Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Harvests are two parts labor and one part love.
We are always eager to get them started and eager to get them finished.
We know that to produce the best oil possible, we must pick every olive at its perfect ripeness. But we also know that’s impossible -- with tons of olives to be picked and changing weather patterns making it hard to anticipate when that ripeness metric will be met.
Olives that are picked too early can be too sharp for some tastes. Olives picked too late are too buttery for connoisseurs. We end up doing the best we can, as olive growers have done for more than 5,000 years.
As with last year, the 2014 harvest started early and finished early. We are getting better at managing the trees so they don’t over-produce one year and under-produce the next. When trees are overloaded, the olives ripen later, so moderate yields can mean earlier harvests.
In past years, with smaller yields, we have harvested into November, even December. But the drought also delivered an early spring. Time will tell if climate change will mean October olive harvests are the new normal.
Drought or not, we also dance for – and around – rain at harvest time. Rain is good for the olives and rinses the trees. But we prefer it two or three days before the harvest. With harvest a wrap, we have removed all limitations on preferred timing.
Finally, it is probably a good thing the harvest was early this year. Demand for Frate Sole is growing, and we were down to our last few bottles when we fetched the barrels of Olio Nouvo from the mill.
It's all about the olives
The fruit is hand-picked and cold-processed before the sun sets a second time to ensure fresh and flavorful oil.
The olives in the photograph are Coratinas ripening in the October sun.
At Frate Sole (aka Brother Sun), our business partners include Sister Rain and Mother Earth.
We do not use artificial chemicals or fertilizers. We plant cover crops to naturally increase the fertility of the soil. And we judiciously irrigate with a drip system. Our orchard has been graded to restore seasonal wetlands. The captured winter runoff provides habitat and replenishes the aquifer; the edges are newly planted with native oaks and grasses.
It is a place where people – and coyotes and rabbits, hawks and even the occasional snake – are the way God made them.
... with tomorrow in mind
Our goal is to create a sustainable enterprise that yields healthy and world-class olive oil in a flourishing ecosystem that will be worked and enjoyed by our children's children.
If you want to follow a sesaonal summary of what this really means, go to the Grower's Journal to track our activities, including events and awards.
We are glad you are here.
From the navigation bar on the left, you can learn all about us.
FRATE WHO describes why we picked an Italian name for a venture rooted in California's Sacramento Valley.
GROWER'S JOURNAL let's you follow along from season to season.
JUST ADD OIL provides recipes for some of our favorite ways to use extra virgin olive oil.
HARVEST PHOTOS gives you a glimpse of our favorite days of the year.
PRODUCT INFO tells you where you can buy Frate Sole.
The rest is the usual business.
Good as Gold
Frate Sole enters two competitions as a way to ensure you of our commitment to quality. The Los Angeles International Fair competition, and our own Yolo County Fair, which we have entered since the county initiated the competition in recognition of our region's long history and promising future in the art of olive oil.
To be eligible, all oils must be chemically certified as meeting extra virgin olive oil standards. The dates listed are the year of the awards, from oil picked the previous autumn:
2014: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2013: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2012: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2011: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
2010: LA gold. Yolo gold.
2009: LA silver. Yolo gold.
2008: LA gold. Yolo silver.
2007: LA silver. Yolo gold. "Best of Yolo County."
2006: LA silver. Yolo silver.
2005: LA bronze. Yolo gold.
2004: LA bronze. Yolo silver.
Ready, Set, Pour
The 2014 harvest yielded a wonderfully fruity oil. The early ripening and mild weather allowed us to harvest olives with precision in October and November.
The final product is a blend of our Tuscan varieties, a flavor profile that is prized around the world and stands apart from most of the great California oil that is now being produced.
Most of the new plantings are of a Spanish or Greek variety that produce a nice light and fruity oil that is easy to mass produce -- but also lower in the heart-healthy polyphenols and the flavor complexity of the traditional Tuscan blend.
Let us know if you want to try gold.
FRB Year Three
For a third year, volunteers from Davis Community Church spent a Sunday in the orchard for a project sponsored by the Foods Resource Bank. The EVOO will be sold to congregants in December, and the proceeds will be added to the money raised by selling sweet corn grown by another Yolo farmer to support agricultural projects in developing countries. Raising hopes, one olive, one kernel at a time. For more information, see the Grower's Journal.
Hi, can we visit?
It is one of our favorite emails, especially among those that come from strangers. They see a bottle of Frate Sole in a winery or restaurant; maybe they find us online -- and they take us up on the offer to see where the sun meets the tree. We always learn as much as they do, about growing sugar beets in South Dakota or life in New York City. Every season offers something a little different, so if you plan to be in the neighborhood, feel free to drop us a line at Andrea@fratesole.net.