N. America

More U.S. States Home to Award-Winning Olive Oils

Producers from Georgia, Oregon and Texas combined to win seven awards at the world's most prestigious olive oil quality contest, demonstrating that California is not the only part of the U.S. producing high-quality oils.
Transforming olives at the Durant Olive Mill.
Jun. 2, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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Once again, Amer­i­can pro­duc­ers enjoyed an excel­lent year at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion, receiv­ing a record-high num­ber of Gold Awards.

While the bulk of entries and win­ners came from Cal­i­for­nia, the cen­ter of U.S. olive oil pro­duc­tion, a grow­ing num­ber of award win­ners hailed from beyond the Golden State.

I do believe our fruit (in Ore­gon) is unique. It ripens very slowly and I do believe that has some influ­ence on fla­vor and tex­ture.- Paul Durant, owner of Durant Olive Mill

Over­all, pro­duc­ers from three other states com­bined for seven of the indus­try’s most cov­eted awards, mak­ing up just under 10 per­cent of all awarded U.S. oils – a far higher rate than their over­all share of U.S. olive oil pro­duc­tion.

After Cal­i­for­nia, Texas is the sec­ond-largest pro­ducer of olive oil in the U.S. Sit­u­ated just west of Austin, the state cap­i­tal, are the groves of the Texas Hill Coun­try Olive Com­pany, which earned a Gold and a Sil­ver Award.

See more: Best Olive Oils From the U.S.

We are elated and hon­ored to receive another round of awards this year,” co-owner John Gam­bini said. Under the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate, our awards will help us stand out and solid­ify our place on the stage as one of the world’s best olive oils.”

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The Texas Hill Coun­try Olive Com­pany has been pro­duc­ing olive oil since 2010. Last year, the com­pany made 11,000 liters of olive oil.

Cara Gam­bini, the other co-owner, said that part of what makes pro­duc­ing olive oil in Texas unique, and some­times chal­leng­ing, is the cli­mate.

Some vari­eties were not as plen­ti­ful as oth­ers and we believe that was caused by Texas’ unique weather con­di­tions,” she told Olive Oil Times. We are learn­ing from these con­di­tions every sin­gle year so that we can do bet­ter.”

How­ever, part of what has made Texas Hill Coun­try Olive Com­pany one of the state’s most suc­cess­ful pro­duc­ers is com­mon among almost all NYIOOC win­ners: an empha­sis on qual­ity.

As a small fam­ily farm, details are impor­tant to us,” Gam­bini said. We are always weigh­ing the amount of pro­duc­tion ver­sus the qual­ity of the oil. Qual­ity is always our focus.”

John and Cara Gam­bini of Texas Hill Coun­try Olive Com­pany.

Nearly 1,000 miles east of the Texas Hill Coun­try Olive Com­pany grow the 6,000 Arbe­quina trees of Wood­pecker Trail Olive Farm.

The Geor­gian pro­ducer took home a Sil­ver Award from the 2020 NYIOOC. Owner Cur­tis Pol­ing told Olive Oil Times that he expects this award to help fuel an already grow­ing olive oil indus­try in the state.

We were aware that in Geor­gia, the orig­i­nal set­tlers in the 1700s and 1800s had a his­tory of pro­duc­ing good qual­ity olive oil,” he said. Inter­est lev­els [in olive oil pro­duc­tion] prior to the announce­ment of our NYIOOC award were already increas­ing in Geor­gia and this announce­ment will have a huge impact on future inter­ested farms and enti­ties to expand this oppor­tu­nity.”

Pol­ing said that his farm had pre­vi­ously been used to grow pine trees for tim­ber prod­ucts. After doing a soil analy­sis, how­ever, he dis­cov­ered that the area was well-suited to grow­ing olives as well.

Our soil analy­sis and grow­ing zone con­vinced us we had a good chance of pro­duc­ing qual­ity olive oil,” he said.

In spite of hav­ing appro­pri­ate soil for olive tree cul­ti­va­tion, Georgia’s cli­mate and some of its soil char­ac­ter­is­tics dif­fer greatly from other, more tra­di­tional, olive grow­ing regions, which has pre­sented Pol­ing and his team with their fair share of chal­lenges.

Cou­pled with our sandy loamy soil that drains very quickly, we mon­i­tor deep and shal­low mois­ture per­cent­ages daily so that each tree receives ade­quate water,” he said. Humid­ity impacts the drift of pollen lim­it­ing bud­ding. We counter that by keep­ing a close watch on nutri­tion lev­els so that the trees have a bet­ter chance of pol­li­na­tion.”

In Geor­gia, Wood­pecker Trail Olive Farm is among a rel­a­tively new wave of pro­duc­ers get­ting into oil pro­duc­tion. Pol­ing believes that soon he will not be alone in receiv­ing awards for his Geor­gian extra vir­gin olive oils at the NYIOOC.

We have other farms in var­i­ous stages [of devel­op­ment] and we expect to see Geor­gia pro­duc­ing award-win­ning olive oil over the next few years,” he said.

Har­vest­ing olives at the Wood­peacker Trail Olive Farm. Photo cour­tesy of Cur­tis Pol­ing.

Back on the West Coast, Paul Durant and his team at Durant Olive Mill cel­e­brated the two Gold Awards and two Sil­ver Awards they received at the 2020 NYIOOC.

“[Receiv­ing these awards] felt great,” Durant told Olive Oil Times. We pro­duced quite a bit of oil this year and it was a really hard slog. I haven’t worked those kinds of hours in a really long time.”

Among the four awards Durant took home was a Gold Award for his estate blend, an oil pro­duced exclu­sively from Ore­gon-grown olives. (Durant also pro­duces oil from a blend of Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon-grown olives.)

I do believe our fruit up here is unique. It ripens very slowly and I do believe that has some influ­ence on fla­vor and tex­ture,” he said. “[This award] will fur­ther solid­ify our posi­tion as a pre­mier pro­ducer of high-qual­ity olive oil and demon­strate that it can also be accom­plished in a region not exactly known for olive pro­duc­tion.”

How­ever, Durant said that olive oil pro­duc­tion in Ore­gon comes with its own set of unique prob­lems and chal­lenges.

We had a hard freeze on Octo­ber 31,” he said. I lost about 30 per­cent of my crop. I lit fires and had four large fans hooked up to our trac­tors to try and pull it across the fin­ish line.”

In spite of the dif­fi­cul­ties, Durant was able to get across the fin­ish line. Along with the unique qual­i­ties endowed upon the fruit by his loca­tion, Durant added that tech­nique is key in pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oils.

Our small batch pro­duc­tion meth­ods allow us to really main­tain qual­ity and make con­stant adjust­ments,” he said. We have been able to get bet­ter yields over time.”


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