Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Harvest demands humility.
You meet nature half way, wherever that is.
Or whenever. The 2013 harvest was early, so we met Mother Nature on the warm afternoons of October.
The olives also were ripening quickly, and so on that first harvest we focused on individual trees that had to be picked right away. We did the same the next week, and the next.
Each week we seemed to pick all that had to be picked that day to catch the olives at their optimum ripeness. We did not set records for volume, but we were in sync with the orchard to a degree that cannot be accounted for by planning alone.
The days got shorter, but harvesting hours grew longer. The last three days we saw the sun set from the tops of ladders.
We had senior friends who came every day, old and new friends who generously gave a day or even two.
One immeasurable reward is the reaction of a child – there is always one – who looks into the large bins on the back of the truck and marvels at the mounds of deep purple drupes, as surprised as if magic had been deployed. One at a time, millions in the end.
The yield – pounds of olives per gallons of oil – was exceptional. Skilled and talented tasters will not pass judgment until the oil has “rested,” which it is doing in five large barrels. We should have a flavor report before New Year.
Frate Sole has never before completed a harvest prior to Thanksgiving, even when the harvests were in the hundreds of pounds, rather than the thousands.
But we are grateful for so much more than being done, which always yields a blend of emotions. For Brother Sun, and Sister Moon, for grandparents and children, for a season and a time for every purpose under heaven...
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 Coratina's 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.
Good as Gold!
Frate Sole won two gold medals in 2014 -- at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and the Yolo County Fair. Both are prestigous contests and they are the only two we enter. (We have paticipated in the local Yolo competition since its first year, when we were one of four competitors. There are now scores of entries from throughout CA.) We are proud of the product and glad to be able to share that high quality with you.
Ready, Set, Pour
The 2013 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 Two
For a second year, volunteers from Davis Communty Church spent a Sunday in the orchard. The olives they picked with milled by Mike Madison in Winters, his contribution to the second year effort to raise money for a Foods Resource Bank project in Columbia. 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. Raising hopes, one olive, one kernel at a time.
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 email@example.com.