Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Quarter 2—Chilean Harvest

Three Spectacular Chilean EVOOs from One Extraordinary Farm

T.J. Robinson The Olive Oil Hunter
  • Custom-blended to attain perfect harmony, balance, and food-friendliness, these just-pressed oils will be the stars of your summer table.
  • All three were rushed to the US by jet to preserve their vivid, tantalizing flavors and healthful properties.
  • All three have been certified by an independent lab to be 100 percent pure extra virgin olive oil.
  • All three are Club exclusives, available nowhere else!

I’ve just returned from the vibrant, fertile land of Chile, with its world-class olive groves, generous people, fantastic local food, and plenty of la buena onda—good vibes. I’m thrilled to present you with the fruits of my most enjoyable labors: three glistening bottles of the freshest, finest extra virgin olive oil on Earth right now.

Heading South

Shaped like a rumpled necktie, Chile undulates along 2,600 miles of the Pacific coast of South America and lies more than 5,000 miles due south of the US east coast. Its antipodal orientation means, of course, that its seasons are the opposite of ours—when we are entering spring in the Northern Hemisphere, Chile is experiencing autumn and, with it, the annual olive harvest. At this time of year, with the Mediterranean harvests several months off, I head below the equator to hunt for liquid gold for my Club members.

My first journey, in 2005, was to assess “the Chilean threat,” as anxious European producers dubbed the fledgling ultra-premium olive oil scene in Chile. Starting in the early 2000s, Chilean upstarts bypassed centuries of Old World tradition, employing state-of-the-art growing and milling techniques to wow olive oil connoisseurs around the globe with their high-quality, fresh, fragrant EVOOs.

Carola Dümmer Medina and T. J. Robinson in Chile
Olive oil educator Carola Dümmer Medina and I were reunited after 18 years. She remembered me (it was probably my hat) from a grand tasting back in 2005, sponsored by Chile Oliva, the national Chilean growers’ association. Carola publishes an influential guide to educate Chilean consumers about the benefits and characteristics of high-polyphenol, fresh-pressed EVOO. We bonded over stories of the first time we tasted olive oil fresh from the harvest—she remembers exclaiming, “Oh my gosh, what is this amazing stuff?”

In the intervening years, I have collaborated with many of the quality-obsessed Chilean pioneers, and these connections have deepened into friendships. We share delicious meals, hearty laughs, big dreams, hot tips, occasional fears, and an abiding passion for olive oil. (Sometimes we even share surfboards – see the photo below.)

Duccio Morozzo della Rocca, longtime friend of the Club and key member of my Merry Band of Tasters, met up with me and the rest of the band when we landed in Santiago. Before anything else: food. At a little local chain called Tip y Tap, I devoured a lomito Italiano, my favorite sandwich, with roast pork, avocado, and tomato, slathered with house-made mayonnaise and piled on a crusty Chilean roll. So, so good.

A Break from Megadrought

If you folded a paper map of the globe along the equator, Central Chile’s latitude (between 32 and 35 degrees) would line up with that of Southern Europe. Its climate is accordingly Mediterranean style, with hot, dry summers, mild winters, warm days, and cool nights. This agricultural powerhouse bursts with mouthwateringly lush, outsize fruits and vegetables, including celery stalks the size of baseball bats and the best avocados in the world.

But, for more than a decade now, the Chilean agricultural sector has battled a megadrought—a long-term lack of rain, the worst in a thousand years. Olive growers with irrigation systems have managed to compensate for the lack of rain, but every season has been a nail-biter. Last year, in which Mother Nature not only served up dry and blistering heat but also threw in an early frost, was one of the worst on record for Chilean olive growers.

In a miraculous turnaround, this year Chile enjoyed a fantastic olive growing season and harvest. The weather was ideal—a genial spring; a hot summer, but not so intense as to cause concern; and a temperate autumn with a well-timed rain at harvest time, just enough to plump the olives without diluting the intensity of their oil. Chilean producers were ecstatic, as was I.

A quick primer on current EVOO-nomics: global prices for bulk-commodity-level oil are the highest they’ve been in a generation, owing to the dismal most recent harvest in Spain, the world’s largest source of olive oil. Many Chilean producers, who’ve suffered in recent years, strategized by leaving the fruit on the trees longer, which maximizes the oil yield. Given this dynamic, I suspected that finding the early-harvest, super-herbaceous Chilean EVOO I prize might be a challenge.

Juan José (Juanjo) Alonso and T. J. Robinson Holding Surf Boards in Chile
Juan José (Juanjo) Alonso and I take a break from the harvest to stroll on the beach near Agricola Pobeña, the celebrated olive farm he manages along with his family. Back when the farm was just a dream, Juanjo was tasked with scouting a location for the Alonso clan’s future olive groves. His siblings joke that Juanjo chose the eventual Pobeña plot because it is only half an hour from this prime surfing beach—an allegation that Juanjo, an avid wave rider, has yet to deny.

Quality, Not Quantity

As we traditionally kick off the Chilean quest, Duccio had arranged a Grand Tasting, at which we sampled dozens of harvest-fresh oils. Seven single-varietal olive oils quickly emerged as winners – we pronounced them “near perfect.” In an extraordinary turn of events, all were produced by the same farm, Agricola Pobeña. I have worked many times with the multitalented Pobeña team, so I had anticipated their oils would be excellent. But for every single contender to come from the same groves, reflecting such a range of varietals, flavors, and personalities, was astonishing.

Agricola Pobeña is the joyous, innovative, 100 percent-quality-focused, and immensely successful venture of the Alonso family. The Pobeña mill pressed its first EVOO in 2014 and almost immediately drew international accolades, with more than 140 prestigious awards to date. Last year, Pobeña was named one of the Top 20 Olive Farms in the World by Flos Olei, the international guide to ultra-premium EVOO.

With olive groves carpeting 850 acres of land in Chile’s agriculturally blessed O’Higgins Region, as well as a 10-acre lake and multiple rain wells, Pobeña grows a veritable Ellis Island of Southern European olive varietals: Italian, Spanish, and Greek. The farm’s many microclimates foster nuance and contrast, not just among the cultivars but within them—the same olives grown at various elevations will take on subtly different flavor profiles.

How to improve upon near-perfection? Teamwork. I was thrilled at this opportunity to collaborate with three of my favorite EVOO impresarios: Denise Langevin, Duccio Morozzo, and Juan Carlos Pérez. Read on to learn about these multitalented and passionate producers, and whet your appetite with Chilean-inspired recipes and food pairing suggestions. I can’t wait for you to taste these magnificent oils!

Happy drizzling!

T. J. Robinson 
The Olive Oil Hunter®

This Quarter’s First Selection

  • Producer: Denise Langevin Exclusive Selection, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023
  • Olive Varieties: Arbequina, Koroneiki
  • Flavor Profile: Mild
Denise Langevin Exclusive Selection, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023 Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

Before treating me and my Merry Band of Tasters to a lavish lunch showcasing her just-pressed extra virgin olive oil blend, Denise Langevin drove us to a local grade school that benefits from an initiative she spearheaded—a program that promotes healthy eating among schoolchildren. (It’s similar to the “Edible Schoolyard Project” started in Berkeley by restaurateur Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse fame.) As the olive oil-obsessed daughter of a Chilean fruit farmer, Denise delights in acquainting the students with the joys of gardening and eating what they grow. Currently, a dozen vegetable varieties are being cultivated in raised beds built by Denise and her husband, Luis. During summer break, each child—hopefully, future olive oil lovers all—is given a tomato plant to nurture.

It was a pleasure to witness in person her exuberant schoolyard reception. “Tía Denise! Tía Denise!” shouted the children as they mobbed my friend on the playground. Denise is clearly a hit with the youngsters in the town of Codegua, some 45 miles south of Santiago. Tía (aunt) and tío (uncle) are the proper Spanish words to respectfully address teachers, Denise explained.

As expected, garden-fresh vegetables starred in the multi-course lunch. But the MVP award went to the oil: it elevated each dish. Starters included almond-stuffed olives and Denise’s addictive oil-cured sundried tomatoes, followed by a velvety pumpkin soup, a green salad, seafood and spinach crepes, an Andean corn casserole called pastel de choclo, and, for dessert, profiteroles.

Denise Langevin and T. J. Robinson with Children in Chile
When not judging olive oil competitions, Chilean EVOO expert Denise Langevin champions healthy eating habits by teaching local schoolchildren how to grow and prepare their own fresh vegetables. It’s important, she believes, to impart this lesson when they’re young. I heartily support her mission, having dedicated the past 20 years to schooling people about the pleasures and health benefits of exquisitely fresh extra virgin olive oil.

I first met Denise, a diminutive dynamo, a decade ago during a visit to a Chilean olive farm where she was the director of exports. She is a self-made woman who parlayed a keen interest in olive oil into a successful career as a global olive oil consultant. Like me, she found her first taste of fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oil to be life-changing—so different from the supermarket oils she was accustomed to. She wasted no time in educating herself, honing her formidable tasting skills by traveling extensively, and building experience in sensory evaluation. Soon, invitations to judge international olive oil competitions began arriving at her home—which she shares with her husband, maintaining fruit trees, an enviable garden, and a small menagerie. Among competitions she judged this past year were the prestigious Olive d’Or competition in Montreal, Canada, as well as a contest in glamorous Monte Carlo.

Thanks to an exceptional harvest, yours truly, Denise, and my Merry Band of Tasters had a stunning palette of fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oils to work with when creating this blend, all wrought by the amazing Pobeña farm and its passionate and talented team.
(Not to mention the well-timed rain in advance of the harvest, courtesy of Mother Nature.) The 2023 Denise Langevin Exclusive Selection features two outstanding early-harvest Arbequinas, each pressed from olive fruit that matured in different microclimates. A bit of Koroneiki adds balance and complexity. I have named our mild blend after Denise in honor of her immense past and present contributions to the Club. Its flavor profile mirrors her gentle demeanor and soft-spoken nature, yet is enticingly bright and vibrant, even a little spicy. Denise is enthralled with the result and named for us her three favorite uses for this elixir: salads, cakes, and ice cream.

I can’t wait to hear how you and your family use this splendid extra virgin olive oil. Denise is so proud to have one named after her that will be enjoyed by discriminating Americans.

Denise Langevin and T. J. Robinson enjoying fresh pressed olive oil in Chile
Denise hosted a sumptuous luncheon at her lovely rural home for my Merry Band of Tasters and me. It was exciting to try the Denise Langevin Exclusive Selection on her delicious food! We drizzled the oil liberally over nearly everything, from salads to seafood. Imagine all the ways you and your family and friends will enjoy this wonderfully fresh oil, the perfect way to complement warm-weather menus.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

The aroma wafting from our tasting glasses leads with fruit, featuring green banana, apple, lettuce, and tomato leaf. Also thyme and hints of citrus zest and vanilla. On the palate, we detected the bitterness of green walnuts, Belgian endive, and baby spinach. Expect a celery leaf and black pepper-like spiciness on the finish, which is surprisingly long for a mild oil.

Suggested food pairings include vanilla ice cream; smoothies; fruit salads; chicken; shellfish, such as lobster, shrimp, or scallops; mild fin fish such as halibut or sole; eggs; mild cheeses like burrata or mozzarella; bread; creamy or cold soups; simple pasta dishes; rice; boiled potatoes; prosciutto-wrapped melon like cantaloupe or honeydew; fresh corn or peas; strawberries with mascarpone or whipped ricotta; and quick breads.

This Quarter’s Second Selection

  • Producer: Duccio Morozzo Signature Selection, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023
  • Olive Varieties: Frantoio, Coratina, Leccino
  • Flavor Profile: Medium
Duccio Morozzo Signature Selection, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023 Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

Once again, I am indebted to the man with the mellifluous name—Duccio Morozzo della Rocca—who helped me create for you one of the most dazzling fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oils in memory. Custom blended exclusively for our Club, this oil is an eloquent expression of Chilean olives, featuring an enchanting quartet of fruitiness, sweetness, bitterness, and spice.

At the same time, this selection, as Duccio insists, has a “Tuscan soul.” The label fronts a unique blend of olives native to Italy and thriving on the Pobeña farm, namely, Frantoio, Coratina, and Leccino: it’s a beautiful marriage of varietals. There were no “or forever hold your peace” objections—only plenty of enthusiastic toasts—from me and my Merry Band of Tasters to this delightful, almond-forward EVOO.

Longtime Club members are acquainted with master miller Duccio Morozzo, one of the world’s most highly respected olive authorities and in-demand judges of international olive oil competitions. If you are new to the Club, let me introduce you: a 2005 graduate of the Università of Pisa olive oil quality and cultivation program, Duccio quickly established himself as an olive and olive oil consultant. An International Olive Council (IOC) taster and recognized professional, he now travels the world, using his knowledge in nearly every country that is hospitable to olive trees—Japan, Australia, South America, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and other locations. I know no one with a more profound knowledge of olives and olive oil than Duccio.

Master miller Duccio Morozzo and T. J. Robinson in Olive Grove in Chile
Just look at those beautiful jewel-like olives, harvested within what I call the “magic window,” in other words, the perfect moment. They are on their way to the conveniently located mill (it’s in the middle of the olive grove) to be pressed with the Alonso family’s state-of-the-art equipment. Duccio and I take so much pleasure in pooling our knowledge and experience to bring you the freshest, most flavorful extra virgin olive oils in the world today.

