Current Press

June 15, 2022

Record Number of NYIOOC Awards for American Producers

Olive farmers and producers from the United States enjoyed a year of record success at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. 

Forty-five producers from California, Oregon, Texas and Georgia combined to win a record-high 94 awards from 134 entries, the second-highest total for the country. Their 70-percent success rate was also the highest for American producers.

Awards always bring recognition and approval of a great product. This is key for consumers if we are to change the olive oil culture in America.
- Zack Thorp, co-owner, Lot22 Olive Oil

As they do every year, farmers and producers had to overcome a range of challenges, from California’s increasingly hot and dry climate to record-low temperatures in Texas and challenges created by supply chain issues.

“Farming is not for the faint of heart,” Edie Barry, owner of F & B Foods, which produces the Queen of Trees olive oils, told Olive Oil Times. 

“The weather is unpredictable, and you sweat every freeze, hot spells, strong winds when the olives set and then you have all the furry friends who want to eat through the irrigation,” she added.

Located in olive oil-soaked San Luis Obispo County, in central California, Barry and her team earned a Gold Award for a medium blend in their first time entering the competition.

“I’m still pinching myself,” Barry said. “I’m a small producer, female-owned, and this recognition is a big win for our brand as we consider expanding. It is a game-changer for us.” 

“Winning Gold is huge. It gives you credibility with retailers,” she added. “When your extra virgin olive oil is next to others, and you have an NYIOOC Gold, consumers reach for your bottle. Having that gold stamp on the website also drives direct-to-consumer sales. It is especially helpful when consumers can’t taste your oil in advance of purchase.”

From first-time entrants to NYIOOC veterans, the pleasure of triumphing in the world’s largest olive oil quality competition does not seem to fade with time.

Brooke Hazen, the owner of Gold Ridge Organic Farms, earned four Gold Awards this year, which he said was the eighth one for his company at the competition.

“[I was] really happy and surprised, since we won four out of four Golds just a few years ago, and three out of four last year,” the owner of the northern California producer told Olive Oil Times. “I have been grateful for the accolades coming our way.”

Located approximately 80 kilometers north of San Francisco, Hazen said the climate, terroir and lack of “extraordinary challenges” were the keys to another successful harvest.

“The cool West Sonoma Coast climate and our proximity to the Pacific Ocean allows a long slow maturation phase for the olives to develop their inherent polyphenols, flavors, colors and nuances,” he said. “Our maritime climate plus our Gold Ridge soils really offer the perfect opportunity for each variety in our four unique blends to reach their truest expression.”

While the NYIOOC provides small producers the opportunity to show off their quality and tell their unique stories, it also gives some of the world’s largest producers the opportunity to demonstrate that quantity does not necessarily come at the expense of quality.

California Olive Ranch (COR), the largest olive oil producer in the United States, earned a Gold and two Silver Awards at the 2022 NYIOOC.

Mary Mori, the company’s vice president of quality and research and development, told Olive Oil Times these awards celebrate the hard work and passion of everyone involved, from company executives to COR’s olive grower partners.

“We have always taken great pride in crafting high-quality products,” she said. “The NYIOOC awards are a way for us to celebrate the passion, hard work, and dedication of our efforts in California and across the globe.”

“This recognition gives our brands that well-deserved ‘stamp of approval’ from growing practices to harvesting to production and we are immensely proud of that,” she added.

Like many other producers around the world, Mori said that COR had to overcome various supply chain issues throughout the harvest.

“We’ve been challenged with several of the same issues affecting our industry, from cost inflation to shipping to material delays,” she said. “However, our team has worked tirelessly to keep everything in stock and on shelves.”

While the vast majority of winning U.S. producers at the NYIOOC hail from central and northern California, less traditional regions of the Golden State were also represented at the competition.

“Olive oil in southern California is a lost art,” Zach Thorp, the co-owner of Lot22 located just east of Los Angeles, told Olive Oil Times.

“Grape vines and pockets of olive groves dot the land and thrive in the soil and Mediterranean-style climate,” he added. “If preserved and expanded, they have shown a very unique product that is being recognized by world-renowned judges as evident in our most recent awards at the NYIOOC.”

In its third year at the competition, Lot22 earned two awards, including Gold for a medium Arbequina and a Silver Award for a delicate Koroneiki.

Thorp partially attributed this year’s success to the region’s unique microclimate, which has hosted olive growers for more than a century.

“We are set in a very specific microclimate in southern California that has heritage roots for growing olives dating back 100 years, but has been dominated by citrus in the last century because of water acquisition,” he said.

|“Currently, with water being a significant issue for California, we are seeing the elements of our microclimate begin to take center stage for sustainable crops like olives in a water-challenged environment,” he added.

Despite the opportunities presented to olive growers as a result of climate change, Thorp added that it also presents plenty of challenges.

“The climate is not the same as it was five years ago and we are constantly needing to network with other California growers in order to problem solve an ever-growing issue,” he said. “In addition the harvest, while always a challenge, has become a much pricier and challenging aspect of olive growing due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economy.”

With all these challenges piling up for producers, Thorp said the role that awards play for the company becomes increasingly important.

