We’re gearing up to begin harvesting our olives in November. Our miller, Bob Singletary, anticipates putting in 15-hour days, seven days a week. “It’s the busiest time of the year,” Bob says.
Bob — shown here wearing a hard hat during construction work at one of our mills — is in charge of crushing our olives and turning the oil into world-class extra virgin olive oil. He’s a veteran of California’s EVOO industry.
At 63, he’s a big, burly, genial man. He’s been working for local olive-oil producers for a quarter century, long before American consumers were aware of the quality EVOO being produced in California.
“When you make as many gallons of olive oil as I do, it’s in your blood,” says Bob, who was born in Corning, Calif. His grandfather and uncle were board members of the California Olive Grower Protection League in the 1930s.
Bob starts his day at 7 am. Here’s what he does.
Once the harvest begins Bob keep tabs on every step of the olive-crushing process at our two northern California mills. Next, Bob monitors the oil while it settles in tanks for two to three months. The settlement process allows Mother Nature to naturally decant any remaining fruit particles to the bottom.
Bob moves the oil from tank to tank about every month to remove the sediment and clean the tank. The process, called racking, typically is done in late January, which allows our new oil to ship by Feb. 1st or so.
Come this November, Bob will begin choosing the oils we use to make our freshest EVOO, Limited Reserve. (We previously called the oil Olio Nuovo.) We bottle Limited Reserve immediately after we press the olives, rather than put the oil in settlement tanks. Limited Reserve must be consumed sooner than our other EVOOs, before those flavorful fruit particles in the bottle ferment.
To make Limited Reserve, Bob personally tastes each batch of oil produced from every one of our northern California olive groves.
He records the quality of each batch. After he’s tasted all the oil, Bob selects the best four or five and brings samples to a conference room at headquarters in Oroville.
There, about a half dozen of us sit around a table and taste the oils, and choose the best which will be designated Limited Reserve.
Bob got his start as a miller in the 1980s at Stonehouse California Olive Oil, which today sells its oil in San Francisco’s Ferry Building.
That first year was a very different time for the California EVOO business.
“We made 26,000 gallons of extra virgin olive oil,” Bob recalls. “But we literally had no market to sell it. We were way ahead of the curve. The frustration was we had a great product.”
The big challenge in those days: “Trying to understand what the American consumers wanted,” Bob says.
Bob eventually took ownership of Stonehouse and later sold it to another olive oil company. Bob continued to make EVOO for other companies before joining California Olive Ranch about five years ago.
He’s had a front-row seat watching the huge transformation in California’s olive oil business: “I think we’re getting there. The news media has gotten on board. The chefs have gotten on board. And American consumers love California extra virgin olive oil.”
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch