Long before Pablo Voitzuk became the producer of world-class, award-winning extra virgin olive oils, and even prior to his realization that he had an instinctual gift for the product’s sensory assessment, the native of Buenos Aires, Argentina felt inspired by the precious commodity. From the minute he discovered it, he said, he was fascinated.
“My attraction to olive oil came before I realized I could be a taster or lead producer. I just saw it as an extraordinary substance. It continues to amaze and surprise me how phenomenal this product can be.”
Voitzuk cites his studies in Chinese Medicine and his family of medical professionals as the source for a natural inclination and enthusiasm for extra virgin olive oil’s healing properties. Yet for Voitzuk, the magic of quality EVOO lies in its fashioning.
“It’s the element of refinement that I have always been so interested in. It’s the way you can take something like an olive and create something finer out of it. We understand so many things that allow us to intervene in the crafting process and that is what I find so fascinating.”
“It’s the approach of an artisan to a block of wood, and all the tools we have are going to allow us to carve out one oil, or another one.”
Olive Oil Times caught up with Voitzuk in the midst of morning milling at the facilities at Pacific Sun Farms in Northern California where he directs the milling team and develops and blends very high-quality extra virgin olive oils, overseeing the process from fruit selections to bottle.
“We’re actually making the oil as we speak,” he said. “This morning, the olives were on the tree. By noon, the fruit will be in the bin. By evening, the olive oil will be produced.”
If the new blends are anything like Pacific Sun’s offerings from the last season, odds are they will be first-rate. Four of the company’s 2016 EVOOs received Gold or Best in Class Awards at this year’s New York International Olive Oil Competition.
Voitzuk’s experience in the field began in California where he worked at Apollo Olive Oil. His expertise developed and was enriched in Tuscany and Sardinia, under the influence of legendary designer and olive oil expert Marco Mugelli.
Mugelli is lauded for his signature olive oil extraction systems whose design ensures the fruit can be milled efficiently without compromising the quality of its yield. Apollo was one of the first to purchase the prototype for the system, and Mugelli visited several times to explain its operation. He and Voitzuk struck up a friendship.
“Mugelli was a true innovator. I befriended him and it was he who realized I could taste olive oil. I had no idea. Eventually, I went to Tuscany with him to study. He encouraged me to join a tasting panel.” It was this experience and the group of talented producers, tasters, and researchers brought together by Mugelli that cemented Voitsuk’s passion. Though Mugelli passed away unexpectedly in 2011, Voitzuk said he has remained connected to the group with which he was educated and inspired.
Voitzuk joined Pacific Sun Farms & Orchards, a third-generation family farm operating in Tehama County, in 2010, bringing his experience and knowledge to a larger scale of production. The company’s farms produce a variety of orchard crops, including prunes, walnuts, and almonds. Its location at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley provides a unique geology and Mediterranean climate ideal for olive growth.
The Sun Pacific EVOOs are largely designed with fine restaurants in mind and Voitzuk works closely with chefs in the San Francisco Bay area who are willing to pay a bit more for a product whose quality is supreme. Pacific Sun oils are used in the kitchens of some of the city’s most prestigious dining spots such as Tartine, Bar Agricole, La Ciccia, and Camino in Oakland.
Voitzuk is the winner of the 2015 and 2016 California Olive Oil Council Miller’s Recognition Award, and he sits on both the California Olive Oil Council and UC Davis tasting panels. He is also an instructor in the Olive Oil Program at New York’s International Culinary Center.