California’s winemakers looked to countries such as France, Italy, and Spain for the grapes they now grow here and crush into wine. Chardonnay, as you may know, is the white grape of France’s famed Burgundy region. California’s extra virgin olive oil industry is much the same. We use olives that hail originally from Spain and Greece and are now grown and crushed here.
I’ve been writing about our olive varietals, starting with the Spanish Arbequina olive. Next up: Arbosana, another Spanish varietal we grow and crush into EVOO.
We have some 10,000 acres of olive trees under cultivation in northern California. They produce three olive varietals: Arbequina and Arbosana, both from Spain, and Koroneiki, from Greece. Last week I focused on Arbequina, our No. 1 varietal. It accounts for about 70% of our olives.
Arbosana is our No. 2 olive, representing about 20% of the olives we harvest using a system known as “super high-density” (SHD) planting. Arbosana also happens to be the second largest olive varietal grown in California. A recent report from the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, finds that Arbosana accounts for 16% percent of California’s SHD acreage, or 1,688 acres.
Like Arbequina, the Arbosana tree is small in stature. Similarly, the Arbosana tree is a workhorse, producing large numbers of olives.
Our Arbequina and Arbosana EVOOs also happen to be the two single varietal oils we produce. Our Miller’s Blend, by contrast, combines our Arbequina and Arbosana EVOOs.
How do the Arbequina and Arbosana olives differ?
“The Arbosana variety has fruit that looks very much like Arbequina, but matures about three weeks later,” writes olive oil expert Paul Vossen, farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Sonoma County.
Arbosana also yields a more “robust” oil than Arbequina, which produces a “delicate” EVOO. In particular, Arbosana tastes more peppery, or pungent. The olive also delivers a higher level of polyphenols – the chemical substances found in plants that may cut the risk of heart disease and cancer.
And the taste? Arbosana delivers hints of green tomato, almond, and green banana.
Olive oil expert and cookbook author Fran Gage recommends serving robust oils such as Arbosana brushed atop bruschetta, in Spanish romesco sauce, and with all things chocolate. We’ve baked chocolate madeleines using our Arbosana EVOO, substituting the olive oil for butter. They were phenomenal.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch