'Tis the Season... for Olives

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By Deirdre Bourdet

The start of olive season always gets me excited because it means olio nuovo is here--the bright green, fresh out of the press, creamy and practically alive-tasting oil. It's the first, freshest extra virgin oil from a crush and it only keeps its magic for a short time, making it an elusive commodity. I love to finish salads or fish with a drizzle of the stuff, or just set out a dish with good bread and sea salt for one of the simplest and most delicious snacks ever... more than worthy of a quality bottle of vino to wash it down.
Now that there are more early-ripening varieties of olives planted in olive country, olio nuovo is available sooner--and is in fact already on the shelves at The Olive Press.  You can pick up a bottle at their Oxbow Market retail store, or at the production facility and main tasting room in Sonoma, right on Highway 121.  While you're at the tasting room, peer through the window at the Italian olive press machinery, peruse the fantastic collection of olive-related cookbooks, food-products and schwag, and of course have a taste or ten. It's good for you.

This Saturday, December 5, marks the beginning of the Ninth Annual Sonoma Olive Festival. The traditional blessing of the olives at Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma is one of the most beloved festival events, with music, refreshments, and even heritage Mission olive trees for sale at the historic mission on the Sonoma square. Later that night, Carlos Herrera will perform traditional Spanish songs of the olive harvest at a candlelight concert in the chapel. The full calendar of events is available on their website, along with location and pricing details, so check it out and ride the excitement of harvest celebrations a little longer.

The Olive Press, www.theolivepress.com

Tasting Room: at Jacuzzi Family Winery, 24724 Hwy 121, Sonoma. 800.965.4839.

Oxbow Store: 610 First Street, Napa. 707.226.2579.

Sonoma Olive Festival, www.sonomavalley.com/OliveFestival

Events run from December 5, 2009 through February 14, 2010.

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