“Awards always bring recognition and approval of a great product,” he said. “This is key for consumers if we are to change the olive oil culture in America to fresh olive oil as opposed to typical ‘grocery store’ olive oils that do not promote freshness, timely harvest, mill dates or tasting certifications.”

While California dominates the U.S. olive oil production, high-quality extra virgin olive oil is produced across a wide swath of the country.

The producers behind Texas Hill Country Olive Company earned two Silver Awards once against the competition, a feat made all the more remarkable after unseasonable cold and frost in February 2021 damaged the vast majority of the state’s olive trees.

Even farther east, in Georgia, Five Otters earned a Gold Award for a medium blend of Koroneiki, Arbequina, and Arbosana olives.

“Growing olives is new to this region in Georgia and my hope is this achievement encourages more growers in the area,” owner Sharon Flanagan told Olive Oil Times. “I look forward to sharing this award in our rural community where it will be most appreciated.”

She added that this year’s award did not come without its challenges. Heavy rains and limited availability at the local mill complicated the harvest, forcing the company to have three separate harvests.

Back on the west coast, Paul Durant, owner of Durant Olive Mill, celebrated winning four more awards at the NYIOOC.

It was the seventh consecutive triumph for the pioneering Oregonian olive oil producer, who brought his total tally of awards from the competition up to 20.

“While I come to expect getting the awards, it certainly does not make it any less gratifying,” he told Olive Oil Times. “My entire team works really hard and to see that hard work pay off with such recognition makes all of us feel good. It is such a validation of the attention to detail we focus on throughout the year.”

Despite the success, Durant added that the harvest came with some disappointment. Originally he had hoped to produce 500 gallons (2,300 liters) of extra virgin olive oil but fell about 40 percent shy of this total.

“Overall, it was a tough harvest yield-wise,” he said. “The rains in California, same as here in Oregon, put a lot of water into the fruit and that made extraction difficult. I got some good guidance from a mill in California, and we were able to improve yield towards the end of the run.”

However, Durant has not allowed any of this to dampen his sense of optimism about the future.

“Aside from that, the improvements to the mill were great and eliminated a lot of stress on me and my crew,” he concluded. “I am doing another big equipment upgrade this year that should be another big step forward.”
April 19, 2022

California Artisan Cheese Festival returns

After two years’ hiatus due to COVID-19, the 16th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival offers a chance to taste your way through California’s finest on Saturday, May 7 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Grace Pavilion, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa.
From the Redwood forests to the Pacific Coast and beyond, award-winning California cheesemakers make some of the best cheeses in the country. Come meet local cheesemakers, local winemakers, brewers and distillers; sample and buy artisan cheese and other handcrafted products perfect for pairing with cheese; and taste beer, wine, cider and spirits.
This year’s Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace will feature over 80 artisan producers showcasing their products. Enjoy live entertainment by the King Street Giants in the new outdoor area called Shade Park.
Regional cheese and food producers include Achadinha Cheese Co, Beehive Cheese, Black Pig Meat Co., Bryerton Roasted Almonds, California Artisan Cheese Guild, Cheese Trail, Cookie Take a Bite, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove, Farm Chocolate, Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese, Friend in Cheeses Jam Co., Gold Ridge Organic Farms, Golden State Pickle Works, Laura Chenel Chèvre, Marin French Cheese Co., Morsey’s Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., R & J Toffee, Rumiano Cheese Co., Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Sonoma Spice Queen, Stella’s Table, Teat & Trumpets, The Baconer, Volo Chocolate, Whole Foods Market, and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.
Tickets: early entry is $75, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adults is $60 noon to 4 p.m. Children ages 5 to 12 cost $30 from noon to 4 p.m. Get tickets at artisancheesefestival.com/tickets or at Oliver’s Markets oliversmarket.com/store.
March 31, 2022

Brooke Hazen's Interview on Farm To Table on KRSH

Listen to Goldridge Organic Farms' owner Brooke Hazen interview on KRSH radio's Tawny Tesconi’s From Farm To Table.

January 20, 2022

Olio Nuovo: The Freshly Pressed Olive Oil Producers Of Sonoma County

Nearly a dozen small producers in Sonoma County mill olives onsite within hours of harvest into olio nuovo, or new oil, and backyard growers bring their olive harvest to custom mills at neighboring farms. The resulting oils are fresh, much higher in antioxidants, and deliver wildly complex flavors on the palate. Gold Ridge Organic Farms has 70 acres of olive trees in the rolling hills of Sebastopol and is the newest establishment to open their Tasting Salon to the public. A tour of the property is gifted with a 360 view of West Sonoma County and an educational guided tasting of their medicinal quality oils.

December 1, 2021

Where to Taste Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil in Sonoma

It’s the season for olio nuovo, the fresh-pressed olive oil that marks the start of the holiday season.

Olive oil is never better, never more compelling, than it is at the moment it first streams into the world, straight from the press. It is the purest expression of the olive, an elixir that delights with field-fresh flavors and a texture best described as both lean and rich.

This is olio nuovo, the new oil.

