Templeton olives star in high-end products

Thanks to his vineyard management business, most people probably associate Lee Alegre with grapes, but lately he’s teamed up with close family friends Art and Norma Ornelas and business partner Adriana Marquez to branch out into the world of olives.

In 2000, Alegre was approached by the Ornelases "to plant something on their (Templeton) property that would stay green year round." Alegre thought of olives, perhaps a no-brainer these days, but at the time "we were one of the first orchards to go in."

The 4000 trees are all Tuscan varietals, and the resulting oil proved to be "true Tuscan oil with a peppery finish, though we harvest a little later, so it’s a little mellower."

With the oil showing well at events such as the Paso Robles Olive Festival, Alegre realized he needed to take things to the next level. A couple of years ago, he asked Marquez to help out with sales and marketing efforts. The bonus was that she could also bring another product to the lineup — Adriana’s Gourmet Olive Tapenade.

"I’d been ‘testing’ it on my family for 10 years," said

Marquez, and the tapenade proved a big hit at family gatherings and dinner parties. "It’s handmade with all fresh ingredients, with nothing processed, but it can keep up to six months unopened in your pantry."

The fresh, handcrafted theme carries through the rest of the Alegre olive products (which also include cured olives). With the help of family and friends, Alegre and Marquez do almost everything themselves except for the actual pressing — though they’re on site throughout that process as well — including hand- bottling and hand-labeling the Tuscan-inspired, amphora-shaped bottles imported from Italy.

"We want to keep everything handcrafted and keep the high quality," said Marquez. "It’s fun to do, and if we sent it out to be mass produced, it would change


Find out more

Alegre Olive Oil and Adriana’s Gourmet Tapenade are available at the Templeton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, and at select wineries and retail locations such as We Olive in Paso Robles. For more information or to order products, call 434-1740, e-mail, or write to P.O. Box 158, Templeton, CA 93465.

Adriana’s Olive Marinated Greek Lamb with Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Adriana Marquez said this Mediterranean dish is "full of flavor and heady aromas that fill the air and make any gathering a memorable one. It’s also an excellent dish for the upcoming Easter season.

"You can make this roast with a whole leg of lamb or a lamb roast cut to order at your local butcher shop. Before roasting, let your lamb come to room temperature for about an hour or so; the longer your roast sits in the olive and olive oil marinade, the more flavorful it will be."

She also recommends putting some red wine and beef stock into the roasting pan with the lamb, which "along with the roast drippings will make an excellent au jus to be served with your roast."

Makes: 8 servings

Adriana’s Olive Marinade (recipe follows)

Leg of lamb or lamb roast

5 potatoes

5 carrots

Kosher salt

Ground pepper

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup beef stock

Trim fat from lamb. Place lamb in roasting pan and rub olive marinade over it, then let sit covered at room temperature for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut potatoes and carrots into chunks, toss with salt and pepper, and place them in the roasting pan.

Add red wine and beef stock to pan, and cover roast with foil.

Roast lamb for 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F (for medium rare).

Remove from oven and let roast rest under foil for about 20 minutes before carving.

Adriana’s Olive Marinade

1 cup pitted olives

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons capers

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup Alegre olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Lots of fresh ground pepper

Dash of kosher salt

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. If you have a favorite "Local Flavor" you’d like to see featured, e-mail your suggestions to