Lower Yield Doesn’t Stop U.S. Producers From Celebrating NYIOOC Wins

From Texas to California and Oregon, 38 producers celebrated big wins at the World Olive Oil Competition despite an exceptionally tough harvest for many of them.

Photo: Pasolivo
Jun. 8, 2021
By Daniel Dawson
Photo: Pasolivo

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


Producers from the United States once again enjoyed a strong show­ing at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Farmers and millers from California, Oregon and Texas com­bined to earn a total of 35 Gold and 33 Silver Awards from a total of 112 entries. While the num­ber of win­ners and entrants was on the low end com­pared with recent years, the suc­cess rate was the sec­ond-high­est yet, at 61 per­cent.

Once again, the vast major­ity of entrants came from California, which is respon­si­ble for nearly all olive oil pro­duc­tion in the U.S. Even the win­ning oils from Oregon blended local olives with California-grown olives.

Patricia King, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the California Olive Oil Council, said that the lower num­ber of entries to the com­pe­ti­tion was likely the result of a poor har­vest in California.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from the United States

The Olive Oil Commission of California esti­mated that the har­vest in California would drop to below 11,5000 tons in the 2020/21 crop year as the result of many pro­duc­ers enter­ing an off-year in the olive’s nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle, worker short­ages caused by Covid-19 restric­tions and an incred­i­bly hot and dry year in much of the state.

Still, this did not stop 38 sep­a­rate pro­duc­ers from hav­ing their hard work rec­og­nized by the inter­na­tional panel of judges.

The California extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers are com­mit­ted to craft­ing deli­cious extra vir­gin olive oils by adher­ing to best prac­tices, and many award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils were pro­duced, despite a chal­leng­ing 2020 har­vest,” King told Olive Oil Times.

The expo­sure of award-win­ning California extra vir­gin olive oil dri­ves increased sales,” she added.

Among the win­ning pro­duc­ers at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity con­test was California Olive Ranch (COR), the largest olive oil pro­ducer in the United States. COR earned a Gold and two Silver Awards for its Global Blend Medium, and Arbequina and Arbosana mono­va­ri­etals, respec­tively.

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Photo: California Olive Ranch

Although it was an off’ year with a lower yield, our new, state-of-the-art pre­clean­ing sys­tem helped us greatly min­i­mize for­eign mate­r­ial and keep our qual­ity high,” Michael Fox, the company’s CEO, told Olive Oil Times. We also bal­ance low crop years with har­vest start times to ensure we are get­ting the oil at peak qual­ity fla­vor.”

Finally, as it was par­tic­u­larly hot this sea­son, we shifted a greater per­cent­age of our har­vest to night-time which allowed the olives to stay cool before milling,” he added.

Fox said that he was proud that the NYIOOC judges rec­og­nized the company’s abil­ity to craft bal­anced and high-qual­ity medium oils both from local California olives as well as from a blend of oils from the company’s inter­na­tional grow­ing part­ners.

We know that the NYIOOC has a very tough set of judges and take great pride when we receive an NYIOOC award know­ing our oils did well against other high-qual­ity oils,” added Fox.

The sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing a year’s worth of hard work val­i­dated by the NYIOOC was a com­mon theme for pro­duc­ers through­out the U.S., regard­less of size.

Among the biggest win­ners at this year’s edi­tion of the NYIOOC was Pasolivo, which earned five Gold Awards, the most of any U.S. pro­ducer.

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Photo: Pasolivo

“[We are] so happy and hon­ored,” Marisa Bloch, Pasolivo’s gen­eral man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. It is really amaz­ing to work with a prod­uct from the grow­ing sea­son, to har­vest to the oil pro­duc­tion, to then see it win awards.”

It is so reward­ing to see that such an expe­ri­enced panel of judges appre­ci­ated the qual­ity of our oils as much as we do,” she added.

Bloch said that what sets the San Luis Obispo County-based pro­ducer apart from the com­pe­ti­tion is metic­u­lous atten­tion to detail and a care­ful process for select­ing which oils to craft each year.

One of the unique things that Pasolivo does is we har­vest and mill each vari­ety sep­a­rately,” she said. We grow 12 vari­eties on our prop­erty and mill each one on its own and store them in their own tank. I then taste all of the oils and come up with our blends or sin­gle vari­ety oils for each year.”

We always like to have a mild oil, a medium and a cou­ple of robust [oils] that either have green and grassy notes, or are really pun­gent and pep­pery,” she added. We also are for­tu­nate to have our own on-site mill so that we are able to mill within hours of pick­ing.”