I first met this agricultural impresario in 2010 during a farm visit to Central Chile. And what a serendipitous meeting it was! Duccio, I learned, shared my belief that early-harvest oils are the best, deigning to work only with the world’s top producers. He’s like my brother from a different mother.

But it wasn’t just his knowledge that impressed me: I loved his unbridled enthusiasm for the fresh-pressed juice of olives and the joy he brought to the mill and the table. He was so hands-on when we toured olive groves together, leaping out of whatever vehicle we were driving to examine the fruit up close, tasting it to gauge its ripeness and oil content. His valuable post-grad experience with mill manufacturer Alfa Laval cemented the deal. Alfa Laval is the manufacturer of the equipment used at the Alonso mill, one of the finest mills in South America.

A side note: before immersing himself in the study of olive oil, Duccio was a degreed musical composer. Duccio brings a musician’s appreciation of harmony, interplay, and resonance to the creation of an optimal olive oil blend, keenly attuned to any sensorial changes in olive oil. Add a drop of another cultivar to a tasting glass, for example, and he will detect it immediately.

Duccio’s extensive experience with Old World varietals allows him to expertly contrast and compare their Chilean offspring. Yes, the trees share the same DNA with their Old World ancestors, but the transplants have changed and evolved. It’s similar to the way wine grapes are influenced by their terroir. Duccio’s remarkable taste memory, his extensive knowledge of Chilean olive oils, and his blending genius make him an ideal collaborator.

This year, he assured me, we would be working with “near perfect” olive oils that, when blended with simpatico olive oils, would yield an oil greater than the sum of its parts. I was thrilled that Duccio was able to join me and my Merry Band in Chile and was grateful for his help in organizing the Grand Tasting that kicked off this year’s second-quarter odyssey. (Read more about the Grand Tasting below.)

Master miller Duccio Morozzo and T. J. Robinson enjoying olive oil tasting in Chile
Blending is both an art and a science, requiring the nose of a perfumer and a trained and highly sensitive palate, one that’s able to detect minute differences between oils. Here, Duccio adds a small amount of a second oil to the base varietal in the tasting cup in my hand during a blind tasting. (Note the numbered bottles.) We tasted dozens of oils—single varietals as well as the blends we created with them—to bring you extraordinary EVOOs, dear Club member.

In a private conversation with me, Duccio credited the Alonso family’s success—they’ve won dozens of awards—to their New World willingness to adapt and disengage from entrenched Old World ways that don’t always produce the finest olive oils.

This is one of the most delightful Chilean fresh-pressed olive oils I’ve sent to Club members. As Duccio would say, “Buon appetito!”

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings 

Although Chilean, this oil, comprised of Frantoio, Coratina, and Leccino olives, has an Italian pedigree. Almonds, fresh-cut grass, hops, and mint tease the nose, along with green apple, kiwi, baby arugula, black pepper, chopped sage, and a touch of cinnamon. In the mouth, we tasted the complex bitterness of radicchio, dark chocolate, and green almonds. The finish showcases the astringency of green tea and mint as well as the freshness of raw fennel and the pepperiness of nasturtiums and Szechuan peppercorns.

Try this beautiful oil with grilled meats, fish, or vegetables, as the flame-kissed food will benefit from the oil’s well-calibrated bitterness. Perfect with chicory, endive, or Swiss chard; green beans; summer squash; carrots; yams; salads featuring nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts; white beans or bean dips; guacamole; crudités; chocolate desserts; and truffles.

This Quarter’s Third Selection

  • Producer: El Agrónomo, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023
  • Olive Varieties: Picual, Arbequina, Koroneiki
  • Flavor Profile: Bold
El Agrónomo, Agricola Pobeña, Comuna de La Estrella, O’Higgins Region, Chile 2023 Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

Agricola Pobeña is the model for anyone daring enough to attempt to grow olives, and a key reason for its success is the man in charge of all 1,100 acres, Juan Carlos Pérez. I always look forward to reconnecting with Juan Carlos—it’s exciting to work with someone as obsessed as I am with creating the perfect EVOO for you. He knows that great olive oil starts on the tree and is finished in the mill—that all the work done in the field has a direct correlation to the quality of the oil produced. Even the most gifted miller can’t work his magic if the olives themselves aren’t of the highest quality.

As longstanding Club members know, Juan Carlos is one of Chile’s most talented agronomists. That title means he’s trained in all the fields required for optimal cultivation: earth science, ecology, and genetics, plus biology, chemistry, physics, economics, and more. 2023 marks Juan Carlos’ 14th year at Agricola Pobeña—he’s been there practically from day one—and the third consecutive year that your Olive Oil Hunter is presenting you with a blend named in his honor, “El Agrónomo” (The Agronomist).

Juan Carlos and T. J. Robinson in Olive Grove in Chile
Our producers jump through hoops to grow olives that deliver the rich taste and high polyphenols that Club members expect. But the harvesting process is its own labor of love, as I was reminded in the field with Juan Carlos. This battery-powered olive harvesting comb gently coaxes the olives from the branches. Many of Agricola Pobeña’s trees were planted in a traditional style that lets the roots spread out to take in more water. It all adds up to a more eco-friendly way to farm.

For Juan Carlos, growing the finest olives is not merely a job. It’s who he is; it’s in his DNA. Dubbed “The Boss” at Agricola Pobeña (and he is much like Bruce Springsteen in the way he leads an amazing band of talented professionals), he spends his weekends farming his own land—the ultimate busman’s holiday. On an impressive five hectares (more than 13 acres) that have been in his family for over 100 years, he grows olives (of course), grapes, cherries, and peaches as well as walnuts. His recent nut harvest was snapped up by an Indian buyer, but Juan Carlos kept enough for us to sample. They were the best I had ever tasted!

At Agricola Pobeña, Juan Carlos’ meticulous oversight of the groves, which he was instrumental in planning and planting, is in evidence everywhere you look. I loved being able to feast my eyes on and savor so many varieties of olives, not only the Picual, Arbequina, and Koroneiki that so masterfully come together in this quarter’s Bold selection, but also Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina, and more. Only in the New World do Italian, Greek, and Spanish varieties grow alongside each other. Each has its own magic window for harvesting, depending on where and at what elevation it is on the farm—just imagine all the permutations that come along with that!

Each bountiful harvest for Juan Carlos and his team of 80 dedicated workers is rooted, literally, in his dedication to promoting tree health and anticipating solutions for variables beyond their control (yes, you guessed it, the weather). While the aim is always to have enough water for the whole farm—optimally, one million cubic meters, or roughly the equivalent of 400 Olympic swimming pools—you can be smart about it and plan. There’s no way to control Mother Nature, but sometimes you can outfox her. We reminisced about last year, when three frightening nights of frost right before the harvest had threatened to damage the olives (remember that their seasons are the opposite of what we have here in the Northern Hemisphere—as you were enjoying spring and looking toward summer, their fall was coming to a close and, along with it, the worry over a premature gust of winter). “This year, as a country, we started harvesting earlier to avoid the consequences of an early frost,” Juan Carlos told me.

T. J. Robinson Juan Carlos and Sergio
“We need to be a team and need to be in tune,” Juan Carlos said. An invaluable member of that team is Sergio, better known by his nickname, Cachito, which means someone who’s both skilled and willing. This description perfectly fits the 77-year-old, who has no desire to retire. Cachito is in charge of irrigation and, like Juan Carlos, has been with the farm from the beginning.

He and I are of one mind when it comes to Agricola Pobeña’s strategy of picking the olives when they’re relatively green and have a higher concentration of healthful polyphenols as well as more vibrant flavors and aromas—exactly why Club members appreciate them so much. This technique of early harvesting translates to the best tasting and freshest EVOO. The olives’ oil content is much lower at this point in the growing season than it will be later on, so, producers who prioritize quantity over quality are happy to wait, envisioning the green of dollar signs rather than that of premium olive oil.

Last year’s El Agrónomo blend was our Medium selection. This year it is our Bold, with an entirely different flavor profile. With Picual, the Andalusian standout, at its core, it has a decidedly Spanish personality. Though in supporting roles, the Arbequina and the Koroneiki are no wallflowers—you can taste so many distinct and harmonious notes in this blend! This robust oil will tingle your tastebuds.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

My tasters and I were enthusiastic about the abundant tomato leaf we discovered on the nose, as well as Tuscan kale, pear, parsley, basil, and green pepper. Bold, grassy, and herbal on the palate, evoking fresh chopped culinary herbs, artichokes, and wild mint. Bitterness is represented by notes of chicory and dark chocolate. You’ll experience a spicy symphonic finish featuring crushed green peppercorns and watercress.

We recommend splashing this robust oil on a caprese or panzanella salad (very good in vinaigrettes, especially green goddess dressing); bruschetta; pasta or potato salad; broccoli rabe; cabbage; pesto; tuna, salmon, or swordfish; fresh or sun-dried tomatoes; aged cheeses or a charcuterie board; bell peppers or shishito peppers; ratatouille; kale salads; game meats; lamb; duck; chocolate ice cream; or yogurt.

Olive Oil and Health

Olive oil is shown to improve brain health and memory in individuals with mild cognitive impairment

Adapted from an article by Matt Crouch, Auburn University (, March 6, 2023

Extra virgin olive oil may have positive effects on individuals with mild cognitive impairment, according to a recently completed study published in the journal Nutrients. The study’s findings suggest that compounds found in olive oil positively affect brain health and help improve the blood-brain barrier.

In the study, 25 adult participants experiencing mild cognitive impairment consumed 30 ml (about three tablespoons) of olive oil per day for six months. Thirteen of the participants consumed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and 12 consumed refined olive oil (ROO), as a control group. EVOO is rich in phenols, while ROO has been purified of phenols.

Study participants took several tests before and after consuming olive oil, including MRI scans, cognitive tests, and blood analysis to measure biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease.

This study evaluated the blood-brain barrier and its permeability—the degree to which it protects the brain. The blood-brain barrier, a network of blood vessels and tissue made up of closely spaced cells, plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy brain by protecting the brain from exposure to blood-related neurotoxins and in the clearance of brain waste products.

The study also measured levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, levels of beta-amyloid and tau are increased.

The benefits of olive oil consumption were more pronounced in the EVOO group, but participants in the ROO group experienced improvements as well: Both EVOO and ROO improved cognitive function, as determined by the improved clinical dementia rating and other behavioral scores. Additionally, “our findings showed that EVOO and ROO altered two major biomarkers related to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “These alterations collectively could have played a role in improving the blood-brain barrier and improving function and memory.”

This study in individuals with mild cognitive impairment is the first to evaluate what happens to the human brain as a result of consuming olive oil.

“These results are exciting because they support the health benefits of olive oil against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kaddoumi. “Based on the findings of this study and previous preclinical studies… we can conclude that adding olive oil to our diet could maintain a healthy brain and improve memory function.”

Reference: Kaddoumi A, Denney TS, Deshpande G et al. Extra-virgin olive oil enhances the blood-brain barrier function in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2023;14(23):5102.

Kudos from Club Members

This oil is insane!
WOW! Fantastic tasting oils like we’ve never had before. I gifted some to my son and his comment was “This oil is insane!”—meaning he was delighted. Just wanted to tell you what a fabulous product you have.
Christine S.Silverdale, WA


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Quarter 1—Spanish Harvest

From the Historic Olive Groves of Andalucía to Your Mesa—a Superlative
Trio of Extra Virgin Olive Oils from Spain!

T.J. Robinson The Olive Oil Hunter

  • Brimming with vibrant flavors and health-promoting antioxidants, these dazzling early-harvest oils have been rushed to you by jet at their peak.
  • All are from award-winning producers and custom-blended by yours truly.
  • All have been independently lab-certified to be 100% extra virgin.
  • All are Club exclusives, available nowhere else.

¡Hola! I am delighted—encantado—to report that I, your trusty Olive Oil Hunter, was able to journey to Spain on your behalf for the first time since 2020. After three years away, it was deeply gratifying and soul-nourishing to collaborate in person with my loyal and talented friends, to savor the incredible Iberian cuisine, and to fulfill the Club’s mission, with my boots on the ground, of sourcing for you the finest, freshest, most healthful extra virgin olive oils on Earth right now.

The World’s Olive Oil Well

I like to say that Spaniards have olive oil coursing through their veins. Spain is the world’s largest olive oil producer, providing almost half the world’s supply in a normal production year. The majority of that olive oil comes from Andalucía—specifically, from the province of Jaén (an area about the size of the state of Connecticut), which by itself usually yields more olive oil than either Italy or Greece.

Yet most Spanish olive oil is a subpar bulk product that I would never allow on my table (except as a paperweight to keep the menu from flying away at an outdoor taberna). Don’t get me wrong—there are also extraordinary ultra-premium olive oils milled in Spain, some of the finest in the world, and that’s why I was longing to return.

T.J. Robinson and Luis Torres in Priego de Córdoba
In the picturesque, historic town of Priego de Córdoba, among white-stucco façades and geranium flowers, I reconnected with dear friend of the Club Luis Torres. The peripatetic Luis is busier than ever, tasting up to 25 oils each morning to evaluate the previous night’s harvest. We shared fond memories of our previous collaborations and brainstormed plans for future ways to work together.

Quality Time

Almost two decades ago, a tiny, core group of quality-focused olive oil producers in Spain turned their sights to producing excellent early-harvest EVOO, emphasizing local varietals, high polyphenol content, and extraordinary flavor. In the intervening years, these pioneers—who represent only about 1 to 2 percent of the producers in Spain—have re-envisioned the possibilities for Spanish olive oil, crafting some of the most celebrated oils in the world as well as creating a high demand for them, locally and internationally.