Olio nuovo is a treasure of early winter in Sonoma. It cannot be separated from its season and cannot be preserved, as its bold flavors begin to fade not long after pressing. The decline is subtle at first, but within a month or two, the new oil loses its unique spark and begins to mellow. By early spring, it will be a memory until the next vintage.

“When olive oil comes out of the funnel during pressing, there is always a feeling of renewal and exuberance. The vibrant green and gold hues, the fresh aromas, and the healthy vegetative and fruity flavors are intoxicating, full of the strength and health of the trees, only an hour removed,” says Brooke Hazen, who oversees 70 acres of olive trees at his Gold Ridge Organic Farms in the rolling hills southeast of Sebastopol.

Typically, quality olive oil rests in bulk for a few months after being pressed, a process that allows it to settle and become shelf-stable. Olio nuovo, in contrast, is bottled and released straight from the press, skipping the step during which the oil rests, allowing fresh, peppery, straight-from-the-tree flavors to shine. Until quite recently, only a handful of local growers, including Healdsburg’s DaVero and Petaluma’s McEvoy Ranch, celebrated a separate release of the new oil before the more widely available extra virgin olive oil came to market.

Sonoma County’s olive harvest begins around the time the grape harvest concludes, typically in late October or early November, and continues for several weeks. By the winter holidays, prized bottles of olio nuovo are available locally, many of them from small-scale, family-owned farms and olive mills. These days, there’s recognition that Sonoma County-grown olio nuovo holds its own alongside prized oils from Tuscany such as Ardoino, a favorite of olive oil pioneer Ridgely Evers at DaVero, and Poggio Lamentano, the favorite of renowned food writer M. F. K. Fisher.

“There is al ways a feeling of renewal and exuberance. The vibrant green and gold hues, the fresh aromas…full of the strength and health of the trees, only an hour removed.” ~ Brooke Hazen

Producer Stephen Singer of Baker Lane Vineyards likens olio nuovo to the elusive white truffle, another early-winter treasure. “The early vivid expression of olive oil doesn’t last long, nor does the flavor of the truffle,” he says. “Both are transitory, deeply seasonal, momentary, and ephemeral.” Singer, the former wine director at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, used to be in the business of importing premium olive oil from Tuscany. Now, settled in the hills outside Sebastopol, he makes wine and produces estate olive oil.

Growers say that to understand olio nuovo, it is essential to understand olive oil itself. The characteristic flavors of an olive’s oil are determined almost entirely by which type of olive tree the olive grows upon (over 2,000 types of trees exist). The trees must be properly tended and pruned, and farmers must choose the right moment to pick. The olives must be harvested gently, without stems and leaves, then transported as quickly as possible to the mill, before they begin to ferment. It is the job of the miller to press the oil out of the olive as gently as possible. Nearly all premium oils are made with olives processed and pressed within 24 hours of being harvested.

The best olive oils are made with a mix of green fruit and ripe fruit. Green fruit has the bitterness and peppery qualities considered essential; when olives ripen to purple-black, as they all eventually do, their oil takes on more buttery characteristics. The mix of both green and purple olives at different stages of ripeness creates the complexity of flavor that makes olive oil lovers wax poetic.

Six local mills serve the olive growers of Sonoma County. Recently, these mills have also become home to a new seasonal tradition: the community milling day. At one of these events, typically held in November or early December, anyone with an olive tree or two can be part of the magic of olio nuovo. Small-scale growers and backyard hobbyists bring their freshly-picked fruit—in buckets, bags, and bins—to the mill on the day of the press. After checking the olives for pests and for ripeness, the miller adds the fruit to the press to become part of a community blend. This is grassroots local food production at its best: Each grower gets back containers of the fresh-pressed oil in proportion to what they contributed. The more olives you bring, the more oil you receive.

Standing in the orchard, watching as olives are gently tugged from their slender stems, it all comes full circle—the care put into tending the trees, the flurry of harvest day, the quick rush to the press. After an hour or two of picking, you can smell on your hands the subtle aroma of the olive and the oil within— all peppery and grassy, the sunlight and rain together. “Olive oil is priceless,” says Ridgely Evers. “And it is sacred.”

Tasting Sonoma’s Olio Nuovo

There are nearly a dozen commercial olio nuovo producers in Sonoma County, plus hundreds of backyard growers who either do a custom milling for oil to share with friends and neighbors, or who bring their olives to community milling events.

Baker Lane Vineyards: Stephen Singer’s 2021 Occidental Blend is not labeled “olio nuovo,” but is available soon enough after pressing that it is a de facto nuovo, with vivid flavors of artichoke, new mown hay, and green apple. Online sales only. bakerlanevineyards.com

DaVero Farms & Winery: The benchmark estate olio nuovo is sassy and elegant, with complex bitter and pepper flavors—the signature liquid nirvana. It is available by appointment at the tasting room and online, from Thanksgiving through the end of the year. 766 Westside Rd., Healdsburg. 707431-8000, davero.com

Dry Creek Olive Company: A blend of olives from 100-year-old trees and newly-planted cultivars goes into a bright, herbaceous olio nuovo, available shortly after pressing and prior to the release of estate’s signature flavored olive oils. 7878 Dry Creek Rd., Geyserville. 707-431-7200, trattorefarms.com

Eyrie Olive Oil: This delicious Tuscan-style olio nuovo is available on Saturdays at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, 50 Mark West Springs Rd., and at Lazzini’s Market, 3449 Bennett Valley Rd., Santa Rosa. Email suzanne@eyrieoliveoil.com for information.

