Olivina in Livermore

Olivina in Livermore

Olivina Gate

Olivina in Livermore, California –  An Interview with owner Charles Crohare

I have known the Charles Crohare family, from Olivina in Livermore, for over 10 years.    Charles shared with me the history of the family estate.   Julius Paul Smith, an early pioneer in the California olive oil industry, carved out 2,000 acres of the beautiful Livermore Valley and committed the land to cultivating grapes, walnut, and olives. “We have our third, fourth, and fifth generations of our family involved in the property that dates back to 1881 and for our family the late 1930’s. Living on the property around the 11,000 olive trees that are of six different cultivars, then are milled from our state-of-the-art Olive Mill to produce six mono-cultivar oils. Mission, Arbequina, Picholine, Century Mission, Lucca, and Frantoio are grown on site. We have trees that date back to 1881 that produce our Century Mission, which is very old by California standards (not Italy’s). We grow, mill, and bottle all of our olive oil on-site,” Charles said. “My father has been known to tell people that our trees don’t even know that the olives are off when the oil has been milled and stored in our tanks.”

Guests love to visit The Olivina. “When we have special group tours come out to The Olivina, we have offered folks a tour, but most are more intrigued by the different cultivars and the Mill. Due to liability, we have not offered tours of the Mill when in operation, but eventually I would like to have a viewing area through glass so folks can enjoy the process in real time. Typically, the smaller growers have been able to offer a hands on experience, but it gets a bit crazy during harvest time for us, since we are milling as well. We do offer tours for private groups between 15-20 people by special appointment and for bus groups that are up to 60 people at a time. The smaller sized groups allows us to keep it very personal and answer all of their questions. The visits will run from 1½ hours to 3 hours, depending on the size of the group, questions, excitement, and engagement. We typically have the group sit down and we do introductions, history of The Olivina, discussion of what EVOO is, orchard specifics of the trees, growing practices, and then have them visit the Olive Mill to better understand the milling process. After that, they come back into taste the oils and vinegars, then purchase whichever oils are their favorites. ”

Olive oil tastings are offered at Olivina and at Farmer’s Markets. “Since we offer seven different oils (one blend with the six mono-cultivars) it really does allow the visitor to notice different flavor profiles from delicate to robust. Then when you have them taste the two vinegars we offer (Fig & Blackberry), it opens up to the visitor even more complexity to the flavors and different menus that can be created and enjoyed. We have offered our Olio Nuovo oils right after harvest for those that are ready for the more robust flavor profiles of all of the oils.”

Olivina offers a Community Day each year for small producers to bring olives. “We’ve had a good experience with our Community Milling Day that we have done for the past seven or eight years, maybe more. My father and I really enjoy the excitement that everyone has when they bring in their olives, ranging from as small as 21 olives (traveled from Berkeley) to those with a pickup truck full. Since we are the only operating Mill here in the East Bay, we feel that we need to help educate our community here in the East Bay. We feel that we need to help educate our community in the Easy Bay and beyond on what the process entails. Like most agricultural products, the public has a better understanding once they know what it feels like to grow the crop and then see the final product.”

The Olivina makes premium olive oil from olives harvested at their ranch. “Our best selling olive oil changes from year to year, but the main three are Arbequina, Frantoio, and Mission, plus our medium bodied Special Blend. Since we are a family operation, outreach is more by our followers helping spread the word. We have sold to a distributor in Japan in the past, as well as smaller quantities all around the world. Majority of what we sell does tend to be right here in our backyard, the East Bay/Bay Area. We have sold to select grocery store locations for Whole Foods, Safeway, Raley’s, and Flagship Randall’s, and certainly to more local retail shops and fine restaurants.”

Charles’ favorite way to Drizzle it on…

“My favorites will depend on the time of the year; corn on the cob season is coming up very soon and it’s best with olive oil. Olive oil and sea salt on ice cream or sorbet is very yummy. But breads and pasta do me in. I always tell people that the EVOO has my heart strong as an ox,” Charles added with a laugh, “but the breads and pasta allow me to keep my fine physique!

Aerial of Compound from North

Grandpa & Jag on road #2 - Feb 2005

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