California – not to men­tion the rest of the U.S. – is a large and unique state. The Golden State is about one-third larger than Italy and boasts plenty of diverse and unique micro­cli­mates. Producers from 20 dif­fer­ent coun­ties, stretch­ing from the south of the state to the north were awarded at the 2021 NYIOOC.

In San Diego County, at the very south­ern end of the state, Pitchouline was awarded for the sec­ond year in a row for its organic medium blend made from Frantoio, Coratina, Leccino, Manzanillo and Pendolino olives.

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Photo: Pitchouline

It is always a plea­sure and honor to receive an NYIOOC award,” co-owner Fabien Tremoulet told Olive Oil Times. There are many com­pe­ti­tions but NYIOOC is really the ref­er­ence in the indus­try… The awards are always well per­ceived by cus­tomers.”

Tremoulet said the secret to Pitchouline’s mul­ti­ple suc­cesses in their young his­tory is care­ful stew­ard­ship of the land, which later becomes appar­ent in the oil.

There are so many extra vir­gin olive oils from all around the world with amaz­ing attrib­utes,” he said. Nevertheless, we do believe that such a healthy and fine prod­uct should always be cer­ti­fied organic. In addi­tion to being cer­ti­fied organic, we fol­low bio­dy­namic farm­ing prin­ci­ples. Our soil is what sets us apart.”

Farther north in Tulare County, which is home to Mount Whitney and two national parks, Olivaia earned two Silver Awards for a pair of medium blends.

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Photo: Olivaia

I was thrilled to see that both entries got awards,” owner Giulio Zavolta told Olive Oil Times. We have worked hard to turn around our Block X, our cen­ten­nial trees were headed towards mulch as pre­vi­ous own­ers were going to pull the trees to plant almonds.”

After reha­bil­i­tat­ing them we began focus­ing on mak­ing oil and it was only in 2017 that we made our first oil,” he added. Our goal was to show oth­ers that there is value in orig­i­nal California trees.”

For the pro­duc­ers behind Olivaia, this year’s awards at the NYIOOC come as a wel­come con­clu­sion to a try­ing year, though Zavolta said that he is already count­ing down the days to the next har­vest.

With a low amount of olives on the trees and all of our olives being hand-har­vested it made for a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion from a labor point of view,” he said. Getting folks moti­vated to pick light set trees and arrive at an equi­table pick­ing cost was a real chal­lenge.”

We hope [these awards] will bring atten­tion to our unique story and give us more of an oppor­tu­nity to talk about our extra vir­gin olive oil and how well it pairs with food,” Zavolta added.

A lit­tle bit more than 300 kilo­me­tres north of the California bor­der, the pro­duc­ers behind Durant Olive Mill cel­e­brated yet another suc­cess at the World Olive Oil Competition.

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Photo: Durant Olive Mill

I was very stoked [about receiv­ing the three Gold Awards and a Silver Award],” Paul Durant told Olive Oil Times. As I have con­tin­ued to become a bet­ter miller and under­stand the nuances of pro­cess­ing really good extra vir­gin olive oil, I place ever-higher expec­ta­tions on myself and my milling team. Every year we should make bet­ter olive oil.”

As the largest pro­ducer in Oregon and owner of the state’s only mill, Durant is fre­quently asked what sets Oregonian olive oils apart from those of his south­ern neigh­bor. While he is still search­ing for the answer, sea­son after sea­son, he believes the cli­mate plays a big part.

I do believe the nature of our grow­ing sea­son has more influ­ence than we under­stand,” he said. We have cool nights. The days are much longer here in the north­ern lat­i­tudes than in a tra­di­tional Mediterranean cli­mate dur­ing the sum­mer.”

Also, our bloom is late in spring com­pared to other loca­tions, hence our ripen­ing time­line is com­pletely unique,” he added. The other aspect is the oil tex­ture or vis­cos­ity. Our Oregon-grown fruit seems to pro­duce oil that has a more exten­sive mouth feel and lingers longer across the pal­let than some other oils.”

For a pro­ducer based in a non-tra­di­tional olive grow­ing region, Durant said the awards from the NYIOOC have had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on his brand over the past seven years.

I view these awards much like I view wine scores,” he said. All millers (or wine­mak­ers) claim to make excel­lent prod­ucts. However, to have a high wine score or award-win­ning olive oil is a third-party val­i­da­tion of that claim.”

I have come to appre­ci­ate that this is very impor­tant to con­sumers and really helps to back up what we say about care and qual­ity of our olive oils,” Durant con­cluded.


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