I began scouting for early-harvest EVOO in Spain in 2005, when I first visited the groves (and castle) of Francisco “Paco” Vaño. (Read more about Paco below.) The network of ultra-premium Spanish producers is tight, and, as new producers distinguish themselves, my friends recommend groves to visit so I can sample their oils. Building these relationships over time is a key aspect of my work as the Olive Oil Hunter, as you never know when the stars will align in a brilliant collaboration.

No Rain in Spain

You may have seen the catastrophic headlines, from Olive Oil Times (“Producers in Andalucía Brace for Second Worst Harvest on Record”) to the New York Times: “The Olive Oil Capital of the World, Parched.” Spain and Portugal endured a record-breaking year of drought, characterized by some scientists as the region’s worst in a thousand years. Eight months without rain meant that only irrigated olive groves had a chance at producing enough fruit for a harvest.

Extreme heat also blasted the Iberian olive crops. In Jaén, temperatures in May hit the mid-90s, which scorched many olive blossoms, causing them to wither—then, the lack of water during the hottest summer on record stunted the development of the remaining fruit.

Spain’s olive harvest this year was down 50 percent nationally, 60 percent in Jaén. Many farmers’ livelihoods were crushed—bulk producers and artisanal growers alike were impacted in devastating ways.

Chef Paco Aguilar, Juan de Dios and T.J. Robinson
Make new friends but keep the old… Longtime relationships in Andalucía helped me secure liquid gold for my Club members, and I also met wonderful new people. Chef Paco Aguilar (center) of Taberna Belmonte, in the city of Granada, prepared an unforgettable feast for me and producer Juan de Dios (left), with each tantalizing dish featuring a different olive oil from Juande’s groves. I have visited his family’s farm since 2015 and am thrilled, at last, to share our spectacular Hojiblanco blend with Club members.

With a Lot of Help from My Friends

To put it in perspective, longtime friend of the Club Filipe Madeira de Albuquerque, in Portugal, brought in only one-tenth of his usual crop. (Experienced Club members will be familiar with the fragrant, delicate oils from the Madeira groves—which, owing to their mountainous location, are not irrigated.) Filipe, a seasoned veteran of the cruel whims of weather and climate, has faith that next year will be better, and we hope to collaborate on a beautiful oil for the Club when Mother Nature permits.

In short, for the producers, this olive growing season was a nightmare. For you, though, my lucky Club member, the trio of oils I’ve selected is incredible, with a wealth of aromas and perfumes as well as health-enhancing polyphenols and other antioxidant compounds. (These are beneficial outcomes of water stress on the trees.)

All three producers—Castillo de Canena, Finca Gálvez, and García-Molina—have appeared multiple times in the Top 20 of Flos Olei, the connoisseur’s guide to the world’s best olive oils. These resourceful, highly skilled master artisans extended themselves with stunning generosity on behalf of our Club, reserving their best oils for us and giving us room to taste and tinker with our blends. Our bold selection features a Club debut by García-Molina, a quality-focused farm I’ve been scouting since 2015. This was their year to shine.

How did I manage to secure three outstanding oils in such a challenging season? One word: friends. I was overjoyed to see my longtime friends, to break bread together, to enjoy meals together. And, dios mío, the food—we shared so many mouth-watering dishes, including the best local shrimp ever, each plate splashed with our harvest-fresh olive oils. The absolute standout was braised Ibérico pork cheeks in a garlic-onion reduction that I cannot stop thinking about. I may return to Spain just to have it again. I wish you could come with me.

Meanwhile, read on for details about these talented and innovative producers, as well as tasting notes, food pairings, and regionally inspired recipes to enhance your enjoyment of these dazzling oils. Savor them with your friends, family, and guests in good health. ¡Salud!

Happy drizzling!

T. J. Robinson 
The Olive Oil Hunter®

This Quarter’s First Selection

  • Producer: Castillo de Canena, Selección Especial, Jaén, Andalucía, Spain
  • Olive Varieties: Arbequina
  • Flavor Profile: Mild

The apocalyptic headlines coming from Southern Europe were alarming: “Drought and Heat Drain Spanish Reservoirs,” said Reuters. “Spain and Portugal Suffering Driest Climate for 1,200 Years,” reported The Guardian.

Prior to my trip to Spain, I sought another update from my friend, Francisco “Paco” Vaño, the cofounder, with his sister, Rosa, of Castillo de Canena, one of the most respected olive mills in the world.

“It has been the hardest and most complicated harvest of my life,” he said. “But don’t worry.” Yields were going to be lower than normal, he explained, but the quality of the fruit was high. Paco assured me he would do whatever he could to accommodate the needs of the Club. True to his word, he gave me access to his finest Arbequinas, a finicky varietal that is in extremely short supply this year.

Named after the Vaño family’s 15th-century castle, an imposing, turreted edifice that overlooks thousands of acres of olive groves and the picturesque village of Canena, this artisanal producer’s early-harvest oils have garnered the world’s most coveted olive oil awards. Though they celebrated their first harvest in 2003, the family has been connected to olive groves for more than two centuries. In 2019, Castillo de Canena was inducted into the prestigious Flos Olei Hall of Fame, one of only eight producers out of hundreds to receive the honor.

Always seeking new ways to grow, the family continues to invest in improvements. For example, they started construction in 2019 on a magnificent state-of-the-art mill, the steel-and-glass embodiment of brainstorming sessions with the entire team. Now fully operational and featuring four separate lines and a temperature-controlled receiving area, the mill dwarfs the structure I toured when I first visited Castillo de Canena in 2005.

Francisco “Paco” Vaño and T.J. Robinson
Paco and I were delighted to toast another successful olive oil collaboration! In our glasses? Cacao Pico, from Spain’s oldest distillery. The company, founded in 1824 in Jerez, distills a cacao-flavored liqueur from cacao beans using alembics (stills) made of copper. Though deceptively clear, the spirit tastes like chocolate and makes a wonderful after- dinner drink. Paco, whose connections in the food and wine world are impressive, arranged a fascinating tour of the distilleria for my Merry Band of Tasters and me.

Naturally, I was eager to learn in person what innovations Paco and his staff had implemented during my absence.

My Merry Band of Tasters and I hit the ground running when we arrived at the mill. We were delighted with the sensational Arbequina blend we developed using the cream of Paco’s crop. Later, we rendezvoused with Paco at Taberna El Pajáro (“tavern of the bird”) in Baeza, a restaurant we’ve visited many times before. Over an uncharacteristically long lunch—three hours—we celebrated another successful collaboration with this incredibly skilled producer. During the meal, Paco affirmed his commitment to quality, which he defines broadly to include acting with purpose and integrity, sharing accumulated knowledge, respecting the community and the environment, and tirelessly promoting biodiversity. Among his many projects is the planned publication of four coffee table–type books featuring the property’s abundant flora and fauna. (In association with the University of Jaén, a stunning volume featuring 117 bird species that inhabit the groves has already been published.)

Conversations in Andalucía usually gravitate to the drought that continues to plague Southern Europe. A summer heatwave exacerbated the problem. Many provinces have restricted water usage as rivers and dammed reservoirs recede. Paco, who maintains his own reservoir but also relies on river water, is encouraged by a government plan to loosen water restrictions in advance of the olive trees’ spring blossom-setting season. Heat also continued to bedevil olive farmers throughout the harvest, Paco said, with temperatures sometimes soaring as high as 104 degrees. Each day, his crews began working before dawn, quitting at noon. Happily, water-deprived olives were blessed with timely rains, which restored their balance and improved their flavor profiles.

One highlight of our trip that was unrelated to olive oil was a surprise visit organized by Paco to a distillery called Cacao Pico. Founded in 1824 in Jerez, it’s known for its unique chocolate-flavored liqueur. (Paco served it to guests at his wedding last year.)

It was such a joy to catch up with Paco, whose many accomplishments as a premium olive oil producer make me so very proud. I treasure our relationship and the benefits it has produced for Club members. Most notably, this superb blend of premium Arbequinas. My wife, Meghan, and I have been enjoying it with a multitude of dishes, splashing it on everything from eggs to ice cream. We’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh asparagus, ramps, and morels—all mood-lifting harbingers of spring.

Duccio Morozzo, Paco Vaño, Meghan Wells, T.J. Robinson, Álvaro Pulido Garrido and Concepción Martínez Sánchez.
The ancient town of Baeza is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the home of Spain’s best-preserved examples of 16th-century Italianate Renaissance architecture. Following a sumptuous lunch, we gathered in the town square for a group photo. From left are international olive expert Duccio Morozzo, Paco Vaño, my wife, Meghan, myself, and members of Paco’s amazing team, Álvaro Pulido Garrido and Concepción Martínez Sánchez.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

This exquisite and aromatic Arbequina makes a lovely first impression. It is grassy on the nose with hints of green banana, golden apple, kiwi, celery, vanilla, mint, and basil, punctuated by Belgian endive and white pepper. Elegant in the mouth, echoing the grassiness and green banana along with the bitterness of endive, the warmth of cinnamon, and a walnut-like nuttiness. Expect a long, mild, peppery finish.

From your mid-morning smoothie to a late-night snack of ice cream, this versatile oil will enhance many foods, particularly those with an intrinsic sweetness. These include carrots, asparagus, beets, sweet potatoes, squash, and peas; salads featuring fruit and/or nuts; creamy soups; lobster, shrimp, scallops, and mild fin fish; chicken; bread; rice; scrambled eggs; yogurt; quick breads; and fruit-based desserts.

This Quarter’s Second Selection

  • Producer: Finca Gálvez, Jaén, Andalucía, Spain
  • Olive Varieties: Picual
  • Flavor Profile: Medium

When my Merry Band of Tasters and I arrived at Finca Gálvez, the dramatic stone-and-brick façade of their state-of-the-art mill was a welcome sight after my three-year absence. Of course, the real delight was seeing the Brothers Gálvez, José and Andrés, catching up on their news, and sharing memorable meals at our favorite local restaurants.

Longstanding Club members know that my relationship with the Gálvez family dates back to the early ’00s. It began just a few years after José and Andrés’s father made the decision to change the family’s livelihood from masonry—the area’s red clay is responsible for those vibrant bricks fronting the mill—to creating the finest extra virgin olive oil. He correctly predicted that there would be a surge in demand for ultra-premium quality oils.

In truth, I’m not sure José and Andrés would ever have been as passionate about bricks as they are about their groves and oils. Over two decades, they’ve amassed dozens of awards, including coveted gold medals in the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), Olive Japan, and the London International Olive Oil Competition. And they’ve been named among the top 20 oils in the world numerous times by Flos Olei, the global guide to the finest EVOO, including in 2022 and 2023. But they’re certainly not resting on their laurels. They’ve expanded their mission to include sharing their knowledge of olive oil to make the public better-informed consumers, making them more aware of the different varietals of olives, how to enjoy each one, and how to appreciate olive oil as a true fruit juice with amazing health benefits—a mission that Club members know I share.

And that explains the renovations we saw underway on our way to the groves: their main office will move to the new building so that their current one can become a dedicated visitor center for classes and tastings, complete with a kitchen for cooking demonstrations. “When you visit a wine cellar, you taste the wine not only on its own but also paired with cheese and other foods,” said José. “Our visitors want that kind of sophisticated, elevated experience, not a run-of-the-mill tourist stop.”

Duccio Morozzo (right), José Gálvez (standing), T.J. Robinson and José Antonio Nieto
Tasting Picuals with Duccio Morozzo (right), José Gálvez (standing), and José Antonio Nieto was a double reunion. We’ve known José Antonio, formerly director of the Subbética co-op, for nearly 20 years! Now he’s bringing his skills to Finca Gálvez to take their oils to yet another level. Next, we were off to Restaurante Payber for a seafood feast—ensalada mixta (see recipe below), lightly fried white anchovies and ethereal shrimp, steamed tiny clams, and decadent French fries, all prepared with the local olive oil, which is so important to Spanish cuisine.

Another thing I admire about the team at Finca Gálvez is that they’re always guided by the groves—the highest-quality oil is what gets bottled, no matter the quantity. That means their annual yield can vary based on growing conditions, and this season gave them their greatest challenge yet. When I look back at my past quests for EVOO in Spain, there have certainly been many tricks played by Mother Nature—she doesn’t always make it easy for us to receive her gift of liquid gold! Last year, producers were stymied by a lengthy drought and blistering hot temperatures during the growing season. Yet, somehow, this year was even more challenging. Many areas had no rain for eight months, a refrain we’d heard since we arrived in the country.

Those without the kind of sophisticated irrigation system that Finca Gálvez has didn’t stand a chance. Even with one, production was lower, and everyone was scrambling to meet demand. A low volume of olives means that grocery stores will be flooded with a lot of inferior oils three times the usual price and, worse still, often passed off as EVOO.

I never commit to a producer before an olive oil is in my tasting cup, but any worries melted away soon after my Merry Band of Tasters and I sat down in the tasting room. Ten Picual samples were presented to us, each tantalizingly distinctive—with 5,000 acres in the Guadalquivir River Valley, the Finca Gálvez groves represent many different terroirs. José and Andrés had set aside much of their top premium oil for our Club.

