil as having “aromas of ripe fruit, green grass, and tomato leaf with notes of flowers, apple, almonds, and pepper with exceptional harmony.” For a company that’s just three years old, that’s quite an honor.
Our tour through the milling facility is quite impressive. Behind walls made from old wooden crates from P-R Farms, we hear about the entire production process from start to finish. ENZO Olive Oil Company only uses fruit grown from their estate which is 100% organically grown. Vincent and Ryan are proud to tell us that they have the largest single line process in California and are able to crush 10 tons of olives in an hour. As we go from the crusher, the centrifuge, the malaxer, and the decanters, we witness the massive machinery and hear about technical aspects of a business that produces silky smooth olive oil. At the end of the line, production is completed with the final process of bottling and labeling. With everything we have learned about the growth and strength of this family business, our favorite label is the vintage 1939 GMC truck, of course! But the process doesn’t end there. All ENZO olive oils are tested and certified as organic by the USDA and California Certified Organic Farmers and also certified extra virgin by the California Olive Oil Commission. You will see all three of these trusted seals upon their bottles and should take comfort in knowing their quality.
For The Love of Food
We end our tour with a tasting of three single varietal olive oils which are simply labeled Delicate (Arbequina varietal), Medium (Arbosana varietal), and Bold (Koroneiki varietal) making it easy for consumers to identify what will please their palate. Oleologists we are not, however, we know good olive oil when we taste it! You can try ENZO Olive Oil for yourself and find them in gourmet markets and retailers such as Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma. However, if you’d like a more personal experience, we highly recommend a visit to Bella Frutta in Clovis. It has grown from the original roadside stand to a sweet little corner market full of freshly picked fruits, nuts, olive oils, and remnants of the family’s history. With local gourmet food trucks lined up in the parking lot and people swirling about, we got a good sense of what the Ricchiuti family is all about. Food, family, friends, and hometown support keeps Ricchiuti roots strong.
The Ricchiuti family is involved in many organizations to help spread the word and keep consumers informed of what they are buying in stores. They are fighting to keep oil fraud from happening and holding producers accountable for labeling their bottles honestly. The entire team at ENZO Olive Oil works hard to be leaders in the industry and also in their community. Vincent loves good food and extra virgin olive oil is part of his daily life, not only in work, but in his personal endeavors as well. It would not be unusual to see him in a restaurant sharing his olive oil with the chef. He makes it his mission to share his knowledge about California extra virgin olive oil and believes that everyone should know what good quality olive oil should taste like. Although he may not be driving the 1939 GMC truck today, Vincent is continuing the family farming tradition and taking ENZO Olive Oil to market.
Photographs taken by The Grove & Co. at ENZO Olive Oil in Madera, CA.