Figone Olive Oil Company: The group releases an olio nuovo blend of Spanish and Italian varieties. 483 First St. West, Sonoma. 707-282-9092, figoneoliveoil.com

Gold Ridge Organic Farms: Brooke Hazen offers four olio nuovos, each made from a different variety of olive, including Picholine, Minerva, Tuscan, and Arbequina. The varieties ripen in succession, not simultaneously, and all are picked a bit later in the season, producing oils with a voluptuous buttery texture. The olio nuovos are released in late December and available through February. 3387 Canfield Rd., Sebastopol. 707-8233110, goldridgeorganicfarms.com

McEvoy Ranch: This olio nuovo evokes the subtle flavors of winter greens – think cardoons, chicories, and dandelions – with a trail of peppery heat, a signature quality of the estate’s seven Tuscan cultivars. Available at the ranch store and online. 5935 Red Hill Rd., Petaluma. 707-7782307, mcevoyranch.com

Monte-Bellaria di California: Proprietor Bill MacElroy typically harvests his olives on the last Sunday of October. His olive oil is available within about 24 hours of pressing, and though it is not labeled as olio nuovo, that’s what it is. 3518 Bloomfield Rd., Sebastopol. 707829-2645, monte-bellaria.com

Olivino: Their olio nuovo is a blend of five Tuscan cultivars from a 2,500-tree orchard that straddles the border of Sonoma and Mendocino counties. It shows classic flavors of fresh grass, fruit, nuts, and pepper. It is released near Christmas and available until Easter. 14160 Mountain Home Rd., Hopland. 707744-1114, olivino.com

Preston Farm & Winery: Chaste Maiden Early Release Organic Olive Oil is a blend of ten Italian and Spanish cultivars. Even in its youth, it is a delicate oil, with a modicum of the peppery heat that defines many other oils. As it ages, the oil softens even more, and develops buttery characteristics, making it ideal for anyone who balks at “two cough” olive oils, as some people call robust olio nuovos. 9282 West Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 707-433-3372, prestonfarmandwinery.com

The Olive Press: Their olio nuovo is made from the Spanish cultivar Arbequina, which has suggestions of newly-mown grass, artichoke, apple, and banana. 24724 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 800-9654839, theolivepress.com

Community Milling Days

Community milling days are a special way to participate in the feel and flavors of olive oil production. Some mills require a minimum quantity, while others will take even just a hatful of olives. The mills will generally ask for a specific mix of ripeness in the olives and that participants pick their olives within 24 hours of the event.

They’ll also inspect the olives for signs of damage from the olive fruit fly. For additional information and requirements, please contact each mill directly.

Dry Creek Olive Company, Geyserville: Oct. 31, Nov. 21, Dec. 5. 5 pound minimum, $1 per pound. 707-431-7200, trattorefarms.com

Figone’s Olive Oil Co.: Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 9-Dec. 12. 5 pound minimum, $1.12 per pound. 707-244-9148, figoneoliveoil.com

McEvoy Ranch, Petaluma: Nov. 14; register by Nov. 10. $1 per pound. 707-778-2307, mcevoyranch.com

Olivino, Hopland: Call for information. 707-744-1114, olivino.com

The Olive Press, Sonoma: Nov. 7 and Nov. 21. 800-965-4839, theolivepress.com

November 5, 2021

Sebastopol olive oil farm gears up for the busy harvest season

In Wine Country, the grape harvest ended in October, but another star of the table is waiting in the wings for its golden moment: the Italian, French and Spanish varieties of olives that will be harvested beginning this month, when the small green fruits begin to ripen and turn purple.

At Gold Ridge Organic Farms, founded in 2001 by farmer Brooke Hazen in the western hills above Sebastopol, the coastal fog and sun that slowly ripens the region’s chardonnay and pinot noir grapes also create the ideal growing conditions for 88 acres of organically farmed olives, apples, citrus and herbs.

Hazen, who has blanketed 70 acres of the estate with 13,000 olive trees, started building his own olive mill 10 years ago, featuring a state-of-the-art Rapanelli olive press from Italy, so he could have more control over the quality of his olive oil. The mill also helps support the farm by providing milling services for about 150 clients all over California, from the flatlands of the Central Valley to the hillsides of the North Bay.

“Pressing olives is a romantic thing,” Haven said. “With the amount of olives I have, it would be really expensive otherwise. … And our customers can bring from 50 pounds up to 50 tons to be custom milled.”

Like other olive oil producers in the North Bay, Hazen is gearing up for mid-November harvest of his own olive trees, which include Spanish varieties like Arbequina, Picual and Manzanilla as well as French varieties like Picholine and Italian varieties such as Frantoio, Leccino and Minerva.

“I look at when the first killing frosts are coming, generally around Christmas, so I usually start picking in mid-November,” he said. “We finish the olive harvest in four weeks, by mid-December.”

All the olives are milled on-site within hours of harvest for peak freshness and flavor, including healthy, antioxidant boosting polyphenols concentrated in the bitter flesh of the fruit.

His organic line of olive oils have already won gold and silver awards from the New York International Olive Oil Competition as well as from the California Olive Oil Council, a nonprofit trade group that supports certified extra-virgin olive oil standards.

Hazen credits the climate of Sonoma County for helping nurture the complex flavors in olive oils grown and made here in the cool coastal hills.

“People wonder why olive oils vary so much,” he said. “Yes, farming is involved, but climate is the biggest factor. … The oil here is very robust. The reason is the cool fog we get here in NorCal. The flavors and colors have a longer time to develop nuances and do not get cooked out.”

When he first started planting olives back in 2000, Hazen sourced his Italian olive varieties from McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, one of the North Bay’s revered pioneers of high-end Italian-style olive oil production.

“But I also have 21 varieties,” Hazen said. “I wanted to diversify with the French and Spanish blends.”

Gold Ridge Organic Farms grows and mills four of its own olive oil blends: the Tuscan, Picholine, Arbequina and Minerva blends, each a mixture of four to six varieties of olives.

In the kitchen, the Arbequina blend is mild and perfect for salad dressings and marinades. The Tuscan blend, a favorite among chefs, is ideal for cooking. Minerva, another Italian blend, starts out robust and pungent, with the highest polyphenol count, but it mellows over time. Foodies love it for its buttery mouthfeel. The Picholine blend made from French varieties is delicious right out of the bottle.

“My favorite Picholine is when it’s new,” Hazen said. “It’s rare to find.”

Recently, Hazen started milling his olives together with some of the citrus he grows at the farm, a method that originated in Abruzzo region of Italy that is known as Agrumato. They started with a refreshing Meyer Lemon Agrumato and a Mandarin-Kumquat Agrumato.

“This is the first year making them,” Hazen said. “It’s made with a pure process — pure fruit, the peel and the juice.”

For the past few years, Gold Ridge also has been diversifying with a line of value-added products made from the organic apples, olive oil and herbs grown at the farm.

Director of Business Operations Andrea Lederle joined the sales and marketing team a few years ago to help raise the profile of the farm, then Naomi Ansbergs joined to head up sales and marketing.

The farm, which also grows 12,000 apple trees on 15 acres, is producing a Gravenstein Apple Syrup in collaboration with well-known preservationist Merrilee Olson of Preserve Farm Kitchens in Petaluma. The syrup is expected to be ready in time for the holiday season.

November 1, 2021

A Visit to Gold Ridge Organic Farms

Farmer Brooke Hazen knows every tree planted on his 88 acres in the rolling hills of Sebastopol. Not in the “Hi! How are you?” kind of way, he jokes. But in the truest sense of nurtured familiarity, having planted each and every one of them with the help of only one assistant.

He started his Gold Ridge Organic Farms in 2001 to create an edible wonderland. He’s more than succeeded, growing 13,000 olive trees of Spanish, Italian and French cultivars; 12,000 apple trees of 75 different varieties, including rare heirlooms; and a smattering of citrus, including Blood Oranges and Mandarin-Kumquats. All are grown organically, too.

You may very well know his apples already from his branded bags of Heirloom Apple Blend that are sold at Northern California Whole Foods. These treasure bags can contain such unusual antique varieties as Pitmaster Pineapple that actually tastes like pineapple, and Strawberry Parfait that — yes — tastes like strawberry. Indeed, Gold Ridge is one of the largest heirloom apple growers in California.

This month, you can get the opportunity to visit this wonderful farm for the first time.

After the pandemic quashed Gold Ridge’s plans to host public events last year, it’s now finally geared up for its first Harvest Open House, Nov. 5 and Nov. 6.

You’ll get a chance to taste four award-winning olive oils, and see the Italian Rapini olive press and mill, which actually acts like a centrifuge to more gently separate the oil from the olives.

This is a free event. Because there is limited parking, advance reservations are required. Masks also are required inside the tasting salon. Register here.

If you can’t make it to that open house, Gold Ridge is also hosting a fun shopping event for the holidays, Nov. 27 and Nov. 28.

You’ll again get a chance to sample the olive oils and view the olive mill. You’ll also get to shop for olive oils, farm-grown citrus, dried apples, and apple syrup, as well as locally made soaps and lotions made with Gold Ridge extra virgin olive oil and fragrant botanicals.

This is also a free event that requires advanced registration due to parking constraints, as well as the wearing of masks indoors. Register here.

When it comes to apples, Gold Ridge grows primarily Fuji and Honeycrisp, which pop with potent sweetness and flavor, owing to the fact that unlike most apples sold these days in supermarkets, these never go into cold storage for longer preservation. Instead, Hazen picks them and sends them to stores immediately.

The farm’s cool coastal climate also benefits the olives. They ripen so slowly that he’s one of the last olive oil producers to press each season, waiting until mid-November to start.

That extended time gives the olives more time to develop nuanced flavors. In fact, at a media event last week, the extra virgin oils I sampled were so robust that it was hard to believe they had been pressed a year ago.

The Minerva Blend boasted the pepperiness of arugula and white pepper with a hint of green tea. The Picholine Blend had a super spicy kick like dandelion greens, plus a long finish. And the Mandarin-Kumquat Organic Olive Oil possessed a beautiful floral-orange perfume to it, as well as an intense rounded citrus taste with touch of bitter pith and spicy white pepper.

Some olive oil producers pick their olives on the green side to create an oil with high levels of polyphenols, naturally occurring antioxidants, But Hazen can wait to press until his olives are riper, sporting a blush 3/4 of the way around, and still end up with oils high in polyphenols and more pronounced fruitiness.

In addition to pressing his own estate olives, Hazen also custom mills for 150 olive oil clients, including Forestville’s Olive Queen, and on the day I visited, for winemaker Stephen Singer, the ex-husband of Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the usual wine-tasting, trek on over to Gold Ridge to savor a delicious time of a different sort.
June 10, 2021

Sustainable, Organic Production Helps One California Producer Standout

Gold Ridge Organic Farms earned three Gold Awards and a Silver Award at the 2021 NYIOOC. The owner said organic production was the key to their success.

Gold Ridge Organic Farms is among the California pro­duc­ers lead­ing the way in sus­tain­able and organic olive oil pro­duc­tion meth­ods, despite the dom­i­nance of imports in the North American mar­ket.

At the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the Northern California pro­ducer earned three Gold Awards and a Silver Award for all four of its entries.

I was inspired by a great love affair with the grace and ele­gance of the olive tree. I believe it is the most beau­ti­ful of all crops to grow.- Brooke Hazen, owner, Gold Ridge Organic Farms

It felt truly amaz­ing [to receive these awards],” owner Brooke Hazen told Olive Oil Times. ​We are so hon­ored and grate­ful to receive such spe­cial appre­ci­a­tion for all of the hard work, time, ded­i­ca­tion and deter­mi­na­tion that went into pro­duc­ing such excep­tional olive oils.”

Our har­vest was excel­lent last year,” he added. ​I was able to obtain 4,500 gal­lons for my four sig­na­ture blends from my groves in Sebastopol.”

For Hazen, these awards fur­ther val­i­date the authen­tic­ity of his brand and the hard work it takes to achieve a qual­ity stan­dard that is not easy to imi­tate.

Gold Ridge Organic Farms is located in north­ern California​s West Sonoma County. Sitting approx­i­mately 80 kilo­me­ters north of San Francisco, the city of Sebastopol is a near-per­fect region for olive cul­ti­va­tion due to the opti­mal soil and ideal cli­mate.

Our farm sits 10 miles (16 kilo­me­ters) inland from the beau­ti­ful Sonoma Coast and the Pacific Ocean,” Hazen said. ​The prox­im­ity to the ocean influ­ences our cli­mate and our soils and makes our oils unique and lively. Our grow­ing sea­son is long and cool, which con­tributes to the high polyphe­nol lev­els in our oils.”

Growing olives organ­i­cally is a cru­cial com­po­nent of Hazen’s vision. He believes that organic cul­ti­va­tion yields olives that are both health­ier and more fla­vor­ful. He added that his organic farm­ing prac­tices help cre­ate olive oils rich in fla­vor, taste and antiox­i­dants.

I was inspired by a great love affair with the grace and ele­gance of the olive tree. I believe it is the most beau­ti­ful of all crops to grow,” Hazen said. ​It started with plant­ing and grow­ing olive trees and nat­u­rally expanded into press­ing the olives into olive oil.”

Olives are planted once in their life­time,” he added. ​They are known as the ​Grandparent Tree’ because they live for many gen­er­a­tions… The trees can live for mil­len­nia.”

In the cool coastal envi­ron­ment of Sebastopol, Hazen usu­ally begins har­vest­ing his olives in mid-November and con­tin­ues until Christmas.

However, even before the har­vest begins, Hazen spends plenty of time among his trees. Ensuring they receive plenty of water, nutri­ents and prun­ing improves the qual­ity of the fruit.

After har­vest­ing, the olives are processed at an organic mill, which was built in 2001. Hazen installed an Italian Rapanelli press, which processes the olives within a few hours after har­vest­ing.

Hazen and his team then craft their four care­fully selected blends of Italian, French and Spanish vari­etals, of which the pro­duc­ers take great pride.

Our four olive oil blends are also unique,” he said. Gold Ridge Organic Farms earned two Gold Awards for olive oils blended from Italian vari­eties.

The Tuscan Blend is crafted from mostly Frantoio and Leccino olives, with a small amount of Maurino and Pendolino cul­ti­vars as well. Meanwhile, the Minerva Blend is made from Minerva, Frantoio and Maurino olives with a touch of Cerasoula and Ladoelia.

Hazen and his team also earned a Gold Award for a medium Piccholine blend, which con­tains Aglandau, Bouteillian, Solonenque, Grossane and Cayon olives. The pro­duc­ers won a Silver Award for a medium Arbequina blend, com­pris­ing Empeltre, Leccin de Seville, Hojiblanca, Picual and Manzanilla olives.

Certification is an impor­tant part of this process, and all of the company’s olive oils are cer­ti­fied organic by California Certified Organic Farmers and extra vir­gin by the California Olive Oil Council.

Hazen said his prod­ucts stand apart from com­peti­tors as a result of a method­i­cal pro­duc­tion process, uniquely crafted blends and qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tions.

Despite all the work that Hazen and his team put into each har­vest, the pro­ducer sees the California olive oil sec­tor as being prone to mar­ket trends and con­sumer behav­ior like any other indus­try.

According to Hazen, the avail­abil­ity of cheap and low-qual­ity imported olive oils is the biggest chal­lenge faced by the indus­try.

Cheap imported oils have flooded the mar­ket, dri­ven down prices and con­fused the con­sumers,” he said. ​Most con­sumers have no idea what healthy fresh olive oil actu­ally should taste and look like.”

The Californian olive oil indus­try has been mak­ing attempts to change this through legal chan­nels and lob­by­ing,” he added.

However, Hazen said his awards from the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition go a long way in demon­strat­ing to con­sumers what dif­fer­en­ti­ates high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil from the rest of the pack.

Our team is grate­ful for the recog­ni­tion of qual­ity,” Hazen con­cluded. ​Farming is a dif­fi­cult jour­ney with many long days invested into rais­ing the fruit. So, the acknowl­edg­ment feels good.”

I love the Meyer Lemon Olive Oil! A friend brought a bottle for me to try and I am in love. I am a personal chef and I plan to make this a regular finishing oil. I am taking it with me back east to share with friends!

Heidi L., Sebastopol, CA

I love our olive oil! Thank you.

Lisa M., Port Washington, NY

Love your olive oil, thanks!

Ryan J., Portland, OR

The Arbequina Blend olive oil is simply wonderful, and the shipping was very fast! Thank you!

Barb G., Post Falls, ID

I like the VOLO Chocolate with Meyer Lemon. Kind of satiny, not too sweet. That’s good in my book! I like the olive oil in that one too. Kind of creamy and nourishing.

Ginny A., Plainfield, MA

I saw the farm store sign from the road and came in to explore. I'm so glad I did. I tasted, and chose some gorgeous oils and vinegars too & chocolate! Some really special gifts available. Great packaging & nice hospitality. Thank you. I'll be back.

Penny L., Sonoma County, CA

Your facility is beautiful! Your olive oil is fantastic, and the specialty chocolate with olive oil is super delicious (wish they made at least 80% chocolate to cut down on the sugar). As an aside, I absolutely loved the front gates!

Bonnie K., San Francisco Bay Area, CA

My feedback on Meyer Lemon Blend Olive Oil: I love it and think you’re doing great work…a credit to the community!

Barbara C., Santa Rosa, CA

AMAZING true olive oil! The taste and texture is divine, but for us this oil has been a blessing beyond the gourmet, our autistic son has had tremendous leaps forward in healing and development, this oil is truly brain food pure and healing. Thank you for what you do!

Laina S., Naples, FL

[The tour and tasting were] very interesting and informative. Thank you.

Kristen T., Sonoma County, CA

I learned so much! Loved the samples - very generous! I am sharing my purchases with my friends, too. I made pancakes to try the apple syrup and that was a hit! Thanks to the polite and knowledgeable staff. We had a great time! We bought a few items, for us and as gifts. You have an impressive operation that we will continue to support! Thank you for your customer care, attention to detail, and knowledge. Excellence shows!

Gerard G., Napa, CA

The best, unparalleled olive oil I’ve ever had! Apple cider syrup is also second to none! What is the most impressive to me is that all of the ingredients are freshly grown, organically made! Simply the best!

Jeongbum S., San Francisco Bay Area , CA

The taste and texture is divine, but for us this oil has been a blessing beyond the gourmet, our autistic son has had tremendous leaps forward in healing and development, this oil is truly brain food pure and healing. Thank you for what you do!

Laina S., Naples, FL

A friend gifted me the assorted tins for Christmas and I am very impressed. Delicious oil. As I cannot do dairy and do not like margerines I found scrambling my egg in this olive oil was sublime. You don't want to waste it on dishes where you cannot get the full impact of its delicious flavor. I am hooked.

Jean M., Grants Pass, OR

I will NEVER go back to store bought oils! The difference in taste between fresh and store bought was extraordinary.

Sheryl P., Cheboygan, MI

My entire experience was wonderful. The order arrived in a very timely manner, and the product is excellent!

Barb G., Bonners Ferry, ID

We love the Honeycrisp-Fuji Apple Cider syrup! Thank you!

Sarah H., Culver City, CA

Great products, excellent service!

Karen K., Los Angeles, CA

Recipients of the EVOO were delighted. Nice to get positive feedback from foodies.

Yvonne , Sebastopol, CA

Very good people and service.

Mateo S.

Always a pleasure working with Gold Ridge Organic Farms for custom milling. Very professional, helpful and friendly.

Bill M.

Delicious products and a beautiful view.

Steven M.

So far have been splashing Minerva on our pasta. No more boring pasta dinners! The details were also good - packing material, gold tab on bottle for opening, info for using each oil, drop down tab to cover spout opening, etc… Every detail well planned.