In past years, a Picual from Finca Gálvez has been our bold selection; however, as we narrowed the delicious array of tasting cups from 10 to four, we knew we had the makings of a well-rounded, harmonic blend that would be perfect for the medium profile. Coincidentally, it was a medium Picual that had captured a Best in Class for Finca Gálvez at the NYIOOC just a few years ago! The Gálvez brothers opened their cellar door to us and let us play in their house so that you, dear Club member, can savor this very special oil. The final result showed once again just how skilled they are—they navigated all the curveballs of the season to hit a home run.

Andrés Gálvez and T.J. Robinson
Andrés Gálvez explained that last spring’s blossoms were promising, but on nearby farms without irrigation, trees started dropping their olives when excessive heat came. By knowing how to manage every last drop of water, Finca Gálvez was spared. Still, they follow the mantra “fresh picked, fresh pressed” to get their olives to the mill as quickly as possible during harvest.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings 

This Picual is an Andalucían beauty. Complex and herbaceous on the nose. My tasters and I detected tomato leaf, basil, rosemary, oregano, fresh-cut grass, arugula, hazelnut, black pepper, and eucalyptus. Even more beguiling on the palate, evoking green tomato, spinach, and the bitterness of rosemary, escarole, green tea, and cocoa nibs with the spiciness of celery leaves. The finish goes on and on.

I urge you to play up this oil’s best qualities by coupling it with tomato-based dishes such as bruschetta, caponata, pasta, or pizza. Pair with aged hard cheeses; charcuterie boards; grilled meats (pork or lamb); grilled fish (tuna, salmon, or swordfish); white beans; mixed green salads; potatoes; broccoli, cauliflower, or brussels sprouts; and fried eggs.

This Quarter’s Third Selection

  • Producer: García-Molina, Ácula, Granada, Andalucía, Spain
  • Olive Varieties: Hojiblanca, Arbequina, Picual
  • Flavor Profile: Bold

It’s a funny thing about hunches—sometimes you have to wait to act even though you’re excited about forging ahead. That pretty much sums up the interest I’ve had in this innovative producer since I first met Juan de Dios, known as Juande, and his sister, Paula. I recognized great promise in these dynamic siblings years ago. But who would have imagined that the right moment to make them the newest artisanal producer to supply amazing extra virgin olive oil to Club members was during one of the most challenging Spanish harvests in 20 years?

This passion project started with their father, also named Juan de Dios. As children, the siblings accompanied their dad to family-owned olive groves in Jaén, an easy drive from their home in Málaga. They even spent school holidays pruning olive trees! Later, just as they started to follow in their father’s academic footsteps, earning degrees in pharmacology, Papa indulged his lifelong dream of buying an olive mill! It was mostly a hobby at first, one that produced olive oils for friends and family and the bulk market. But Juande and Paula saw the potential to elevate the oils and approached their father with a bold plan: press premium olive oils and introduce them internationally to a very select group of chefs who wanted only the finest ingredients in their kitchens. They asked for four years to prove themselves.

“It was really hard,” Juande admits. Even though they were traveling nearly 20 days a month, they sold nothing for the first year. When they made their first sale, it was because the buyer “felt sorry for them.” But it was a start! The turning point came in 2016 when a German publication, Stiftung Warentest (similar to our Consumer Reports), tested 26 olive oils. Only one—guess which one—was given a high rating. And just like that, their mill was off and running.

Juan de Dios, Paula de Dios and T.J. Robinson
Juan de Dios (portrait) passed his love of olive trees on to his children, Paula (center) and Juande (right), both of whom are also pharmacists. Though he passed away in 2014, he is remembered fondly by family, friends, and patrons of his pharmacy. “He had great karma,” noted his son. The siblings invoked his name so often during my visit, I almost felt as if I, too, had known him.

The elder Juande did not live to see this milestone—he passed away in 2014, just 10 years after buying the grove—but the family honors him at every harvest, gathering around an olive tree they planted in his name and celebrating his life, his incredible energy, and his passion for olive oil. Juande’s five young grandchildren endearingly call him Abuelo Olivo (Grandpa Olive), and his legacy continues to inspire the family.

I was equally impressed by how seriously Juande follows the well-documented impact of EVOO on dementia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and more, and how he continues to use his pharmacology background as an asset. He even sells his own fresh-pressed olive oil in the pharmacy he owns. The family’s grounding in a scientific field, I believe, has led them to be very methodical when problem-solving in the groves and in the mill.

The siblings’ olive oils, under the name O-Med, have received many prestigious awards in Spain and abroad, including a gold medal at the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), multiple “Top 20” inclusions in Flos Olei (Italy’s premier guide to the world’s olive oils), Olive Japan, and the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.

During our visit, one of our most memorable meals was at Luciano’s, the local restaurant that provided sustenance during those early, difficult days: Juande ate there so often that the proprietors gave him room and board when he was putting in 20-hour days at the mill, even making him dinner regardless of the hour. It was a kindness he has never forgotten. So, it was especially meaningful for me to enjoy a meal there with him. (I am determined to get the recipe for their delectable pork rib stew, so comforting on a chilly day.) Juande also treated my Merry Band of Tasters and me to a magnificent meal at Taberna
Belmonte in Granada, where the chef, Paco Aguilar, showcases O-Med oils. He, too, is close to the family, and even traveled with them to Japan to exchange skills with foreign chefs.

Hojiblanca anchors this exquisite blend, exclusive to us. It is a hardy cultivar, enhanced by Arbequina and Picual. To honor Juande and Paula’s father and his lifelong dream, we have created a special label, García-Molina, invoking their ancestral family name. Juande and Paula know their father would be proud that the family’s oil will be enjoyed by the discriminating palates of Club members. I’m proud, too! To quote the famous line at the end of the Hollywood classic Casablanca, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Juan de Dios and T.J. Robinson
When he was a child, Juande’s father (also named Juan de Dios) often drove Juande and his sister, Paula, to the family’s olive groves in Jaén. But the purchase in Granada of a high elevation olive mill in the Sierra Nevadas in 2004 was the realization of a lifelong dream for the elder Juande. (Olive trees thrive where differentials exist between daytime and nighttime temperatures. The mill is near Mount Mulhacen, one of the highest peaks in Spain.)

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

Bold and beautiful, this blend of Hojiblanco, Picual, and Arbequina is intoxicating in the tasting glass. Black Tuscan kale came to mind, followed by wheatgrass, watercress, celery, and fresh thyme. A pear-like fruitiness complements the nuttiness of walnut and the freshness of lime zest. Weightier
in the mouth and more viscous than the mild and medium oils, this bold oil is incredibly harmonic. It’s a masterful symphony of flavors—tomato leaf, artichoke, parsley, and walnut. Bitterness is represented by microgreens and spiciness by nasturtium and green peppercorns. Savor the languorous finish.

Reach for this assertive oil when you compose salads of bitter greens with nuts and aged cheeses; grilled beefsteak or game meats; oilier fish, such as mackerel, bluefish, or sardines; hummus; shakshuka; bean or vegetable soups; and desserts featuring dark chocolate.

Olive Oil and Health

Olive oil is beneficial for maternal-fetal health

Adapted from Cortez-Ribiero et al (2022) and an article by Liji Thomas, MD, in News Medical, January 3, 2023

Numerous studies have shown that olive oil can have positive effects on pregnancy.
A recent systematic review published in the journal Nutrition Research is the first to summarize the evidence for the protective effects of EVOO consumption on maternal-fetal health.


Nutrition plays a vital role in the health of a pregnant woman and the outcome of her pregnancy. Olive oil is a healthy source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and phytochemicals such as polyphenols that promote favorable outcomes in pregnancy. In addition, olive oil is linked to lower rates of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), preeclampsia (a sudden, dangerous rise in blood pressure), and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) or large-for-gestational-age (LGA) infants.

A systematic review included nine studies from Europe, the UK, and Argentina, conducted between 2008 and 2020. Study sizes ranged from 30 to 35,000 women.

  • Six studies were interventional, including five randomized controlled trials, and three were observational (case-control or cohort studies).
  • Maternal-fetal outcomes evaluated included SGA, LGA, GDM, premature birth, preeclampsia, and cardiovascular risk.
  • The intervenional studies evaluated the effects of EVOO, while the observational studies did not specify the grade of olive oil.

What did this study show?

  • EVOO in particular, and olive oil in general, is associated with a reduction in the risk of maternal and fetal adverse effects, including GDM, SGA, LGA, prematurity, and preeclampsia.
  • EVOO supplementation was associated with favorable cardiovascular effects in pregnancy, including a decrease in triglyceride levels.

What are the implications?

  • SGA increases the risk of poor fetal outcomes, while LGA increases the risk of birth complications. Both SGA and LGA were reduced in association with EVOO intake.
  • Both GDM and prematurity were reduced in one or more of the interventional studies. The anti-diabetic effects of EVOO may be attributed to the activity of polyphenols, which can improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Two studies evaluated the risk of preeclampsia: increased EVOO consumption reduced the risk in one study; the other did not find a reduced risk of preeclampsia but reported a reduction in gestational weight gain, a risk factor for preeclampsia.

This systematic review is an important, first-of-its-kind summary of the evidence that EVOO can confer protective effects on pregnancy outcomes. More studies focusing on the impact of olive oil consumption on maternal-fetal outcomes are needed.

Reference: Cortez-Ribeiro, AC et al. Olive oil consumption confers protective effects on maternal-fetal outcomes: a systematic review of the evidence. Nutr Res. 2022;110:87-95.

Kudos from Club Members

This oil is insane!
WOW! Fantastic tasting oils like we’ve never had before. I gifted some to my son and his comment was “This oil is insane!”—meaning he was delighted. Just wanted to tell you what a fabulous product you have.
Christine S.Silverdale, WA


  • ASPARAGUS WITH OLIVE OIL SABAYON Asparagus with Olive Oil Sabayon Fresh asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, especially when paired with a luscious olive oil sabayon. If not using the asparagus immediately, trim the ends (as you would cut flowers) and stand upright in a tall glass of water. Cover the tips with a plastic bag and refrigerate for a day or two. Ingredients… view recipe
  • Cod with Chorizo and Breadcrumbs Cod with Chorizo and Breadcrumbs A splash of sherry or red wine vinegar cuts the richness of the chorizo and brightens the flavors. Find cured Spanish chorizo online or in the international aisle of your supermarket. (Do not confuse cured, salami-like Spanish chorizo with raw Mexican chorizo, which must be cooked before using.) Ingredients 2 slices country-style bread, crusts removed… view recipe
  • Pisto Manchego Pisto Manchego The cuisine of the Iberian peninsula was heavily influenced throughout history by its many conquerors. This dish, a popular one throughout Spain, was no doubt introduced to the country by the Moors. The key to its texture and flavors is to cook each vegetable slowly and individually. Your patience will be well rewarded! Ingredients For… view recipe
  • Olive Oil Lemon Tart Lemon and Olive Oil Tart Extra virgin olive oil is featured twice in this lovely lemon tart—in the crust and the filling. But if you’re short on time (or don’t own a tart pan), pour the lemony filling into a prepared graham cracker crust before baking. Ingredients For the crust: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 5 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon… view recipe
  • Marinated Pork Loin in Adobo Marinated Pork Loin in Adobo (Lomo de Cerdo en Adobo) The Spanish noun adobo means “marinade.” On the Iberian peninsula, where it has prehistoric origins, adobo refers to a flavorful marinade consisting of vinegar, olive oil, aromatics, and spices. Don’t be intimidated by the long marinating time of this dish. Do, however, use a nonreactive container such as a glass baking dish or large bowl.… view recipe
  • Spanish Steak with Sherry Vinegar Steak Sauce Spanish Steak with Sherry Vinegar Steak Sauce (Chuleton) Spain has a vibrant steak culture, a surprise to tourists with tapas and paella on their minds. Rib steak, known as chuleton (“large steak”), appears on many restaurant menus and is typically cooked over a live fire. The rub and piquant steak sauce are very versatile and pair well with pork, chicken, or shrimp. (Find… view recipe
  • Olive Oil Ice cream with Chocolate Sauce Olive Oil Ice Cream Your ice cream freezer is likely an appliance you don’t use every day (or even every year). But this delectable recipe provides the incentive to retrieve if from wherever it’s stored. If you don’t have fudge sauce on hand, the ice cream is also wonderful when drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Top, if desired,… view recipe
  • Mango Gazpacho Mango Gazpacho Here’s a refreshing riff on classic gazpacho—perfect for a weekend brunch or as a prelude to lunch or a light supper. I like to serve it in small straight-sided Spanish sherry glasses called chatos. Ingredients 3 mangoes, pitted, peeled, and coarsely chopped 2 cups fresh orange juice 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 3 tablespoons extra… view recipe
  • Olive Oil Fudge Sauce Olive Oil Fudge Sauce Delicious over homemade olive oil ice cream or premium store-bought vanilla, this decadently rich sauce forms a soft chocolate shell as soon as you spoon it on the cold ice cream. Ingredients 1/2 cup heavy cream 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Directions Step 1 In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan,… view recipe
  • Spinach and Chickpeas Spinach and Chickpeas (Espinacas con Garbanzos) Especially popular in the Andalucían city of Seville, this dish can be served as a tapa, a light meal, or a satisfying side dish. Bagged baby spinach is usually sold washed. If your spinach is garden-fresh, rinse it well and drain itbefore adding to the chickpeas. Ingredients 1 cup jarred or canned chickpeas, drained 2… view recipe

Quarter 4—Italian and Greek Harvest

Introducing a Trio of Spectacular Fresh-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oils from
Award-Winning Italian and Greek Producers

T.J. Robinson The Olive Oil Hunter
  • All three oils showcase single olive varietals that grow only in specific regions in the Mediterranean, making them rarities not only in the US but even in their countries of origin.
  • All are Club exclusives personally selected by me, your Olive Oil Hunter.
  • As always, all have been certified by an independent lab to be 100 percent extra virgin.
  • Rushed to the US by jet to preserve their healthful aromas, flavors, and antioxidants, these oils will be sensational additions to your winter menus and are available nowhere else!

