Tasting extra-virgin olive oil 

To sample olive oil properly, the oil is taken from the sides of the mouth — producing somewhat of a slurping sound. Next, swish the oil and let it settle into the pocket between the cheek and the gum before swallowing. About five to 10 seconds after you the oil hits your throat, you’ll have the urge to cough. This is OK — and depending on the quality of the oil, is a testament to the oil's pungency.

In California, olives are picked November through January, and harvest lasts about three to four weeks during this time. The ideal time to visit olive groves is from late March through early June, when the olive oil from the fall harvest is released.

As olives mature, they turn from green to red to black. Early-harvested olives are green and produce pungent, peppery oil. Late-harvested olives are more subtle.

Founded in 1992, The California Olive Oil Council is a nonprofit trade and marketing association whose purpose is to promote the growing of olives and the production of olive oil in California.

Although there are no current laws that require certification of extra-virgin olive oil in the U.S., the council supports certified olive oil standards as established by the International Olive Council, headquartered in Madrid, Spain. To be deemed extra-virgin, and to receive the right to use the council’s seal there are four basic criteria that a producer must meet:

» The oil must be extracted from olives free from any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation or filtration (no chemical processing)

» The oil must be "cold processed" (at a temperature less than 27 degrees centigrade)

» The oil must not exceed certain oleic acidity levels (0.5 percent according to the council, which is more stringent even than the international council’s standard of 0.8 percent)

» The oil must have an aroma and flavor judged as worthy by a certified panel of official tasters.

McEvoy Ranch

5935 Red Hill Road, Petaluma

(866) 617-6779

www.mcevoyranch.com

Round Pond

886 Rutherford Crossroads, Rutherford

(877) 963-9364

www.roundpond.com

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

1474 Alexander Valley Road, Healdsburg

(800) 654-1213

Jordan Olive Oil is available for purchase at the winery.

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