Like the wine pioneers that came before them, a small but hardy group of farmers in the Willamette Valley is experimenting with a fledging artisan product — olive oil — and the Oregon Olive Mill is leading the way.
“We are really looking at olive oil the way we look at wine,” says Libby Clow, olive oil ambassador at the mill. Also home to Durant Vineyards, producing estate grown wines, and Red Ridge Farms, with a nursery of culinary herbs and plants, Oregon Olive Mill has 13,000 olive trees on 17 acres. Using olives from those trees as well as others sourced from California, the mill offers the only commercially available extra virgin olive oil produced in Oregon.
Paul Durant, owner and general manager, says the fledgling industry can thank the state’s pioneer spirit for its start. “Oregonians like to take care of Oregonians. Oregon is a great incubator for artisan small business.” Durant estimates that fewer than a dozen farmers are experimenting with olive trees. “There is kind of this building momentum. We are milling more and more for Oregon farmers,” he says.
Visitors to the mill can check out the olive pressing facility, oil storage area and bottling line as well as the orchards — planted with Arbequina, Leccino, Mission, Pendolino, Koroneiki and Picua olive trees. Complimentary olive oil tastings are held daily at the gift shop, while more in-depth guided tours, tastings and food and wine pairings are available for a fee.
The weekend of November 21-23, Olio Nuovo Festa celebrates the mill’s harvest season with food, wine and release of its fourth olive oil variety— Frantio. “People can bottle their own oil, or just hang out and drink wine with us,” Clow says. “Food and wine are great connectors.” Throughout the month of November, people can watch the harvest and milling process and ask questions about each step. “We want as many people as possible to see how it is made from start to finish. Part of our goal is to help build the olive oil culture in Oregon,” Clow says.
Extend your stay: For a romantic getaway on the farm, book the charming guest suite above the gift shop. The larger StoneyCrest Cottage, with two bedrooms and baths, is great for families.