Ah, the glorious appeal of Italy and Greece in the fall… Both countries are renowned for their love of olive oil and—perhaps related—the exceptional longevity of their people.

I’ve longed to return to the region for three years, so I knew my recent visit was going to be epic. It was.

Magical, even. And, as Virgil wrote in the Aeneid, I now come bearing wonders for you—a collection of three extraordinary fresh-pressed
extra virgin olive oils that will elevate your meals from simple to sublime.

Italy is where I first tasted just-pressed extra virgin olive oil. Little did I know that moment and that Sicilian oil, called novello, would change my life. That was when I vowed to introduce discriminating Americans to premium extra virgin olive oils.

Still my sentimental favorite, the Italian boot is my destination when autumn arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. Olive oil is inextricably intertwined with the Italian culture. The country hosts some 550 varieties of Olea europaea. Of course, another olive oil–obsessed Mediterranean country is Greece. It, too, has a long and complicated relationship with this storied evergreen. According to Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon competed for the right to name a port city by bestowing gifts upon its citizens. Athena’s olive tree, proffering shade, wood, and olive oil, bested the sea god’s saltwater lake, which is why we now know this sprawling metropolis, home to the Parthenon, as Athens. Greeks, by the way, use almost seven gallons of olive oil per person a year, making them the most voluminous consumers in the world.

Chef Mario, Colli Etruschi’s Nicola Fazzi, and T. J. Robinson at Trattoria Pappetta, in the town of Blera.
Chef Mario was proud to join Colli Etruschi’s Nicola Fazzi (center) and me for a quick photo op in the medieval-feeling lower level of a quintessentially Italian establishment, Trattoria Pappetta, in the town of Blera. The food (read more about it on page 8) was both bountiful and delicious and made even better by generous drizzles of intoxicatingly fresh extra virgin olive oil.

Welcome to Our Mediterranean Celebration

My much-anticipated reunions with award-winning producers I’ve worked with and respected for years—Italy’s Colli Etruschi and Frantoio Mercurius, and Greece’s NOAN—exceeded my expectations. Nicola Fazzi, Claudio Di Mercurio, and Richy Schweger were as glad to see me as I was to see them. My longtime friend, olive oil expert Duccio Morozzo della Rocca, joined my Merry Band of Tasters and me, so it was like Homecoming Week everywhere we went. Everyone was so generous and welcoming. We were gifted everything from pomegranates to homemade olive oil soaps. It felt natural to once again gather around a table and catch up on the sort of news that requires a shared meal, broad hand gestures, the cheerful clanking of plates and pots and pans, lots of laughter, and a glass or two of wine. In this way, we celebrated my October birthday and the college graduation of Claudio’s daughter. (We had two cakes!)

The commingling of business and food in the Mediterranean possibly harks back to ancient times. Duccio speculates that the practice may have had its origins in the famously sumptuous banquets hosted by the Roman Empire. As a native of Rome, Duccio has observed that food is usually part of most social and business interactions. In any case, the cultivation of personal relationships, something I’ve always valued, appears to be a key to sustained success in Old World olive oil circles.

Claudio Di Mercurio the founder of Frantoio Mercurius, and T. J. Robinson interviewed by Silvano Ferri
Claudio Di Mercurio (second from left), the founder of Frantoio Mercurius, was so excited for my visit that he invited Silvano Ferri, the president of Abruzzo’s DOP, an acronym that translates to protected denomination of origin, to join us in the groves. Here, I’m being interviewed by Silvano for a televised agricultural program. I was more than delighted to praise the farm’s Dritta olive, a native varietal that grows only in Abruzzo and is a Club favorite.

Sharing my gastronomic experiences with you, Club member, is also important to me. My intent is to acquaint you with the specific locales your oils came from as well as to inspire your usage. There are so very many ways to enjoy fresh-pressed olive oil. I’m continually on the lookout for new ones, and never hesitate to patronize street vendors, food trucks, or local markets. (Check out a collection of Mediterranean-based recipes below.)

I delight, as you’ve likely surmised, in visiting this part of the world. I love touring the olive groves, admiring the gnarled trees’ sculptural trunks and canopies, guessing their ages (and histories), and checking out the fruit. And it’s always exciting to watch the first precious dribbles of olive oil emerge from the spigot of the press, my tasting glass at the ready. As Duccio so eloquently put it: “Passion and love deliver such a special product of the land and hills—what the territory wants to present to the world.” Amen.

Perfect Timing and Expert Strategies

The challenge for olive producers in both countries this year was the unceasing hot, dry weather during the summer and early fall. (Parts of Italy reported the worst drought in 70 years. Greece generally fared better.) Without exception, the producers of this quarter’s oils wisely accelerated their harvests in order to take advantage of the elusive “magic window.” They employed special measures in their mills to keep the olive fruit cool during pressing. Fortunately, my team and I had expected an early harvest and scheduled our trip to arrive in the Mediterranean at the perfect time, snagging for Club members the cream of the crop. (And…it was fresh porcini season!)

My Merry Band of Tasters and I booked a private class with Chef Michail, an English-speaking cooking instructor, who teaches on a lush Athens rooftop with panoramic views of the city. Popular with locals and tourists alike, Michail took me to one of his favorite markets to shop for ingredients for the classic Greek dishes he learned in his grandmother’s kitchen. (He loved the oils we brought.) For more details, go to

Duccio predicts there will be many mediocre olive oils in the marketplaces of the world this year, with few ways for the unsuspecting consumer to suss them out. You, dear Club member, truly have treasures in your hands.

I feel so privileged to be your olive oil ambassador to the Mediterranean and beyond, representing (and satisfying!) your discerning palate by dealing exclusively with the world’s premier producers. Please take time to read the detailed producer profiles that follow. I want you to vicariously visit the farms and mills with me, dine with the people I’ve introduced you to, and deepen your connection to the incredible extra virgin olive oils you’ve received. Use the oils liberally and in good health. I fervently hope they bring you and your family and friends joy. And I pray I never have to be separated again for any length of time from the olive groves and my dear friends in Italy and Greece.

Happy drizzling!

T. J. Robinson 
The Olive Oil Hunter®

This Quarter’s First Selection

  • Producer: NOAN, Pelion Peninsula, Greece 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Amfissa
  • Flavor Profile: Mild
Noan Amfissa Extra Virgin Olive Oil label - Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club

It’s great to be back. I’ve sorely missed the Pelion Peninsula. Halfway between Athens and Thessaloniki, this part of Central Greece is breathtakingly beautiful. To the east are the azure waters and pebbled beaches of the Aegean, and, to the west, a verdant hilly ridge, its slopes forested with olive groves, chestnut, and fruit trees. Charming coastal villages divide land from sea, each with small tavernas where an order of tsipouro (brandy) might be accompanied by complimentary mezes.

Is it any wonder, then, that Austrians Richy and Margit Schweger, avid snow- and water-skiers, were captivated by this little-known region of Greece? They bought a vacation home here on property populated with olive oil trees, then realized this was the right location from which to launch their next philanthropic endeavor. Established in 2008, NOAN has almost singlehandedly revitalized the local olive industry. A former IT executive, Richy had zero experience in agriculture. But he and Margit saw the potential of the area’s olive groves. Unorganized and often lacking resources, many growers pressed only enough olive oil for their families’ use or let the olives languish on the ground.

Richy immersed himself in the art of olive oil production, and with the help of a local man, mill owner and miller extraordinaire Jorgo Evangelinos, enlisted about 25 growers in the region to join the co-op. Both men are quick to credit my longtime friend and colleague, Roman olive expert Duccio Morozzo della Rocca, with fast-tracking NOAN’s inclusion in the winner’s circle: Just six years after its founding, NOAN’s oils were recognized by Flos Olei, an Italian guide to the world’s top olive oils.

 Jorgo Evangelinos and olive oil expert Duccio Morozzo with T. J. Robinson in Greece
A toast to a successful harvest! NOAN mill owner Jorgo Evangelinos (left) and olive oil expert Duccio Morozzo join me in raising a glass of ultra-fresh olive oil to another successful collaboration. Now one of Greece’s most talented millers, Jorgo credits Duccio, his mentor and friend, with helping him press astounding EVOOs for Club members.

Never resting on its laurels (a Greek phrase if there ever was one), NOAN has continued to support member growers and the community at large. It provides opportunities for continuing education, supplies financial assistance to growers when needed, and donates to local schools.

Since my last visit in 2019, NOAN has strengthened its organization by appointing “alpha growers” who mentor and liaise with younger, less experienced farmers and ensure the fruit they deliver is of superior quality. Prior to the current harvest, additional decanters were installed in the mill to increase productivity and improve the quality of the olive oils. Freezing temperatures, high winds, and any number of things, including equipment breakdowns, can reduce the aforementioned “magic window” to a matter of days. Timing is everything!

The mythical hero Jason and his Argonauts set out from the port city of Volos in search of the “Golden Fleece.” It was “liquid gold” that first brought me to the Pelion Peninsula. (Many of the dramas involving Greek gods and goddesses played out in this enchanting place. Mount Pelion was named after Peleus, the father of Achilles. I can almost imagine centaurs frolicking in the olive groves.)

After enduring disappointing harvests since my last visit (healthy trees usually need biennial “rests” to renew their vigor), I was thrilled to learn Richy and his right-hand man and fellow Austrian, Mario Sageder, predicted this would be “a T.J. year!” Their excitement speaks to the close relationships I’ve built and maintained with the world’s top olive oil producers. They plan ahead for my visits, adapting their growing and milling programs to satisfy our Club’s high standards.

This year, the trees blossomed profusely, and the fruit—the Grecian cultivar known as Amfissa— formed in abundance. A hot, dry summer followed, protecting the olives from pests and boosting their polyphenol levels. Thanks to multiple microclimates, NOAN was able to cherry-pick the olives they deemed worthy of their label. Richy, Mario, and Jorgo met periodically with the alpha growers to identify the most promising groves. Their last meeting was a celebratory harvest party, a much-loved tradition in many olive-growing countries.

Richy Schweger, Mario Sageder and T. J. Robinson enjoying Greek beers in a casual taverna.
After a long but satisfying day at the mill, NOAN founder Richy Schweger (right), his colleague, Mario Sageder, and I relaxed with a few cold Greek beers and a meal in a casual taverna. As always, there was plenty of food and animated conversation. Richy and Mario ar delighted that their oil is once again a Club selection.

My Merry Band of Tasters and I ate exceedingly well during our visit to Central Greece. The Pelion Peninsula has some of the best food on the mainland. We dined splendidly at family tables and quaint restaurants, tavernas, and cafes. We even had a memorable meal at a gas station/truck stop, where we enjoyed amazing bread, braised green beans spiced with cinnamon, and delectable chunks of tender pork. Of course, we also enjoyed the obligatory Greek lamb chops and tangy tzatziki at a more elegant restaurant—everything accompanied by the wonderful BYOB olive oils we brought to the table. I’m very proud to put on your table this rare and stunning extra virgin olive oil, as food-friendly as any I’ve encountered.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

The Pelion Peninsula is lush and green, descriptors that can also be applied to this delicate oil. Pressed from Amfissa olives grown exclusively in Central Greece, this oil delivers the alluring scents of fresh tomato, new-mown grass, green apple, kiwi, green walnut, wild mint and fennel, celery, and parsley, with white pepper and a hint of cinnamon. Delicate and delightfully creamy in the mouth, featuring tomato, butter lettuce, and spinach, celery leaves, and white pepper. This balanced oil finishes with fresh fennel and mint.

Very food-friendly, great with mild cheeses; marinated olives; rustic breads; rice, beans, and other pulses; sweet potatoes; squash; eggs; poultry; puréed soups; creamy pasta dishes; mild vinaigrettes paired with fruit or potato salads, Greek-style salads, or tender greens; green beans, mushrooms, peas, fennel, or carrots; or mild fish or shellfish. A good choice for baking.

This Quarter’s Second Selection

  • Producer: Frantoio Hermes, Penne, Abruzzo, Italy 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Dritta
  • Flavor Profile: Medium
Frantoio Mercurius Extra Virgin Olive oil Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club

When I reflect on the many meaningful relationships I’ve made since starting the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club, the one I have with Claudio Di Mercurio immediately comes to mind. This year marks our fifth collaboration—and that’s five years in a row! My wistfulness over not being able to visit for three years melted away as Claudio and his wife Olga welcomed us back to Olga’s family home in the ancient town of Penne. A deep mutual admiration has developed over the course of our working together, and Claudio’s appreciation for the relationship inspires him to cultivate the finest Dritta olives so that you, Club members, can savor the fruits of his labor.

