Where and How to Taste Olive Oil in Napa Valley
Olive oil tasting is a great way to spend some time in Napa Valley.
The weather and the climates in the region create an ideal environment for olive trees to thrive. In addition, the different soils throughout the Napa Valley region produce olives with a wide range of different flavors.
For olive oil aficionados, they can rejoice as producing olive oil in Napa has become a popular practice. Napa is home to dedicated olive tree farms and olive oil manufacturers. Many of the winery estates in the valley have planted olive tree orchards and offer olive oil tasting as well. Our guide for olive oil tasting in Napa Valley is designed to help your understanding of olive oil so you can be a well-informed taster. Enjoy!
How to Taste Olive Oil
To understand olive oil tasting, it helps to compare it to wine tasting. For example, with the proper know how and experience from wine tasting, the taste of a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can be amplified tremendously.
Tasting olive oil and learning the complexities of the different flavors is very similar.
First you pour, then you wait for the aromas to aerate. After, you smell (olfactory senses). Then you observe the olive fruitiness, other fruit tones, hints of grass/leaves, other good smells, and the overall harmony or balance.
Next you taste, but how you actually consume the olive oil is entirely up to you. For some they prefer to taste with a pairing of food and wine. For others, they prefer to taste the pure flavors of the oil by sipping or slurping it directly from a glass.
When tasting the olive oil, (gustatory-retronasal sensation; ability to perceive flavor dimensions of foods and drinks), you are attempting to identify olive fruitiness, sweetness, bitterness, how pungent it is, if you can detect grass/leaves, other good flavors or sensations, and the overall harmony or balance.
After you taste, you swallow (olfactory-gustatory sensation). Identify how it feels in your throat, how strong the pungent intensity (mild, did it sting your throat, did you cough), is the flavor in balance with the aroma, how complex is the flavor and how long is the flavor persistence?
Here are some of the flavors that can be detected in olive oil: apple, nutty, artichoke, banana, buttery, eucalyptus, floral, pine, fruity, grass, green tea, hay, garden herbs, melon, mint, pear, peach, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, tomato, mango, coconut, walnut, wheatgrass, and woody.
How to Select the Right Olive Oil
Just like learning how to pair the right wine with food, selecting the right olive oil requires a level of experience and know how. Luckily, the tasting is the fun part where you will figure all of that out. But before you get to tasting, what type of olive oil should you select to use?
To start, identify the purpose of the oil. Some common uses are: browning, stir fry, on the skin (topical), use in making soap, on a plate as bread dip, on a salad, in a marinade or sauce, and as a replacement for butter.
Depending on the purpose will determine which oil is used. These are four basic types of olive oil you will see at the store:
- Extra-Virgin olive oil is the highest-grade olive oil. Used for tastings, anything you eat, extra-virgin olive oil is the recommended choice. You can also use it on your skin (topically).
- Virgin olive oil comes directly from the olive only. Used for cooking and on the skin (topically).
- Refined olive oil is a process of treating low quality or defective virgin olive oil. Used on the skin (topically) and to make soap.
- Pomace olive oil is ground olive flesh and pits after the virgin extraction process. Used to make soap and as fuel for things like oil lamps.
Are you looking for what olive oil pairs with different food or drink combinations? You won’t find that here, you’ll have to ask that question when you go tasting!
Where to Taste Olive Oil in Napa Valley
If you have been reading along, then you should be familiar with what to expect when tasting olive oil and what type oil is used for each purpose. Now, it’s time to go out in Napa Valley and enjoy some olive oil!
Here are four of our favorite places to taste olive oil in Napa Valley: