Here’s just one of the local products being featured at Sunset’s “Savor the Central Coast” event — one you can enjoy all year round!
Given all the trees scattered on the hillsides, the roadside view on the way to the Olivas de Oro tasting room looks like classic North County. But those aren’t oaks. They’re 2,000 transplanted olive trees.
When Frank and Marti Menacho found their Creston acreage on La Panza Road, they already had an olive orchard — up in Oroville. The existing Mission and Sevillano trees were more than a century old, but a new owner of that property “didn’t want the trees, just the land, and we wanted the trees, but not the land,” recalled Marti.
For most people, that situation would be the pits. Not for Frank, who has a nursery and landscape license and had transplanted olive trees many times before. He severely pruned the 30-foot trees so they would be easier to transport, with the added benefit that they would better acclimate once they were replanted.
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Clearly, the Menachos are willing to go out on a limb for what they think is important. As Marti said, “We don’t believe in compromise. If we are going to do anything, it’s going to be all the way.”
The Sevillanos are cured and sold as “Old World Style, Traditionally Lacto-Fermented Olives.” In other words, instead of curing the olives with a lye treatment, the Menachos patiently brine the olives for about 11 months to get the bitterness out.
The advantage to this approach is two-fold: the olives are lye-free, and the brine can be reused to make “Dirty Martinis” (martinis with a shot of olive juice).
In addition to the transplanted trees — all 2,000 of which survived the initial move — the Menachos also planted Arbequinas and Arbosanas, Spanish olive varieties that are at the other end of the size spectrum. These smaller olives are planted in high-density rows akin to a vineyard, and they can even be picked with an overhead grape harvester.
Those olives join the Missions in the production of the estate-grown, organic Olivas de Oro olive oils. As a certified Master Presser and Master Blender, Frank crafts all of them right at the Creston facility, and the oils are hand-bottled and labeled as needed to fill demand. (He’s also a recognized member of the California Olive Oil Council’s taste panel.)
Recently, the award-winning lineup of Olivas de Oro oils significantly added to its résumé at the Mid-State Fair’s Central Coast Olive Oil Competition. The oils racked up two best in class/best in show/gold medals, three gold medals, two silvers and two bronzes.
One of the two “best/ gold” winners was the buttery Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and the other top award went to the Cilantro Jalapeño, an oil with a nice kick (think chimichurri sauce).
This — and all the label’s flavored oils — are produced by crushing the flavorings right in with the olives, not infusing the oil with the ingredients afterward. Five of those oils also won at the competition — Mandarin Orange, Habanero, Meyer Lemon, Rosemary, and Garlic — as did two Extra Virgin Olive Oils, a Mission Reserve and a Mission Blend.
All are well-balanced, fresh-tasting oils, just as you might expect from someone with Frank’s credentials and given the couple’s respect “for the values and virtues of locally produced olive oil.
“It’s all a result of how you’ve treated the product through its life cycle,” Marti said. “If you start with something that’s fresh and clean, that’s what you should end up with.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.