Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Olive Oil Tasting at Round Pond Estate

Who says that the Napa Valley is all about wine? True... wine factors pretty heavily in our way of life and it's the main reason people visit our little corner of the world, but it's not all that we've got going on. Case in point: I took my mom to a fabulous olive oil tasting at the Round Pond Olive Mill in Rutherford over the weekend.

Now I've done some olive oil tasting in my time (most memorable being the one I did in Mendoza, Argentina), but the Round Pond tasting was by far and away the best I've ever experienced. It started out with a walk through one of the estate olive tree groves, moved on to a tour of the state-of-the-art Italian mill, and then transitioned to a sit-down, guided tasting of their estate olive oils, vinegars and syrups. The tasting was then followed by a pretty lavish spread of gorgeous food, where we were free to try different combinations of the goods with complementary fruits, vegetables, cheeses and bread. (And don't despair - tastings of Round Pond's award-winning wines were also available... we can veer from the wine path around here, but we can't exit completely!)

I learned so much during the tour and tasting - but I won't divulge too much because you really should come and do the tour yourself! But a few nuggets:
  • Save the extra virgin olive oils for dressing salads or enjoying straight from the bottle as a finishing oil - just don't cook with it! Heat raises the levels of oleic acid in the oil, making it bitter. Use a virgin or regular olive oil to cook with, since you won't be paying the premium required to produce the low levels of oleic acids in the extra virgins.
  • It takes about two trees worth of olives from the Round Pond groves to produce one gallon of extra virgin olive oil.
  • Coughing when tasting olive oils is considered a compliment. (You cough when the oils hit the back of your throat.)
  • The best way to sample vinegar is to pour a few drops over a sugar cube, then suck on the sugar cube before it dissolves.
At any rate, the whole experience at Round Pond was stellar. Come up and give it a try sometime - I'll go with you!

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