Olive Oil Tasting at Figone Olive Oil Company
It being Olive Festival season in Sonoma, it is long past time to head out and taste some of the 2011-2012 harvest. On this trip, my destination is the Figone's Olive Oil Company (www.figoneoliveoil.com) in Kenwood, Sonoma, run by olive producer Frank Figone.
Located just off Highway 12 in Sonoma, Figone's Olive Oil Company is surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills. I happened to pick a beautiful (and unseasonably warm and dry) day, so the drive and the scenery itself was worth the drive alone. I found Figone's Olive Oil tasting room with no problems (thank you Google Maps), and headed in. What a treat. Designed by Frank Figone himself, the tasting room is beautiful and inviting, painted in warm colors and rustic woods. There were plenty of displayed oils throughout the sales room, and a long tasting bar in front, with a glimpse of the olive pressing facility through large windows in the back. Not wasting any time, John, Figone's tasting host for the day, greeted me and I pulled up to the tasting bar.
Figone's produces organic extra-virgin olive oil, and has released two oils for the 2011-2012 season: a Mission/Manazanilla blend and a Tuscan blend (made up of several olive varieties.) First up for tasting was the Mission/Manzanilla olive oil. First the smell, and then the tatste. This is a medium style olive oil with a fresh herbal smell and a mild peppery taste making for a nicely balanced olive oil. I felt it would be compatible with many dishes and Mr. Figone agrees - he has produced a pairing list for nearly every olive oil he sells, and this olive oil is paired with many dishes.
The second oil tasting was the Tuscan blend, with a big, bright grassy smell, with a nice pungent olive fruit taste with some peppery heat. This is a more robust olive oil, and would stand up well paired against heavier dishes with a bold taste of their own.
Then came the specialties provided by Figone's, his infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Mr. Figone makes his infused olive oils using the Mission/Manzanilla oil as the base oil, and adds the zest of different fruits and herbs during the first pressing. In all, Figone's offers 9 different flavored oils, and I tasted them all. The fruit-infused oils offered are a Meyer Lemon, Persian Lime (I've tried this one on chicken - sublime!), and Blood Orange. The herb-infused olive oils include Garlic (on everything), Basil, Tuscan Herb (Italian cooking all the way), Chili (add some hot spice to add to your dishes), Porcini, and Truffle. All absolutely delicious, the medium style of the Mission/Manzanilla olive oil really lets the infused flavors shine through.
Just as impressive as the infused oils is the selection of balsamic vinegars offered by Figano's. There are 8 different varieties of balsamics, including the Traditional Balsamic, a classic 20 year old balsamic vinegar. In addition, he makes a White Balsamic (one of my favorites), Peach and Cranberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cinnamon-Pear, Pomegranate, and Fig. I tasted all of them, and took home a bottle of Cinnamon-Pear (over ice cream was a real taste delight.) I'll definitely be going back for the Traditional and White balsamics.
The Figone family has been growing olives in California for four generations, and pressing extra-virgin olive oil since 1991. Frank has recently expanded his tasting room to include a picnic area that boasts an outdoor brick pizza oven (having built the oven based on his studies in Italy.) Figone's makes pizza for their guests in their new pizza oven to accompany their olive oil tastings. If you happen to drive by the Figone Olive Oil Company tasting room and see a white flag flying, be sure to stop in for pizza and some delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars - you won't be disappointed!
Got a great story about olives, olive oil, and tasting? We would love to hear from you! Submit your stories and we can start a dialogue.