Patti L., Bellevue, WA

Thank you providing this service to our community. I was so happy to be able to have my olives individually milled this year. In the past I have always participated in a community press. So this is the first time I have been able to taste my very own olive oil! Thanks for making that possible!

Mary Lee M.

We've only opened up one bottle so far but we are pleased. I'm a bit of an olive oil snob. Your oil has flavor and smells like fresh grass. I put it on my air popped popcorn with salt. It's delicious! So glad I found you! Can't wait to try the other oils and get the new harvest oils in the future!

Debbie V., Boulder, CO

Everything is so great! Love the tins as much as the bottles and enjoying both right now. Love giving these oils as gifts too!

Laurie S., Sonoma, CA

The olive oils are excellent. My favourites are Tuscan and Arbequina and the fact that they are organic makes them even better. Also the packaging is exceptional.

Joanne H., Red Bluff, CA

I’m very happy with your Arbequina Blend. It’s smooth and fresh. It makes everything taste elegant. I love it. I also love your Minerva olive oil.

Cheri R.

The Strawberry Parfait apples made a lovely, fluffy applesauce in a soft pink color. Not as deep a color as the Pink Pearls, and the flavor is milder than other varieties in the markets here - but very pretty nonetheless... With a wee bit of my "secret ingredient" it tastes great!

Jennie C.

I recently picked up some Gold Ridge Organic Farms strawberry parfait apples from Whole Foods. They are some of the best apples I’ve ever had.

Samantha E.

Excellent packaging and true authentic organic extra virgin olive oil with the bite to the palate that distinguishes it from poor quality and purported EV olive oils. Thanks again expect repeated orders to come!

Ty J., Hemet, CA

LOVE IT!!! I take a shot of olive oil every day. (Along w/all the other stuff we use EVOO for!). Picholine Blend is high in polyphenols, which is why I chose this blend… I'm after the health benefits of higher polyphenols… I love that Gold Ridge is organic, I love all the awards they have, I love that they are a small farm, I love the taste and quality of the olive oil!

Ashley C., Murrieta, CA

I received my shipment in good order. I have opened the Tuscan Blend and was very impressed with its flavor and finish. The others I have not tried at this time. Since I, also, am a very small olive grower and making some organic extra virgin olive oil, I love to try other oils.

Marilyn M., Calistoga, CA

Love love love my order! I was introduced to the goldridge olive oil from My real good greens delivery that I started. I love the olive oil so much that I order a bottle almost every week. I also told a girlfriend about it, she ordered some, and I ordered some for My mom and sister who live in New York. I have never had such amazing olive oil, and absolutely love it! Thanks

Nancy S., San Francisco, CA

Five Stars!!!!  Thank you Andrea and Brooke!  LOVE your product!!!  Hope that Montage Healdsburg can send guests for tasting, special events some day!  Hotel opens November 18!!

Laurie S., San Clemente, CA

I am happy with the Arbequina olive oil.  I had been looking for a long time for an olive oil appropriate for making a vinaigrette that was flavorful without being overpowered by the strong taste of the olive oil.  And now I have found it!  Thank you!

Deborah , Del Mar, CA

We love this oil. I feel better about consuming an oil that is actually good for you as long as I don’t over heat it or use too much of it at once

Irene D., Port Townsend, WA

Amazing!!!

Merhunisa K., Bronx, NY

I love this olive oil.  I had been looking and trying many olive oils to try to find a mild but flavorful oil that would not overwhelm salad dressings and vegetables.  This is absolutely a perfect oil for these purposes.  I now also use it as my overall go to olive oil.  It enhances and does not detract from other flavor profiles.  Just delicious!  I also love the pouring spout that was included in my first order.  I love it so much I even sent this oil to a friend of mine who also loves to cook.

Deborah M., Del Mar, CA

We appreciate the chance to support local artists. 

We’re on a keto diet that requires us to consume a cup of oil a day. Your sampler has made this program tasty! 

It was flawless and the packaging was perfect! 

Excellent! Gave some to my mom, sister, and son/fiancé for Xmas. They loved it! My son and fiancé (in colorado) said it is the best olive oil they have ever had! My mom and sister are repeat gifts. My mom asked for more of the goldridge olive oil for Christmas. Always pleased with goldridge.

Nancy S., San Francisco, CA

I LOVE your olive oil so much. It is smooth and bright and delightful. AND its the only oil I wanted to provision my upcoming sailing adventure with for 6 months!

Thank you.

Aria A., Hallandale Beach, FL

I am very happy with your product. Shipping was fast and quality is excellent!

Danielle L., Sequim, WA

Great arrived before we expected it. Andrea is wonderful, she knew what we wanted with just......it begins with a P

John G., Lake Oswego, WA

I'm only on my first of the trio, Minerva, but I'm already super happy with my order. And, as a longtime connoisseur, you are now one of my favorite olive oils, not kiddin, and will now be in my regular rotation. Thank you for the complimentary pour spout. I never liked their idea as to keep oxygen out. But I love it. Super convenient and makes it easy to pour all over the place.

Homero D., Driftwood, TX

Great service and love the olive oil!!

Deb , Perry, MO