Since this is Italy, we, of course, reconnected over food—a lavish homecooked lunch that showed just how integral EVOO is to the local cuisine. We began with grilled sheep- and cow’s-milk cheese dressed with pomegranate arils, fresh walnuts, and a drizzle of fresh olive oil, followed by handmade linguine with polpette (the tiniest meatballs) made with veal, lentil meatballs, porchetta cooked for hours in a wood oven, and amazing potatoes—boiled and then roasted for an hour and a half in fresh olive oil with a little garlic and rosemary. The green salad came right from the garden—escarole, radicchio, fennel, and shaved carrot, with the olive oil and a splash of the apple balsamic vinegar from my first Curated Culinary Selections’ collection that I shared with them. To cap the meal, there was a chocolate roll cake stuffed with Nutella and decorated with whipped cream stars. Could it get any better? Yes! The coming days took us to amazing restaurants known mostly to the locals, gourmet gems that make Abruzzo one of the best food regions of the country. Did you know, as I learned, that saffron is grown here, and that the area’s also known for licorice, nougat, candy-coated almonds, and Gentian Amaro, a liqueur made from gentian root, a bitter botanical used for centuries as a medicinal agent?

T. J. Robinson and Claudio Mercurio in Italy
How I missed visiting with Claudio and taking in this wonderful scenery surrounding Penne with its perfect climate for growing flavorful Dritta olives. The family house is on a verdant hill—at the top you can see the Adriatic on one side and the Grand Sasso mountain range on the other. Down below? It’s a short walk to Mikanto Café, where Claudio starts his day—nothing happens until he has his espresso. It’s an idyllic way of life that belies the frenzy of the annual olive harvest!

Olive oil, too, has a prominent place in Abruzzese history. An early olive oil research facility tasked with setting certain industry standards was located here, and the hydraulic press, the forerunner of today’s olive milling equipment, was invented by the region’s own Corradino D’Ascanio, the aeronautical engineer behind the Vespa, Italy’s iconic motor scooter, and the country’s first production helicopter.

Like Abruzzo itself, Dritta olive oil flew under the radar for the longest time—I’ll be eternally grateful to Duccio for letting me in on the region’s tastiest secret. Although Claudio also grows Coratina (a variety well known to Club members) and Peranzana olives, I keep coming back to the uniqueness of the Dritta, whose name translates to “dependable.” It’s grown virtually nowhere else and is as delicious as it is dependable. While many other varietals seem to flourish only every other year, Dritta is like the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going.

Claudio’s groves benefit from Penne’s microclimate—it’s cradled between low peaks of the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Sea. This enviable location protects the area from the brutally hot summers experienced in other parts of Italy, yet it’s not impervious to the effects of climate change. Claudio and his skilled team have had to adjust to fruit that starts ripening sooner than in the past. The harvest now finishes around the date it used to begin! “The mill itself becomes more important to control the quality,” Claudio explained. “The olive miller is like the maestro of an orchestra. He tunes the instruments for every type of climatic condition that arises. And everyone, not just the miller, needs to be trained.” Everyone also shares Claudio’s belief that “quality is born in the field and refined in the mill.” I can taste their dedication in this year’s liquid gold—our medium selection is harmonic, beautifully balanced, and a perfect food-friendly oil you can dress up or dress down. You’ll taste why Frantoio Mercurius is a frequent winner of the top olive oil prizes in the world from expert guides such as Gambero Rosso, Flos Olei, and Slow Food—the Di Mercurios often make family adventures out of going to the award ceremonies.

Silvano Ferri, the president of the DOP, and T. J. Robinson at the steakhouse Poggio del Sole.
We had an extraordinary meal at the steakhouse Poggio del Sole, a local favorite in, an Italian steakhouse in the town of Pianella, where salumi and grilled meat are triumphs and the grappa is flavored with chamomile! Here I am with Silvano Ferri, the president of the DOP
(denominazione di origine protetta or protected origin denomination) Aprutino Pescarese, the region’s olive oil consortium. Silvano is as thrilled as I am that Club Members will again be able to experience Abruzzo’s Dritta olive oil.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings 

Aromatic in the tasting glass with fresh grass, walnut, green banana, chicory, lettuce, orange peel, wild mint, and fennel seed. Taste it and you’ll detect these flavors: the sweetness of almond; the astringency of green tea; the bitterness of endive, wild mint, basil, spinach, and fennel fronds mingled with the spicy bite of fresh arugula.

Use this vibrant oil on cured meats; pasta dishes; roasted vegetables; tomato-based dishes; pesto; aged cheeses or grilling cheeses like halloumi or kefalotyri; white beans; chickpeas; mashed potatoes; heartier stews or soups; porchetta; lamb; veal; tuna or swordfish; citrus-based desserts or cocktails; yogurt; vanilla ice cream or panna cotta; and smoothies.

This Quarter’s Third Selection

  • Producer: Colli Etruschi, Blera, Lazio, Italy, 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Canino
  • Flavor Profile: Bold
Colli Etruschi Extra Virgin Olive oil Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Canino olive takes center stage in the Lazio region, just as the Dritta olive is the star in Abruzzo. The trees bearing this feisty fruit thrive in the area’s limestone-rich, porous soil. Our producer, Colli Etruschi, has a unique story of its own: It’s an agricultural cooperative of a few hundred small local farmers who carry on their respective family traditions and passion for growing olives. The co-op began in 1965 when a group of 18 olive growers banded together to invest in modern equipment and work more productively and efficiently. Their name is a tribute to the Etruscans, the ancient people who brought the cultivation of olive trees to the area.

Under the direction of Nicola Fazzi, who joined the co-op fresh out of agronomy school, Colli Etruschi continues to live up to its mission to grow the finest olives and press them with state-of-the-art equipment. The thoroughly modern mill is something to behold! Their latest upgrade is a new de-leafer, which separates any leaves from the olives—preventing leaves from entering the crusher makes for a more harmonious oil. Because the outdoor temperature around the harvest seems to inch up every year due to climate change, they recently invested in a chiller that cools down the water used to rinse the olives. This means the olives are a few degrees cooler when they enter the crusher, and that in turn makes for a more flavorful and more healthful oil.

The farmers’ hands-on techniques combined with high-tech milling create a highly flavorful Caninese (the adjective for Canino) olive juice that is magical on the palate—it consistently wins top honors from Gambero Rosso, the food-lovers’ publication, and from Flos Olei, the guide to top olive oil producers, which proclaimed Colli Etruschi “best oil mill in the province of Viterbo,” the province in which Blera is located.

T. J. Robinson and Nicola Fazzi at Villa Farnese in Caprarola
The Lazio region, which includes Rome, is steeped in history. Nicola and I took time out for a short sightseeing trip to the ancient village of Caprarola and Villa Farnese, a pentagon-shaped mansion known for its elaborate artwork, from paintings to sculpture. This was a great way to catch up after my three-year Covid absence and talk about all the improvements that Colli Etruschi has made in order to create this most memorable olive oil.

Time management is integral to the operation. “We maintain a consistent pace to get the olives right into the mill upon arrival so they don’t sit in the heat,” says Nicola. “The only variable left is the fruit itself—all the other variables have been addressed!” The result for you, dear Club member, is a perfectly rounded taste with exceptionally high polyphenols.

At a time when so many small farmers around the world are struggling, I’m very impressed with how Colli Etruschi provides wonderful support for its members and the community as a whole. It has also taken steps that reflect its commitment to being a responsible player on the world stage, following cutting-edge quality control and sustainability practices. They’ve reduced their environmental impact by installing a large solar panel system to produce energy, and they recycle their waste products and have reduced the use of plastic as much as possible—tastings are done with compostable cups!

The days spent with Nicola were, of course, punctuated by meals that highlighted local dishes. To celebrate this year’s harvest and to taste our fresh Caninese oil with a variety of foods, we lunched at Trattoria Pappetta, a local tavern that had an earlier life as a winemaker’s tasting room, complete with a stone wall cellar. Owner Mario Macchinetta makes sure that the wine still flows to enhance his regional cooking. We feasted on grilled bread and grilled eggplant slices, both lavishly dressed in our oil, assorted salumi, slow-cooked beans in a spicy tomato sauce with pork fatback, fettuccine with sausage and porcini (as longstanding Club members know, these mushrooms are one of my favorites!), pasta Amatriciana, olive oil-braised rabbit—this is meat country, after all—and anise-flavored cantucci, a type of biscotti. Afterwards, to burn off some of those calories, we retraced part of the route leading to Rome across the ruins of the 2,200 year old Devil’s Bridge—it’s pictured on our label.

Mario Leotta, president of Colli Etruschi,and T.J. Robinson on Devil’s Bridge
Mario Leotta, president of Colli Etruschi, led us on an adventure from the mill down a canyon. We walked across the Devil’s Bridge, a masonry bridge with vaulted arches built in 285 BC, and along part of the path that leads to Rome (under an hour by car, and somewhat longer by foot!). We talked at great length about the Canino varietal, rarely seen outside of Italy. Thanks to the hundreds of small local farmers, you, my dear Club members, have the opportunity to relish this beautifully full-bodied oil.

We also took time out for a day trip to the picturesque old village of Caprarola, home to the Villa Farnese, a lavish mansion turned museum. It was a wonderful way to reconnect with Nicola after my three-year absence from the country. After the museum, we went to the Trattoria del Cimino, where we dined on excellent cured ham, lardo on toasted bread with chestnuts, slow roasted eggplant, fresh fettuccine with porcini, stewed wild boar with tomatoes and olives, sauteed chicory and more porcini (molto bene!), and for dessert, hazelnut biscotti, meringue cookies, and raspberry sorbet. There are three generations in the family-run kitchen—the 90-year-old nonna, her daughter and son-in-law, and their son, proof positive of how a love of great food and great olive oil brings us, and keeps us, together.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings 

Pressed from Caninese olives native to Lazio, this is an assertive oil. I love the nutty nose—green almonds and hazelnuts, followed by chopped baby spinach, Tuscan kale, and watercress. Tomato leaf, green apple, thyme, lemon zest, dark chocolate, and green peppercorns were also detected. Muscular and intense in the mouth, reminiscent of escarole, radicchio, dandelion greens, kale, rosemary, lime zest, hazelnuts, and cocoa nibs. Health-promoting polyphenols are indicated by the spiciness of black pepper.

Exploit this bold oil’s best qualities by serving it with strong cheeses; avocado toast; black bread; on salads made with sturdy winter greens; grilled lamb or beef kebabs; bagna càuda with crudités; bean or chickpea bruschetta; tomato-based pasta dishes; pizza or flatbreads; oily fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines; chocolate mousse, cake, or brownies.

Olive Oil and Health

Yale Symposium Discusses Olive Oil’s Many Health and Planetary Benefits

Adapted from an article by Colin Poitras, September 21, 2022

Leading experts involved in research and education related to the olive tree and its products gathered in Rome recently to discuss the positive health benefits of olive oil during the Fourth Annual Yale Symposium on Olive Oil & Health, September 15–18, 2022.

Organized by Vasilis Vasiliou, PhD, and Tassos C. Kyriakides, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health, the four-day symposium addressed a variety of themes central to olive cultivation and the future of olive oil as it pertains to human and planetary health.

Laura Di Renzo, of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, focused attention on the role of high-quality extra-virgin olive oils in preventing non-communicable chronic degenerative diseases (NCDDs) and the health benefits of a sustainable Mediterranean diet. NCDDs include obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic respiratory diseases, and many cancers. They have been the most frequent causes of prolonged disability and death worldwide.

Di Renzo highlighted the role of the sustainable Mediterranean diet in the prevention and treatment of NCDDs, including the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).

Attendees praised the symposium for helping to raise awareness of the health benefits of olive oil. Vasiliou and Kyriakides have been leading international advocates for the promotion of olive oil as an important part of a healthy diet.

Kyriakides, an olive oil sommelier, not only constantly tastes oils from all over the world, he consumes copious amounts of olive oil daily in his cooking in addition to his daily morning extra virgin olive oil shot.

It’s a delicious natural and healthfully nutritious food. The olive tree and olive oil have been bringing people together for thousands of years; as public health professionals it is our task to maintain and safeguard the olive tree and its numerous positive effects on human and planetary health. The olive tree can serve as a vehicle in our pursuit for sustainable and planet-friendly agricultural practices.

—Tassos C. Kyriakides, PhD, of the Yale School of Public Health

Evidence accumulated over the past six decades shows that olive oil promotes good health, Kyriakides said. A daily intake of 20 grams of olive oil (about two tablespoons) contains a polyphenol (at least 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives) that assists in the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress. The finding has been supported by the European Food Safety Agency. The US Food and Drug Administration also supports a qualified health claim that consumption of oleic acid (the main component of olive oil) may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Kudos from Club Members

This oil is insane!
WOW! Fantastic tasting oils like we’ve never had before. I gifted some to my son and his comment was “This oil is insane!”—meaning he was delighted. Just wanted to tell you what a fabulous product you have.
Christine S.Silverdale, WA


  • Salmon with Fennel and Dill Slow-Roasted Salmon with Salsa Verde This is an easy and flavorful entrée, and so healthy, too. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, and salmon delivers Omega-3 fatty acids. Win-win! Ingredients 1 skinless side of salmon, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds Extra virgin olive oil Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds… view recipe
  • Spaghetti with Fried Eggs Spaghetti with Fried Eggs This is a substantial, very satisfying breakfast. It’s great for brunch or overnight guests. We like to serve it with freshly squeezed fruit juice and extra virgin olive oil. Ingredients Coarse salt (kosher or sea) 1/2 pound uncooked thin spaghetti 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled 4… view recipe
  • Whipped Ricotta Dip Whipped Ricotta Dip This simple but flavorful dip takes just minutes to make and is easily customizable. Add hot red pepper flakes or jarred Calabrian chiles for a bit of heat. Chopped brined olives (black or green) are good additions, too. Ingredients 1 cup whole milk ricotta 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed 2 teaspoons… view recipe
  • Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Fruit and Nuts Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Fruit and Nuts This is an attractive seasonal salad, one that can be adapted to what you have on hand. Substitute a firm pear for the apple (an Asian pear is especially good) or fresh orange juice for the lemon juice. Ingredients For the salad: 1 pound fresh brussels sprouts (about 4 cups) 1 medium crisp apple, such… view recipe
  • Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki) Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki) One of the most talented food writers I’ve known personally, David Rosengarten, published this terrific recipe in his book It’s All American Food. It’s a natural accompaniment to almost any protein—fish, chicken, pork, or beef. Ingredients 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes, such as Romas 2 loosely packed cups of whole flat-leaf parsley leaves 1 cup… view recipe
  • Easy Greek Bean Soup - Fasolada Easy Greek Bean Soup (Fasolada) According to ancient Greek mythology, Theseus promised Apollo olive branches and fresh fruit if he triumphed over the fearsome Minotaur. But stores of fresh food were nearly depleted during the return sail from Crete, forcing Theseus to offer this simple soup to the god. And it is fit for the gods! Ingredients 1/2 cup extra… view recipe
  • Sicilian-Style Grilled Swordfish Sicilian-Style Swordfish Known as “the doyenne of Italian cuisine,” Marcella Hazan recommends pricking the fish with the tines of a fork as a genius way of delivering the flavors of the sauce deep into the meat. This recipe was selected by the staff at Food and Wine as one of the magazine’s top 40 published recipes. The… view recipe
  • Baked Shrimp Risotto Baked Shrimp Risotto Traditional risotto demands that you be wed to the stove, stirring, stirring, stirring. This version frees you to be with family or friends. As for the shrimp, bathe them in extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook in a medium-hot skillet until the shrimp are opaque and form a “C” shape.… view recipe
  • Olive Oil and Kale Mashed Potatoes Olive Oil and Kale Mashed Potatoes Are you expecting a dairy-free guest? These rustic potatoes will “wow” them. And the final picturesque drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil makes the potatoes Instagram-worthy. Ingredients 2 pounds washed, unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces 4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as… view recipe
  • Glazed Pistachio Olive Oil Cake Glazed Pistachio Olive Oil Cake I love pistachios, and this is one for the books. Garnish with sugar-encrusted cranberries, if desired. Ingredients For the cake: Baking spray Almond flour, approximately 1/4 cup 1 1/2 cups lightly toasted salted pistachios, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/8 teaspoon table… view recipe

Quarter 3—Australian Harvest

Magic on Your Table: Introducing Three Ravishing, Harvest-Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oils From the Land Down Under

T.J. Robinson The Olive Oil Hunter
  • This trio of extra virgin olive oils from award-winning Australian producers is exceedingly food friendly and will partner beautifully with the meals you enjoy when the weather cools.
  • Personally selected by the Olive Oil Hunter, these exclusive oils have no equals on supermarket shelves: they are available nowhere else.

  • All have been rushed to the US by jet to preserve their aromas, flavors, and healthful qualities.
  • All have been certified by an independent lab to be 100 percent extra virgin olive oil.

Greetings—or should I say, “G’day, mate!”— from your Olive Oil Hunter, who has found three stunning Australian extra virgin olive oils from the current harvest for your fall table.

It was fantastic to be back in this vibrant, charismatic country. Its idiosyncrasies—and there are many—charm me. Aussie slang, for example, much of it derived from shortening English phrases: n’erries (no worries); brekkie (breakfast); cab sav (Cabernet Sauvignon).

Its unique wildlife—koalas, kangaroos, and egg-laying mammals like the echidna and platypus. Melbourne’s confounding road rules, including hook turns and P-turns.

I made my first trip to ’Straya in 2005. My motivation for traveling nearly halfway around the world—9,823 miles each way—was (and still is!) the freshness factor. Only in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are the antipodal opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere, could I find extra virgin olive oils this time of year that would satisfy my high standards.

Olives are a seasonal crop, harvested just once a year. Olives grown in the Northern Hemisphere still have months to go before they can be picked. That is why it’s such a joy to share—right now!—oils from Australia’s top producers. You’ll enjoy matching them to your favorite cool weather menus. (You’ll see my tasting notes and food pairing recommendations in the pages that follow.)

Melissa Wong and T. J. Robinson at the South Melbourne Market in Australia.
My longtime friend, the intercontinental foodie Melissa Wong (she’s lived in Canada, China, and Australia), graciously introduced me to one of her favorite markets, the South Melbourne Market. Established in 1867, the cavernous space houses dozens of small businesses selling everything from produce to cannelloni to dumplings. I love turning a shopping expedition into a sensory experience, inhaling the aromas of fresh vegetables and herbs, so many of which match up to the notes in fresh Australian olive oil.

Australian Olive Oil Surprises

Whenever I gift people with bottles of my fresh-pressed extra virgin olive oils, the recipients are often surprised to learn that Australia, aka “The Lucky Country,” produces “liquid gold.” But it wasn’t luck that enabled Australian olive oil producers (including the ones I collaborated with this quarter) to win nine gold and four silver awards at one of the most prestigious olive oil contests in the world, the annual New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC). They’re innovative, technically savvy, and above all, passionate.

While the modern olive oil industry in Oz is less than 30 years old, the country has a much longer history with olea europaea (the scientific name for olive trees). In the 1800s, Italian and Greek immigrants, the story goes, smuggled live olive cuttings in their neckties and the inseams of their trousers before they boarded ships. To their delight, the newcomers discovered southeastern Australia’s climactic temperament was similar to that of their homelands. (The country’s opposite latitudes, between 30° and 40°, are friendly to olives.) The oils the immigrants pressed were mostly for home use, as Australia’s European populace at that time preferred to cook with animal-based fats like lard.

Reunited and It Feels So Good

Because Australia produces just 1 percent of the world’s olive oil (nearly all of it—95 percent—qualifies as extra virgin), few Americans have tasted olive oils from this island continent. If you are new to the Club, know how delighted I am to introduce you to these extraordinary oils, produced by some of the most dedicated, detail-oriented producers I have met anywhere. If you are a veteran Club member, you know you’re in for a very pleasant experience!

Chef Kylie Kwong and T. J. Robinson at her restaurant in Eveleigh (Sydney, Australia)
As a trained chef, I have long admired celebrity chef Kylie Kwong. Kylie’s latest venture in the Sydney suburb of Eveleigh is a casual eatery that celebrates her Australian-Cantonese roots. (Kylie also founded the iconic restaurant Billy Kwong, named after her late father. It closed after 19 years so Kylie could focus on the new project.) She is an inspirational chef and has embraced the use of high-quality extra virgin olive oil in her artful and unique Asian dishes.

Featured in this quarter’s trio are oils from the award-winning Victorian groves of Oasis, Kyneton, and Leandro Ravetti. My Merry Band of Tasters and I, driven by my dear friend, Melissa Wong, traveled hundreds of miles in Melissa’s SUV to meet with the producers in person. I first became acquainted with Melissa, a consummate foodie, two decades ago at the Food Network studios in New York City. Today, Melissa lives in Melbourne. With her husband, Robert, she graciously hosted olive oil tastings for me and my team as well as marvelous dinners at her home. She never seemed to tire of squiring me to her favorite markets, cafes, and restaurants. Nearly too many to mention! As the founder of Australian specialty food purveyor AuLife and, more recently, The Good Soup Club, Melissa is well-connected to southeastern Australia’s thriving food culture. For years, she has been invaluable in helping me identify Oz’s best olive oil producers—my trusted “boots on the ground” whenever I need her assistance. (She did yeoman’s duty when travel was restricted.)

I was so happy to see everyone again and to put my own boots on the ground. (I recently invested in a pair of Tasmanian Blundstones—excellent for tramping in olive groves.)

T. J. Robinson and Annie Patterson in Australia
Olive oil producer Annie Paterson is one of the merriest women I know. Hilarity just seems to follow her, even into the posh “members only” ladies’ club where she treated us to an elegant lunch. My Merry Band of Tasters and I couldn’t contain our laughter when Annie described fending off marauding cockatoos (they damage her olive fruit) with a drone. I didn’t realize how very much I’d missed this vibrant woman until we were reunited.

One of the many high spots of our trip was getting together with Annie Paterson, the irrepressible proprietress of Nullamunjie. Dressed in her signature pink sweater and South Sea pearls, Annie hosted a luncheon for me and my Merry Band at the posh Alexandra Club in Melbourne. Annie’s oils have long been Club member favorites, but they were compromised this year by persistent rain and naughty cockatoos, which Annie chased away from her olive trees with a drone. Her telling of the bird story unleashed yet another round of laughter at our table. (We laugh a lot when we’re with Annie.)

Expand Your Taste Library

These sensational extra virgin olive oils will be honored guests at your table, enhancing cooler weather foods like pumpkin and other squashes, braised meats, fresh seafood, fall fruits, charcuterie platters, and more. Meals, from casual suppers to holiday dinners, will become even more festive. And talk about a conversation starter! As you taste, savor, and use these exquisite oils in your seasonal cooking, please remember the proud Aussie producers halfway around the world who helped me put them on your table.

Happy drizzling!

T. J. Robinson 
The Olive Oil Hunter®

This Quarter’s First Selection

  • Producer: Leandro Ravetti, Boort, Victoria, 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Picual
  • Flavor Profile: Mild
Leandro Ravetti, Boort, Victoria, 2022 Australia Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

As the late, great baseball player Yogi Berra would say, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I’m once again lunching, three years after my last visit, with olive oil
expert Leandro Ravetti in a brick-walled restaurant at the Federal Mills
complex, a very cool mixed-use industrial space (formerly a woolen mill) in the port city of Geelong, some 40 miles southwest of Melbourne. (Geelong, which is near Leandro’s office, is Victoria’s second largest city. It is pronounced “juh-long,” and was originally settled by the Wathaurong, a First Nations people.) Lined up in front of us are three sample bottles of this master miller’s finest extra virgin olive oils from the current harvest, his nominees this quarter for the Club, that if selected, will bear his name. We taste them individually, ritually inhaling their aromas; then “slurping” a small mouthful, a noisy, impolite process that involves drawing air into the mouth as if trying to cool a too-hot spoonful of soup (yes, we do this in public places); swallowing; and finally, evaluating the oil’s finish. Are its flavors fleeting or do they linger? (For more on how to properly taste olive oil, see below.)

The final test—and this is very important—is tasting the oil(s) with food. Leandro and I have both ordered a “power bowl” from the menu: a colorful, gluten-free mélange of roasted pumpkin, quinoa, fennel salad, hummus, and pepitas. (Find a recipe for Pumpkin Hummus on below.) For me, one oil “hit it out of the park,” to continue the baseball reference.

Drum roll, please: it was the Picual. And it was, in my opinion, the perfect candidate for the “mild” position in the Club’s third quarter trio. Leandro agreed.

Leandro Ravetti and T. J. Robinson together in, Boort, Victoria, Australia
Mutual respect has long been the foundation of my relationship with Leandro Ravetti, one of the world’s most renowned olive oil experts. Here, we are dining at “1915” in the popular Federal Mills complex in Geelong. Leandro’s fresh-pressed olive oils are in front of us, including the beguiling food-friendly Picual you’ve just received. It was delightful splashed on our entrees—roasted pumpkin bowls.

If you’re a veteran Club member, you’ll remember that Picual, whether on its own or fronting a blend, has generally occupied the “bold” slot in my global selections over the years. This cultivar’s Spanish progenitors might not recognize its Aussie kin. Though they share that desirable “tomato, tomato leaf” nuance prized by many olive oil lovers, the New World Picual Leandro’s been nurturing is more delicate than its Old World counterparts. In fact, I’ve pegged it as “mild” three years’ running.

I feel a bit proprietary toward the young trees that produced this lovely fruit; I was on site when some of them were planted back in 2015. For olive oil producers—any farmer, really—nearly every year brings its own challenges. This year, Leandro chuckled, snow fell early on Victoria’s Australian Alps, a region that attracts sports enthusiasts from around the globe. The backpackers he hired for the harvest couldn’t resist the fresh powder in the mountains, sometimes giving only an hour’s notice before leaving their jobs to ski or snowboard. On occasion, Leandro resorted to operating the farm’s harvester himself.

T. J. Robinson and Candice Raeside
Boisterous laughter seems to be part of the Aussie culture. Here, I share a light moment with Leandro’s colleague, Candice Raeside, nursery manager. We are surrounded by thousands of healthy-looking olive cuttings; they will take about 5 years to mature. Everyone on the farm, from Candice’s crew to the harvest and milling teams, is personally invested in the success of the oils, and they are so proud when they win prestigious international awards!

In hindsight, the timing of my first trip to Oz, in 2005, couldn’t have been better. The Australian Olive Association (AOA), which was founded in 1995 to resuscitate Australia’s olive industry, was just developing traction in its mission, even making introductions on my behalf to some of the country’s up-and-coming producers. Meanwhile, a passionate agricultural student with Italian roots was just finishing up his studies at the National University of Catamarca in Argentina. (That was Leandro, of course.) He did post-graduate work in Italy and Spain before returning to Argentina, where his accomplishments brought him to the attention of Modern Olives in Lara, Victoria. In 2001, Leandro became the technical director of the company, overseeing its olive tree nursery, laboratory, and budding relationships with Australia’s novice olive growers.

