The town of Los Olivos, California recently held its 13th annual Jazz & Olive Festival. The yearly event, held by the Los Olivos Rotary Club, featured tastings from Santa Ynez Valley’s wineries, local food vendors serving up dishes featuring olive oil or olives and a sampling of jazz music from several renowned jazz bands who were performing throughout the day.
The event highlights two of the things that the area known as Los Olivos is most widely-known for: olives and wine. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara, California, Los Olivos is a place rich in culture and history.
The town’s beginning can be traced back to the 1880s when the Pacific Coast Railway was forming along the coast of California. Around this time, in the small town of Ballard, a young man by the name of Alden March Boyd made a purchase of land covering over 157 acres in 1885. There on his property, he planted olive trees by the thousands — 5,000 trees in fact. He aptly named the property Rancho De Los Olivos.
Two years later, in 1887, the Pacific Coast Railway completed its extension along the California coastline up to Los Alamos. The railway decided to name the town after the rows and rows of olive trees — it first was known as first El Olivar, then El Olivos, and finally Los Olivos.
Today the Los Olivos area is known to produce some of the best olive oils in the world. Within the past decade, the area has seen an increase in olive oil tastings, which are now catching up to the area’s offerings of wine.
One place leading the way in olive oil production is Rancho Olivos. The husband-and-wife run business is comprised of seven acres of olive trees growing a mixture of Spanish and Italian olive varieties.
Their olives are hand picked within hours of harvest to produce fresh, artisanal extra virgin olive oil. Visitors to the ranch are offered tastings of the oils alongside the olive trees right there at the couple’s farm stand. Olive oil tastings can be paired with a local wine tasting tours, a very common trend for visitors to the Santa Ynez area.
The growth of the olive oil industry in Los Olivos wouldn’t be complete without the mention of Theo Stephan, a pioneer in olive oil production and a staple at the Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival.
In the mid-90s Stephan purchased a ranch in the area and became the first to import Koroneiki trees from Greece to southern California.
Years later she founded Global Gardens one of the first mail-order olive oil and vinegar food clubs. She also authored the book Olive Oil & Vinegar: Delicious Recipes for Healthy Caliterrean Living.
Today, Stephan continues to be an authority on the subject of olive oil and continues her mission to educate people on the topic. In the next two years, she plans to open a ‘permaculture’ school on her property in Los Olivos, where the mission will be to teach children about sustainable living.
Los Olivos is a town that boasts an array of horse ranches, art galleries, boutique wineries and restaurants that feature olive and olive-oil-centric recipes.
The town, while small in population, also packs quite a bit of its own Hollywood history. Several movie stars and musicians have at one point claimed Los Olivos as home, and it is where Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch sprawls beside Figueroa Mountain. The town appeared on screen in Sideways, perhaps the most quintessential of all wine movies. The olive-filled area also served as the iconic TV town of Mayberry in Return to Mayberry.