For This Master Miller, 'It's All in the Craft'

Pacific Sun Farms miller Pablo Voitzuk says the magic of quality extra virgin olive oil lies in its fashioning.

Award-winning olive oil producer Pablo Voitzuk
Nov. 4, 2016
By Wendy Logan
Award-winning olive oil producer Pablo Voitzuk

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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.”

We under­stand so many things that allow us to inter­vene in the craft­ing process and that is what I find so fas­ci­nat­ing.- Pablo Voitzuk, Pacific Sun Farms

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.


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