The Olives of Oroville

On this most recent trip up to the homestead, I made sure to indulge in one of the few things that my birthplace has to offer me beyond motherly chiding, which is olive oil. The area around Oroville, has a climate very similar to that of Mediterranean countries and so naturally foods like olives grow well. In theory, wine would grow well also, but I’ve as of yet to really find a winery in the area producing anything worthy of writing about, but that will be a future article someday.
It’s a funny thing with the olives really because while living in San Francisco, I often encounter all kinds of “exotic” olive oils that will fetch upwards of $75 a liter for their “amazing quality”. To quote my country roots, “That’s horseshit.” At some point along the way, we lost sight of the fact that olive oil, along with wine and cheese making is all farming. It’s not a mystic art. It’s growing something up out of the earth, processing it with care, and then selling an honest product. It is unlikely to shock the reader that I refuse to pay this $75 a liter for an olive oil. Often I find myself at Trader Joe’s buying the stuff that’s $8-10 a liter which is perfectly fine and tasty since I use it in cooking more than anything else (don’t hate me if I live to 145.) The only issue is that those TJ’s oils are from Spain or Greece typically and while there are a great many things right with them, there is the massive issue that I’m not buying locally and I’m incurring massive transportation use to get that oil from Europe to California.
Thus enters the fact that I’ve finally gotten around to finding proper olive oil from my hometown that is not only reasonable in price, but also quite excellent in taste. It’s true that most all of them won’t ever beat the European oils as they irrigate too heavily here and the oil is without that potent thickness that those 20,000 km away have. But even still, it’s good stuff.
My first Oroville oil was from Lodestar. They have been growing good olives up there and the oil is decent. It’s a tad pricey for what it is and it’s also lacking a bit in flavor. I’m not sure if they over filter it, but I don’t think it’s Extra Virgin First Cold Pressed as the color is just too yellow and not enough green to trust its purity. They also like to specialize in dippin’ oils and balsamic mixtures which, while fine, are not something you would just to do with a super pure oil as it’s a waste of the flavor.
I’ve moved beyond them though to Butte View, who actually own the presses that Lodestar uses to press their olives. This is a funny family. While we all like to have this perception of these well-bred farmers hand-crafting each and every bottle of oil that they make by rubbing it with a silk towel to polish the label, it just ain’t true. The Butte View folks are for lack of a better word, country. They’ve got cowboy hats, Wrangler jeans, ATV’s, dogs, American trucks, and probably a good number of guns. But despite all outward appearances, they are a damned smart family of farmers making one of the best olive oils in California. It amazes me that they can, since their yield is some 10 times per tree of that in Europe, which would make one think that the flavors would be weaker. But, it isn’t so. The oils are robust, deep, and delicious. This is so much the case that we bought nearly 12 liters of oil while on this most recent visit. If we use it fast enough, we’ll get the 19 liter drum next time.
Sure, these oils may be hard to find wherever you are, but I take great pride in knowing something as basic and necessary to life like olive oil can be produced here, produced well, and made in an affordable manner that still has all the proper taste it should.
The Olives of Oroville