It was a perfect day, as they generally are in Southern California in May. The drive into the Temecula Olive Oil Farm was nothing less than serene and gorgeous. The hills were still a pale green from all the rain that we had in the early months of the year, the air was dry but cool, and there was not a cloud in the sky.
In the middle of bushy, hilly wilderness, you pull into a long dirt driveway that leads you down a path lined with olive trees. As you continue, so do the olive groves, eventually opening to colorful buildings, manicured gardens, and pathways on the left.
Tasting Bar & Store
After you are parked in the farm’s ample, well maintained parking lot, you are naturally guided to the left (west), where they have their tasting bar and store. Not only do they sell their olive oil that is harvested and pressed on premises, but they have other products, including whole olives, olives stuffed with delicious fillings like jalapenos, garlic, lemon, blue cheese, and ginger, along with salts, soaps, and air spritzers.
The bar itself seats quite a few at a time, while also offering plenty of seating areas to suit your needs. You are more than welcome to bring your own food and beverages to the space too, and make a day of it. They are open 7 days a week, weather permitting, as nearly all facilities are open to the elements. Grab some wine, pack together some sandwiches, and good bread, and you’ve got a lovely day ahead of you in this glorious place! Taste the olive oils and balsamic vinegars, buy a bottle of olive oil and a jar of olives, and you’re SET.
I was invited by the Culinary Producer of the Orange County Fair, Pamela Wnuck, to attend this lovely tour, and with it included a luncheon. Thermomix was there, along with Soviia Agave, which was a match made in heaven. We had bread dipped in olive oil as appetizers, followed by pizzas and margaritas.
The pizza crusts were made in the Thermomix by the lovely Lynette MacDonald who you see above. She’s my kinda gal – look at the way she wields her knife! I witnessed the power of the Thermomix first-hand with the making of our sugar rim designated for our margaritas. Throw in some granulated sugar, and fresh lemon verbena from the garden a few yards over, and voila! You have a custom sugar rim for your margs. The frozen margaritas themselves were also made in the multi-purpose device, and were incredibly smooth. I was surprised at how “frozen” they actually were – nearly a margarita sorbet! If you’re looking for an all-in-one device, the Thermomix is coined as the smallest, smartest kitchen. It grinds, emulsifies, cooks, whips, steams, mixes, stirs, blends, chops, kneads, heats, and weighs. Yes, it has an integrated scale, AND has thousands of recipes that are built into the machine! It’s truly an all-in-one.
The Sovilla organic agave sweetened our margaritas, but also allowed customization, as they have so many different flavors. I tried maple in mine, but there’s also a regular version, then coconut, vanilla, pumpkin spice, peppermint and even chocolate. I haven’t had much agave syrup in my life, but I was delighted with how naturally sweet they were. Nothing tasted artificial, and was a welcome sweetness, balancing out the sour in our beverages.
This is Thom Curry, the founder and owner of Temecula Olive Oil Farm. He baked some bread in his portable pizza oven before we got down with actual pizzas. It was perfect for trying out the different olive oils they had out to taste.
Lynete shows us how to spread out our pizza dough above, just using our fingers – no tossing needed! It’s my personal opinion that good pizza dough doesn’t need to be tossed. It’s so delicate on it’s own if made properly, that it would rip if you tried. Besides, I like my crust on the thicker side anyway, and tossing it would make it too thin.
Pamela details a story about how Lynette made a huge feast for a gathering using only the Thermomix. It was a testament to how much you can really do in this wondrous device!
The Olive Grove Tour
After noshing on all of the culinary goodies, Thom grabs everyone’s attention by standing on a bale of hay. He starts off our tour talking about the history of the area in general, but also the history of his property which is now the Olive View Ranch. A majority of the land in the area was owned by just a few families, which were mostly cattle ranchers.
After making a go in the wine industry, they realized that olive trees do surprisingly well in Southern California, and wanted to transition into making olive oil. He makes the analogy that the olive trees are like any person – they really end up loving the climate here in SoCal, and as a result are very happy trees!
If you’ve never set foot in any orchard, I highly recommend booking a tour here. To simply stand among so many beautiful trees is such a calming, grounding and spiritual experience. Everyone should do it at least once. I am fond of doing it as often as I can!
They also book events where they’ll set up a table for 200 down a row in the orchard for culinary events. Diners are able to convene and break bread together right in the orchard. How magical! Check out their events page for what’s up and coming.
Thom explains that the particular grove we are in houses many experimental varieties of olive trees. While some have different flavor profiles, they all look pretty much the same, and they all do very well in the valley. They get the benefit of the dry desert, as well as the coast. All you need to do really, is stick them in the ground, give them a little water, and they are extremely happy!
Back at the ranch, Thom explains the olive oil making process. It starts off with their stainless steel mill that you see below. They pour the olives in, and the wheels grind up the olives and their pits. As the wheels grind, you can hear the pits of the olives popping. When the popping ceases, the paste is ready to transfer for pressing.
The paste from the mill is transferred to circular mats, pits and all, which ends up looking like an olive paste pizza. They are stacked on top of one another, and placed in the device below. This presses the olive juice out, and into a vat behind the presser. It’s in the vat, that the water content of the olives separate from the oil, which is transferred to another vessel. Then it’s ready for bottling! What is left over is re-purposed as compost. There is zero waste happening here!
We’ve all heard that olive oil is good for you. It’s a healthy fat, and all that. But why? Thom explains that fresh pressed olive oil, first and foremost, uses no chemicals to press or extract the oils from the plant like many other crops have to use. Additionally, they also contain polyphenols, which combat oxidative stress on your blood vessels. This helps keep your blood vessels healthy, and prevents plaque from sticking to the insides of them. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, contains anti-oxidants that help prevent cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
It also has anti-bacterial properties. When water wasn’t a reliable source for cleaning fruits and vegetables, olive oil and vinegar were used instead. So, it wasn’t because the two tasted so amazing together, it was because of their anti-bacterial properties! The taste was just a pleasant by-product. If you need some ideas on how to make your own olive oil & vinegar dressing, check out this post!
Finally, we arrive at the olive oil tasting bar, and taste the fruits of Thom’s labor. Each and every one were exquisite. Some were paired with their balsamic vinegars. It was extremely difficult to choose which ones to bring home with me, but I ended up settling on Roasted Garlic and Jalapeño Olive Oils, and a Hatch 911 White Balsamic vinegar. You know I’m constantly a sucker for hot things. Next time, I need a jar of stuffed olives too!
A million thanks to Pamela for the invite to this lovely slice of paradise in the Temecula valley. I can’t wait to go back, and bring all of my friends with me. We’ll pack a loaf of bread, a few bottles of wine, and bask in all of the naturally made oils that nature has to provide! See you there!