When I think of a place where olives grow I tend to think Provençe or Italy. Localities in those areas continually compete for the prestige of the “best” olive oil. On a visit to the south of France I stayed in a medieval hilltop village where the ancient windmill still provides the power to press the olives. Our hostess actually was Italian and said the local olive oil was acceptable but she preferred her home village oil. Apparently, olive oil, like wine, chocolate, coffee and so much more, has so many nuances of flavor that appreciation can be improved with tasting.
I realized, once again, how much of a Mediterranean climate we enjoy here in Oregon. Not only are the Pinot Noirs competitive with France’s Burgundy wines because both growing regions are at the same latitude, but the wet winter and dry summer climate are the same.
And so, understanding that Oregon can also support olives is a natural next step. There are a number of hardy varietals that can grow in this climate zone as far north as British Columbia.
Red Ridge Farms is located about ten miles from my new home and less than an hour from Portland or Salem. I enticed Graham to go there this past Saturday because they also have a winery and, like me, he was interested to find out what the quality of the olive oil would be for our own kitchen.
Located in the southern section of the Dundee Hills, Red Ridge started out as a nursery and it is very apparent that the organization continues this side of the business today. Not only are the grounds beautiful, but they have a greenhouse and a large number of plants for sale.
The primary part of the business, however, is the Durant Winery. Starting with their grape cultivation of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris over forty years ago, they began producing their own wines in 2003. Graham enjoyed his tasting there.
The Oregon Olive Mill began in 2008 and over 13,000 olive trees have been planted on about 17 acres. They have a number of varietals planted including Arbequina, Leccino, Mission, Pendolino, Koroneiki, and Picual, and are experimenting with a few others. Much more than just “black” and “green”!
Visitors are encouraged to actually “slurp” a taste of the olive oil that is produced there. Bread is offered to clean the palate.
Two blends are produced from olives grown in California as well.
The olive harvest typically takes place in mid November. We were told that as the pressing occurs the place smells great, even better than when the grapes are crushed, because of all the floral notes in the olives. There will be a post pressing festival, Olio Nuovo, where people can come to enjoy tasting the new harvest, traditional Italian bruschetta and the latest Durant Vineyards Pinot Noir. This will be held November 22-24 from 10-4 and you know we will be there!
The grounds are suited for special events and there is a guest suite and a cottage available for overnight accommodations.