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.
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
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! ThanksNancy 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 onceIrene 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!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 PJohn 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