April 03, 2004
County Fair International Olive Oil Competition
The Los Angeles County Fair touts their international olive oil competition as the largest event of its kind in the world. Last year's competition received 176 oils from 126 producers from around the world. Certainly the results are highly anticipated by California producers.
Stella Cadente co-owner Tom Hunter says that winning Best of Show at last year's event led to appearances on the Food Network and PBS Wine Roads. He anticipates this year's gold medal for Blood orange oil will translate into bigger sales on their website and at their tasting room in Boonville, Mendocino County.
The olive oil tasters (see list at end of article) are trained and certified under guidelines of the International Olive Oil Council. This year they tasted 227 oils out of hundreds of thousands of oils produced to come up with 189 winners. According to the award rules, more than one or no oils may end up with gold in each of the categories. Varieties were the categories for domestic oils, foreign made oils were awarded medals within their DOP or certified area of production. There were fifty total categories.
Lila Jaeger's Olive Oil won best of show, domestic Extra Virgin Olive oil, a great tribute to Kris Jaeger for keeping the family label going since her mother in law's passing. Lila was one of the founders of the COOC and helped revitalize the California industry. The oil uses Italian, French and Spanish varieties, some of which are rarely found in California such as Bouteillan, Farga and Cornezuelo. The olives were pressed at the Olive Press in Glen Ellen.
The Olive Press won their own two Best of Class awards for Tuscan blend (Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Maurino, Moraiolo) and Blood orange oil.
Many wineries are now producing top notch oils. Silverado Vineyards won best of class for Mission blend, and Stone Edge Vineyard best of class for Manzanillo.
Best of class international went to S.C.A Virgen del Castillo, a Spanish oil.
Best of Class winners were evenly split between large producers and smaller operations. California Olive Ranch won for their Arbequina Blend, they have the largest acreage in California. Nick Sciabica & Sons, the oldest olive oil maker in the state won best of class for their Sevillano Fall oil. Both companies supply oil to other producers and the food industry.
John Addleman's blending skills have won him several previous medals. His boutique St. Pierre label California Tuscan Style olive oil won best of class in the Sevillano blend category.
Lewis Johnson of Butte View has done well switching from growing olives for the ripe olive industry to making olive oil. Oil pressed with his estate Pieralisi Fattoria won best of class for Ascolano. Lewis tells us he did not originally like the oil as well as last year's but it has mellowed into a winner. Many in the industry have commented that this year's oils seem to be better than last season's.
The competition included product design awards. Olio di Gio Olive Oil and Chalk Hill Clematis received gold in the innovative design category. Chalk Hill also won gold in the art/illustration category. Stonehouse California Olive Oil won a total of four gold medals in Art/illustration and Contemporary for their new labels.
Click for complete olive oil competition results.
Tasting Panel: Roberto Zecca, Dean Wilkinson, Paul Vossen, Fabrizio Vignolin, Agusti Romero, Deborah Rogers, Marvin D. Martin, Karen Guth, Margaret Edwards, Patricia Darragh