A great oil that defines California olives and that shows their own distinct flavor profile. It’s taken Albert ten years plus, but his trees are maturing nicely and, over the last three years, the oil has changed dramatically. First in flavor, and then feel, and now in smoothness; that just doesn’t come from any olive oil.
Why? It’s not clear. Supposition says there are at least five major factors involved in making this great run at making an oil go from plain to insane! In a period where every oil harvest for the last three years has produced many mundane oils the world over, it’s hard to imagine that one oil just keeps changing and getting better.
The weather for most olive regions has been rough; excessive rain, unusually early cold snaps, and early spring-like weather has made olives shrivel up, watered down, and outright frail. Through it all, KATZ Organic Rock Hill Ranch EVO seems to do just fine. In fact it’s gotten better. I liked this oil when it was first bottled so many years ago. Though I have to admit it, I was pretty lonely liking it. Back then, it was sharp, pronounced, the edges of the tongue said bitter and the back of the tongue said “here I am”. And then, the back of the throat could get blown out with a peppery punch.
It has mellowed over the years. In a good way; less sharpness and the unappealing bitter tangs are gone. But don’t think the personality is lost. It’s still there and it may not be for everyone. But, for sure you have no problem knowing it’s different. It’s a complex oil. Every time I swig a tablespoon, it surprises me. It is great on popcorn and mixes really well with a good sea salt.
So, why the changes? First and foremost, it’s the age of the trees. Now reaching ten years old, this makes a big change in the fruit produced. The oil itself appears to change in smoothness, production, a crispness that is evident.
The terroir, though the same, appears to be maturing with the trees and are now influencing the olives. A relationship has been established and is working together in harmony. Like a happy forest or garden, the groves become more comfortable.
Stress is a good test of how healthy the relationship is. With rain, freezing, and drought, the trees and the land adjust and become hardier together.
Perhaps the biggest factor is a new element. More animated than the trees or the soil, is the chickens. Albert and Kim now have pet chickens in large numbers that are one with the trees and the land. They move the chicken “house” from orchard to orchard and let the chickens do their thing. They eat the bugs and the weeds and trample around, fertilizing as they go. A truly complete organic approach to farming. Chickens and eggs, along with company for the trees.
It’s great when a jury of your peers thinks so, to. This year, KATZ Organic Rock Hill Ranch in the California Olive Oil contest the oil won Gold in it’s category, and Best in Show, and BEST of the BEST!