It’s a gorgeous day at McEvoy Ranch. The sun is shining with bright blue skies. We’ve been invited back to pass through the magical rabbit gate once again to experience harvest at McEvoy Ranch Community Milling Day in Petaluma. Once through the gate, we witness a quiet busyness. Although the ranch is filled with guests milling around (no pun intended), the only sounds you hear are a quiet guitar playing background music for the honking geese at the pond. There is delicious food to eat, people to meet, and Olio Nuovo to try!
The Groves at McEvoy Ranch
We are welcomed to roam the beautiful property and take a stroll through the groves. We take photographs while we still have the chance. You see, the trees are almost bare of fruit. It’s harvest time for McEvoy Ranch and most of the olives have already been picked at their peak. McEvoy Ranch waits until the olives are a perfect color, a little bit of green and a little bit of purple to get the flavor intensity that McEvoy olive oil is known for.
The olive trees have been imported from Tuscany. The Leccino and Frantoio varietals make up 85% of the oil, giving it it’s pungent characteristics. The remaining 15% is a blend of Pendolino, Maurino, Leccio del Corno, and Coratina olives. Translation: this means “yummy”. McEvoy produces organic extra virgin olive oil that is certified by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). Translation: this means “trust us, this is the good stuff.”
After our walk amongst the olive trees, we are encouraged to visit the Frantoio to witness something truly special. We are told by one of the employees to enjoy our “spa day”. She further explained that the mill is filled with antioxidants from the crushing of the olives and to breathe it in deeply. As we step inside, a light haze fills the air (now we understand what she meant) and the aroma is heavenly. You can actually smell the freshness of the fruit. The only way I can describe this wonderful smell is simply “olive-y”.
As we step further inside, we stand in awe. There they are. The two 1200 pound stone wheels imported from Italy are hard at work, literally spinning their wheels, crushing the olives. We are witnesses to a tradition that is rarely used today due to the advancement of technology and machinery that is currently available. But what could possibly replace this age-old tradition? It’s powerful and beautiful at the same time. It’s precise and amazing to watch. It’s not very often that we get to see this part of the production process and that’s why we came today. We’ve waited seven months (since the Spring Orchard Walk & Mill Tour) to see the traditional stone ground method in action and we want to share it with you. Here’s a glimpse inside the Frantoio at McEvoy Ranch on Milling Day.
The fruit is picked from the trees and delivered to the mill where the olives are emptied into a holding bin where the stems and leaves are separated from the fruit. Then, the olives, in all their naked glory, take a short ride on a conveyer belt to get washed.
After the olives are washed, they get tossed into a caged area where two big stone wheels are rotating. This will be the end of the line for the pretty little fruit. The stones will smash the olives, pits and all, to a thick paste. The stone mill has a scraper that removes the olive paste from the wheels and the sides of the wall. The paste is pushed through to a centrifuge to extract and separate water from the oil. Then, the oil is slowly poured into containers to settle before bottling.
However, there is a small batch of this “new oil” that is bottled immediately, without filtration. It is thick, opaque, and gloriously green in color. This is Olio Nuovo, the freshest oil you will ever taste. It is also considered the healthiest because it has the highest antioxidant levels at this point. We must confess, the Olio Nuovo is another reason why we came to McEvoy Ranch Community Milling Day & Open House. Olio Nuovo is only available seasonally and we wanted to make sure we got ours before it’s gone!
Thanks, McEvoy Ranch! We enjoyed your Open House and are grateful for the opportunity you shared with us today!