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.”

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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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