Napa Valley olive oil is among the finest in the country and is being produced right alongside our renowned wine. Olives and wine grapes share similar environmental requirements – the region's Mediterranean climate, with warm days and cool nights, along with an abundance of prime soil conditions, create an environment for olive trees and grapevines to thrive. Our long, dry growing season is not only perfect for developing Cabernet grapes, but also allows olives to ripen slowly, enhancing the flavors of the resulting olive oil.
Many vineyard estates and wineries in Napa Valley have diversified their agricultural practices by planting olive orchards. Several places offer olive oil tastings, providing you with the opportunity to savor and learn about different varieties and blends.
How to Taste Olive Oil
Traditional olive oil tasting is much like wine tasting. Just like wines, olive oils have a wide variety of tastes and aromas. You'll find a similar process as well.
- The olive oil will be served in a small, tulip-shaped tasting glass, which concentrates the aromas.
- Cover the glass with one hand and swirl with the other hand. This will warm up the olive oil and help to release more aromas.
- Remove your hand, put your nose into the glass and inhale deeply. Look for smells like fruity, herbal, bitter, pungent, and so on.
- Take a small sip of the olive oil, allowing it to coat your tongue.
- Close your mouth and breathe out through your nose to open up new aromas and flavors.
- Swallow the oil, paying attention to the tastes and sensations you feel on the way down.
- Clean you palate between tastes with a bite of green apple and water.
What Gives Each Olive Oil Its Distinctive Taste?
These three components work together – pungent, bitter, and fruit. Olive oil is considered "balanced" if all three attributes are present in complementary amounts.
- Pungency – can be felt in the throat, similar to the spicy sensation when eating chilis. That sharp feeling is caused by the presence of polyphenols, rich antioxidants found in high-quality olive oils. In certain olive oils, the pungency can actually be strong enough to trigger the coughing reflex.
- Bitterness – may also be present, which is a common note in olive oils, and is usually found in younger, greener olives.
- Fruity Notes – can also include vegetable and herb tastes.
Olive Oil Tasting Tips
- Olive oil flavors can generally be separated into three categories: delicate, medium, and robust. Consider these flavors when pairing oil with food.
- You cannot really tell anything about the flavor from the color. Light-colored oils can be robust, while dark-colored oils can similarly be delicate. The only way to know how an olive oil will taste is to actually taste it.
- Olive oil does not age like wine. The fresher, the better – olive oil tastes best within 18–24 months of harvesting.
Where to Find the Best Napa Valley Olive Oil Tastings
Make a reservation at these locations for a seated olive oil tasting.
Round Pond Estate – in Rutherford
Round Pond Estate is home to 12 acres planted to 2,200 olive trees. They constructed their own state-of-the-art olive mill, complete with a traditional stone mill, made from one-ton granite boulders, and a contemporary Hammermill. This combination of time-honored and innovative methods allows the Mill Master, Emilio Alvarez, to ensure the olives are milled within minutes of picking, and to handcraft each olive varietal into fresh and superior olive oil.
During the olive oil tasting at Round Pond, you will learn about olive cultivation, harvest, and the artisan methods of olive oil production at the estate olive mill before immersing yourself in a guided tasting of fresh oils and red wine vinegar blends.
Grove 45 – in St. Helena
Culinary Institute of America graduate Ana Hernandez has a deep-rooted passion for olive oil. In 2011, Ana and her family moved to St. Helena, discovering hundreds of neglected olive trees on their property dating back to the 1880s, planted by Napa Valley pioneer Charles Krug. Today, the trees are thriving again, thanks to their efforts. Joined by her daughter Marcela, they are dedicated to crafting one of California's premier olive oil brands, Grove 45, focusing on quality, craftsmanship, and preserving their brand's legacy.
The Grove 45 tasting salon features a fun and immersive tasting of several small production olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The tasting is paired with seasonal bites.
Darioush Winery – east of the City of Napa
Darioush works closely with several olive orchards in California to produce fresh, expressive and aromatic olive oils. Join the in-house olive oil experts 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.
Where to Find Olive Oil in Napa Valley
Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co – in St. Helena
Family owned and operated, this quaint Italian grocery store in St. Helena has been making locally grown olive oil since 1931. They meld a variety of local olive oils, using oils from green and ripe olives, from early and late harvests, and from several varieties – all to create complex blends. The shop offers a variety of blended and flavored oils, all of which can be sampled on site.
Other locations in Napa Valley where you can purchase olive oil:
- The Olive Press – gourmet shop inside Oxbow Public Market in Downtown Napa
- Napastäk Napa Valley – gourmet shop in Downtown Napa
- Olivier Napa Valley – gourmet shop in St. Helena
- Long Meadow Ranch – winery and market in St. Helena
Wineries producing their own olive oil, available for purchase: