You know that bottle of olive oil you bought at your local grocery store? It was probably labeled Italian, perhaps even virgin or extra virgin, right? Odds are high there is something else inside that coveted purchase, such as canola, coloring, and fragrances, that make it quite un-virgin. Unfortunately, when it comes to imported olive oil, there is less truth in labeling. A local olive tree-to-table alternative to tainted imports can be found at the Oregon Olive Mill at Red Ridge Farms.
As one of the first families in Oregon to plant wine grapes in the 1970’s, the Durant family began a four-decades long commitment to sustainability, single source farming, and never blending. That philosophy continued in 2005 when Paul Durant, son of owners Ken and Penny Durant, joined the family operation to oversee the planting of Oregon’s first olive trees. Red Ridge Farm now boasts Oregon’s only commercial olive mill producing estate olive oils.
On our recent visit we learned the true pleasure of tasting 100% extra virgin olive oil, estate-milled and bottled, without the customary bread dipping. It allows the palate to experience the differences between Koroneiki, Frantoio, Arbequina, Mission and Tuscan varietals. Their olive oil reaches home kitchens and chefs by hand, one sale at a time, one bottle at a time.
Red Ridge Farms has taken estate grown to the next level with honey harvested from local hives. Due to an abundance of estate grown plants and flowers, Bee Local, a Portland producer of farmland honey, sited bee hives on the property, producing micro-batch single source product. It is available online and at the farm’s quaint store.
With a weather pattern that occasionally includes sub-freezing temperatures and snow, General Manager Paul Durant says “the verdict is still out on whether olives can be successfully grown in Oregon. We’re always experimenting to find the hardiest varieties”. For now, though, consumers have a trustworthy supply of extra virgin olive oil….Oregon grown.