Napa Valley grows more than great grapes. The natural abundance of the valley includes a wide bounty of agricultural products, from Zinfandel to zucchini. One of the (many) things our Mediterranean climate is perfect for growing is olives, which means we make a lot of olive oil! If you’re looking for something to do beyond the wine in Napa Valley, an olive oil tasting is an excellent alternative. A few things to know before you go:
- Traditional olive oil tasting is much like wine tasting. Just like wines, olive oils have a wide variety of tastes and aromas. A tasting can both sharpen your palate and help you to identify what kind of oil you prefer.
- Don’t expect your olive oil to be served atop bread. Though some experiences may include small bits to evaluate flavor profiles, food changes the flavor of oils, and traditional olive oil tasting is done by sipping it straight.
- The three basic categories to consider when tasting olive oil are delicate, medium, and intense. To really impress your fellow tasters, we suggest throwing out terms like fruity, pungent, bitter, herbaceous, buttery, grassy, peppery, and so on.
Now that you know the basics, here are some of our favorite olive oil tasting spots in Napa Valley:
Round Pond Estate - The Vino & Olio Experience includes a private guided tour of the olive grove where you’ll learn about olive cultivation, harvest, and artisan methods of pressing olives into liquid-gold. Back at the winery, savor the estate’s fresh olive oils and wine vinegars along with limited production wines and seasonally-inspired small bites produced from the onsite garden.
Long Meadow Ranch - Olive oil tastings at the farm shop at Long Meadow Ranch are always available and no appointments are necessary- guests can sample three estate organic olive oils like a pro for just $5 per person. For a more extensive experience, make an appointment to visit the ranch, up in the Mayacamas Mountains, which includes wine and a round or two of olive oil. Olives from a grove first planted in the late 1800s are processed in an Italian granite mill just a two-minute tractor ride from the trees, making the oil here about as fresh as you can find anywhere.
Darioush Winery’s Sensory Sessions: An Olive Oil Experience - Join in-house olive oil expert Orietta Gianjorio for a lively sensory evaluation. Compare and contrast several styles of extra virgin olive oil, learn how to evaluate for quality and flavor, and pair with food and wine. This experience will include a tasting of several single-vineyard and small lot signature wines paired with small bites.
Gabrielle Collection taste+ - The downtown Napa tasting room offers olive oil tastings with all of their wine tasting and food pairing experiences, but for a more in-depth experience, reserve the 45-minute guided Olive Oil Exploration. You’ll taste four estate-produced olive oils, along with a few surprises, in addition to learning about the history of olive oil production.
Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. - Family owned and operated, this quaint Italian grocery store in St. Helena has been making locally grown olive oil since 1931. The shop offers a variety of blended and flavored oils, all of which can be sampled on site. Locals claim it’s the best olive oil around!