By Lori Zanteson
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Los Angeles
Pressing news among extra virgin olive oil producers and connoisseurs has just been released with the announcement of the winners of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition. Best of Show winners are Apollo Olive Oil, La Vecchia Macina, Lucero Olive Oil, Castillo de Canena, and Frantoi Cutrera.
Oils were judged by a panel of 18 judges in the categories of domestic and international divided by region and intensity. A 100-point scoring system was used, rating oils by aroma, taste, and harmony. A score of 94 and above
earned best of class which are then blindly tasted by judges on the last day of the
competition for the best of show winners.
California’s Lucero Olive Oil was awarded best of show in the flavored oils category for its lemon oil. “I am so honored,” says Dewey Lucero, “it elated all of us. We now feel we’re one of if not the leader in the California olive oil industry. We take the time to do it correctly, we work feverishly to make it happen, and it’s paying off.”
This is the 11th anniversary of an event that has come a very long way. The first competition in 2000 had 28 domestic-only entrants while this year includes 514 entrants from 298 producers representing 20 countries. The U.S. and Italy had the highest representation, with an impressive number of entries from Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Chile.
The growth of the event is a definite boon to the industry as well as individual producers. “It’s a great marketing outlet, especially for the small producer and those just starting out,” says event organizer, Mary Ellen Cole. One of the competition’s first winners, The Olive Press, is now “huge,” says Cole. “It definitely puts them on the map and gets the word out.”
Lucero Olive Oil also took home two gold medals and two bronze medals this year to go with last year’s best of class gold medal, silver, and two bronze. The best of show 2009 winners were Berkeley Olive Grove 1913, Pacific Sun, Hillstone, Hacienda Iber, and Rincon de la Subbetica. The awards are “another humungous step up” for California extra virgin olive oils, says Lucero. “California has great olive oil, some of the best in the world. Those judges are tasting a worldwide demographic of oils with very educated palates. Our quality in California is ramping up and we’re seeing it get better and better.”
Laurie Schuler-Flynn of Hillstone Olive Oil agrees and believes the event is helping to raise consumer awareness of California oils. Having won both last year and this year, Hillstone has enjoyed the benefits of the prestigious awards. Schuler-Flynn believes the winnings have increased awareness of boutique olive oil producers like Hillstone and have “brought a lot of traffic to our website. It took us to the next level, we needed that little push.”
Best of categories winners and gold, silver, and bronze medal winners may purchase award seals to display on their award-winning oils. Along with the California Olive Oil Commission’s seal, this medal and seal “help people to choose extra virgin oils,” says Mary Ellen Cole. She is convinced that once people start using it and enjoying the smell and taste and overall freshness of these oils, they’ll ignore the bland fare of mass producers.
Winning oils are displayed and available for tasting and purchase at the Los Angeles County Fair September 4-October 3 2010. The competition is committed to educating the public about extra virgin olive oil including selection, tasting, and food pairings which will be presented by experts during the fair. The growth of the event is definitely a good sign for the olive oil industry. In fact, Cole says they sold out of the oils last year. They are trying to have as much on hand as possible in September.
See the complete results of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition here.