No one—least of all, Leandro, who is also an avid cook—could have predicted what an impact he would have on the world’s olive oil industry. Now a much sought-after expert who travels the globe, Leandro was instrumental in convincing producers to print “use by” dates on their oils. He has also railed against subjective marketing terms like “light” or “pure,” and championed some of the highest olive oil standards globally—standards that cannot be ignored by Old World producers. (My wife, Meghan, and I bumped into this intrepid world traveler at the airport when we were leaving Australia for home after a wonderful visit. He was headed to northern California—UC Davis—where he teaches milling and horticultural classes.)

When Leandro and I put our names on a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, you can be assured it’s very, very special. We can’t wait for you to taste this versatile oil on cooler-weather foods.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

This Picual is a mono-varietal native to Spain. It is so fragrant you’ll want to dab it behind your ears. You’ll inhale the essence of sun-ripened tomatoes, tomato leaf, fresh-cut grass, butter lettuce, celery, dried tropical fruits, warm baking spices, vanilla, Asian pear, and green peppercorns. On the palate, it continues to dazzle, invoking artichokes, fresh basil, tomatoes, and fennel. Presents just the right amounts of bitterness (walnut skins), spiciness (arugula), and bright notes (lime zest). With a peppery pinch, it bids you a lingering farewell, leaving you longing for another taste.

Exceptionally food friendly, this oil generated a tsunami of pairing suggestions from my tasters: scrambled eggs; granola; pizza and tomato-based pastas or salads; vinaigrettes; bruschetta; charcuterie platters; fresh or mild cheeses; yogurt; sweet potatoes (any potato, really); mild fin fish and shellfish; starches like rice, couscous, and bread; turkey and chicken; quick breads; and vanilla ice cream.

This Quarter’s Second Selection

  • Producer: Oasis Olives, Kialla, Victoria, Australia, 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Coratina
  • Flavor Profile: Medium
Oasis Olives, Kialla, Victoria, Australia, 2022 Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

With Zoom meetings behind us, I eagerly anticipated my reunion with Oasis owners John and Marjan Symington. I really missed being with them over the last two years, so it was especially exciting for me to be the “boots on the ground” at their expansive—and expanding—farm this year.

With Melissa Wong behind the wheel, my Merry Band of Tasters traversed the 117 miles north from bustling Melbourne to rural Kialla, population sub-7000. The area is the country’s sweet spot for olives with its warm summers, just enough rain, and (usually) mild winters. But when the Symingtons first bought their farm 12 years ago, I don’t think even they could have envisioned the amazing success that lay ahead. At the time, the property was somewhat ramshackle, the groves were a tangle of unkempt trees, and whatever irrigation system had been in place was in disarray.

The small Oasis team brought the trees back to stellar condition with strategic pruning and better irrigation. As longstanding Club members know, it took a mere two years for them to start winning accolades and coveted awards, with the most recent being Grand Prestige Gold at the 2022 Mediterranean International Olive Oil competition held in Jerusalem.

John and T. J. Robinson by the olive trees at Oasis Olives in Kialla, Victoria, Australia
In the field, John and I discussed what made this year’s Coratina olives so special—the longer-than-usual magic window for harvesting. Because the olives developed more slowly, John could be even more meticulous during both harvesting and pressing. John and Marjan are dear friends to a lot of people in the olive oil industry, sharing their knowledge, including the technical side surrounding the best machinery. After all, picking the olives is just the first step—you then have to know how to turn them into liquid gold.

Still, John, whose first career was in IT with its very predictable outcomes, will tell you his second career is far more challenging and also far more emotionally rewarding. You may do everything right, but Mother Nature could still have other plans for you! This year’s harvest, however, presented a happy surprise: The usually very short “magic window” for harvesting was rather long, allowing more time to be meticulous.

The Coratina stayed incredibly green throughout the harvest period, and I loved it so much that the Club selection I proudly present to you is a single varietal: 100 percent Coratina extra virgin olive oil. I asked John whether its extraordinary quality could be attributed to this year’s ideal weather or to his latest equipment upgrade, a new Amenduni mill from Italy. This is one of the most well-respected brands of milling equipment, yet the purchase came with some drama of its own—it had to be shipped in separate cargo containers, the second of which arrived with barely enough time to assemble and test it before the harvest!

“This season was certainly easier for quality than last year, as with colder temperatures, most of the olives stayed green right through to the end of the season,” John said. This was in contrast to last year, when the team had to struggle to keep up with extraordinarily rapid ripening. “The greener harvest was probably something of a reversion to more normal conditions we have had most years on the grove, though with climate change, who knows what ‘normal’ will be in the future?,” John mused.

Never content to sit back and relax, John and Marjan recently purchased the neighboring property. Like their first acquisition, it was in need of a lot of TLC. “The Picual, Leccino, and Arbequina responded well to the care, and we’ll get a reasonable crop next year,” John predicts. He’s adding more Hojiblanca, a Spanish varietal. “My favorite blend is Coratina, Frantoio, and Hojiblanca—we will be able to do that in the future,” said John. He’s also excited about adding another variety to the grove, Del Morocco, renowned for the quality of the fruit it bears. “The oil is really, really good, so I planted it here,” he told me. Stay tuned!

As we drove around the new section in John’s white Land Rover, I felt like we were on safari. I expected to see their flock of sheep—the farm’s 500 “workers” that prune the grass between the olive trees—but not the mobs of kangaroo, as large groups of the animals are called. More exotic still are the echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters—hedgehog lookalikes, but a totally different species of mammal that lays eggs.

Another unusual sight are massive dead trees that look like fantastic sculptures dotting the landscape. Australia doesn’t allow them to be removed because they create nesting places for birds. One was filled with crows, giving it a very stark, almost Hitchcock-esque appearance!

I continue to admire John and Marjan’s quest for perfection and appreciate that they always ask me to send them the trio of oils from the Club’s other quarterly selections. This gives them context and enables them to appreciate what other growers around the world are able to achieve.

John, Marjan, and T. J. Robinson enjoying a meal with fresh-pressed Australian olive oil
With glasses of Australian Shiraz in hand, John, Marjan, and I made a toast of gratitude and appreciation to you, Club members, for whom we pursue our passion—creating the ultimate olive oils. Our lunch reflected the Italian contingent Down Under: antipasto, bruschetta, calamari, and classic panzanella with bread, tomatoes, and onions, dressed in just-pressed olive oil. Like John, Marjan has immersed herself in the world of olive oil for more than a decade and graciously shares her knowledge as president of the Goulburn Strathbogie Olive Oil Association and as a designated associate of the international organization, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes.

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings 

You’ll love this beautiful oil pressed from Coratina olives. The nose is intoxicating. Expect hints of artichoke, green almond, green banana, wheatgrass, lime zest, fresh mint, thyme, and parsley. Take a sip. Notice the appealing bitterness of radicchio and celery leaves, baby spinach, hazelnuts, and the bright, citrusy zest of grapefruit. The finish, reminiscent of Sichuan peppercorns, is pleasantly long, with the astringency of green tea.

Pair this intriguing oil with hummus and other bean-centric dishes; fried eggs; artichokes; pesto; salads made of fall fruits and sturdy greens, such as pears, kale, and blue cheese; avocado toast; roasted root vegetables; risotto; “steak fish” like tuna, salmon, and swordfish; pork, veal, and beef; aged cheeses (plus goat cheese); dark chocolate; brownies; and peasant breads.

This Quarter’s Third Selection

  • Producer: Kyneton Olive Oil, Bylands Estate, Central Victoria, 2022
  • Olive Varieties: Frantoio, Correggiola, Coratina
  • Flavor Profile: Bold
Kyneton Olive Oil, Bylands Estate, Central Victoria, 2022 Fresh Pressed Olive Oil Label

“Making olive oil is not just about how much love and care you put into that fruit juice at pressing, but also about how much love and care you give to the trees all year long,” said Mick Labbozzetta, the general manager of Kyneton. Just an hour north of Melbourne, Kyneton has a storied history and expansive grove—I love combining their many varietals to create bold Australian olive oils for you.

I’ve worked with Mick and his team for a half-dozen years now, since his extended Calabrian-Sicilian-Australian family, notably his daughter Melissa and son-in-law Robert Inturrisi, acquired the Kyneton name and assets from the Trovatello family. (Longstanding Club members will remember how delightful their oils were, too, when I worked with them.)

I love Kyneton’s philosophy: “Australian made, Italian heritage.” That’s also a way of life in this area because the region has attracted a large number of Italian immigrants. Being here is like taking a mini field trip to Italy! There are so many producers of delicious Italian specialties—olive oil, cheeses, salumi, to name just three—and they thrive in part because of the vibrant Italian-Australian community.

Mick shared a wonderful example of unity from last year. Kyneton partnered with the award-winning That’s Amore Cheese to celebrate the olio nuovo, the first-pressed extra virgin olive oil harvested at the start of a season. The event included many food producers showcasing their products, making it a wonderful culinary celebration. Besides watching a live olive oil pressing (Kyneton set up a small mill!) and learning about extra virgin olive oil, attendees were able to bid on a charity auction of the first 20 liters of the olio nuovo. Mick was so proud that all the proceeds were donated to the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, prescient considered the Australian superstar’s passing this summer.

The farm’s secret weapon is the Italian master miller Davide Bruno, who travels from Liguria to work the harvest and stays afterward to set up the grove for the following year. Davide has a foot in each hemisphere, drawing on both Old World and New World methods and techniques. While he honors his Italian roots, he also believes in taking beneficial modern approaches. These include monitoring the olives at every stage of development, responding to the trees’ needs, and investing in farm-owned harvest and milling equipment, thereby minimizing the time between picking and pressing. He’s also been blessed with a unique sensibility that enables him to determine the optimum time for harvesting—for you, my dear Club members, that translates to maximizing flavor and health-promoting polyphenols.

Davide, Carmelo and T. J. Robinson in the olive groves at Kyneton Olive Oil, Bylands Estate, Central Victoria, Australia
In the field with Davide (center) and Carmelo, I want to celebrate the entire team of people who make it possible to create some of the finest olive oils in the world and share them with you. Carmelo handles the groves all year long while Davide focuses on the pressing and getting trees ready for the following year during his annual three-month sojourn from Italy. Behind us are lush palm trees and a dam—the ace up their sleeve that they can tap into when the weather is too dry.

I’m always mesmerized as I watch Davide at work. He continually follows each batch of olives through processing and rarely leaves the mill—when he does, it’s with a timer in hand so that he’ll never be away for more than precisely two minutes! At his side is Carmelo Tramontana, an Italian ex-pat from Calabria who has lived in Australia for a decade. By Carmelo’s calculations, this year’s harvest was twice the volume of last year’s, a season plagued by heavy rains—even trying to get the harvester through the grove had been a monumental challenge, as it kept getting stuck and required the farm’s excavator to pull it out. This year, there was “Goldilocks” rain—not too much and not too little. Kyneton’s harvest season lasted two and a half months, each day a labor-intensive 6 am to 8 pm (or as late as 10 pm), seven days a week. “You push and you push,” said Carmelo, because the time is finite.

It helps that there’s a decided method to counter the madness of an olive harvest, with the careful planning of varietals that are picked in succession. For instance, Frantoio and Correggiola, which form the essence of my bold selection for you, are pressed first. Then the team moves on to Coratina, whose vibrant green flavor added the perfect boldness to my blend. It was a reminder of the fact that many people still haven’t had the opportunity to experience the zest of an early-harvest fresh-pressed green oil or enjoy its powerful polyphenols. Know that I will continue to tantalize your taste buds with the most extraordinary extra virgin olive oils as I travel around the world with my Merry Band of Tasters!

Mick, T. J. Robinson and Francesco Gatto at the Umberto Expresso Bar.
A favorite part of every trip to Kyneton is sampling the delights at local restaurants and food shops. Each year, Mick loves to take me to a different friend’s establishment, and I love listening to him converse with the locals in Italian—here we are with his friend Francesco Gatto. This trip, the Umberto Espresso Bar made an indelible impression on my taste buds. I savored the breakfast sandwich of bacon and eggs on a perfectly crusty roll with tomato relish and fresh olive oil, and Umberto’s oversized almond croissant was a wonderful taste of France!

Impressions and Recommended Food Pairings

My tasters and I were blown away by this powerful Tuscan-style blend. On the nose, it’s green, grassy, and fruity. You’ll be reminded of arugula, endive, wild mint, and fresh chopped culinary herbs. There’s an undercurrent of nuttiness, too. Like walnuts. On the palate, it’s dynamite. Bold, but well-calibrated. This is what emerald green tastes like. Descriptors include artichoke, Swiss chard, walnuts and almonds, escarole, spearmint, and spicy green peppercorns. The finish is long.

Distinctly bold, this oil complements grilled, braised, and roasted meats like lamb, beef, and veal; roasted vegetables, like brussels sprouts and squash; fried peppers and eggs; focaccia; cold-weather soups and stews like cioppino and minestrone; Asian dishes; salads featuring bitter greens; and dark chocolate desserts.

Olive Oil and Health

Mediterranean Diet Significantly Reduces Depression

Reprinted from an article in Science Tech Daily, May 26, 2022

Young men with a poor diet saw a significant improvement in their symptoms of depression when they switched to a healthy Mediterranean diet, a new study shows.

Depression is a widespread mental health issue that affects roughly 300 million people globally each year. It is a substantial risk factor for suicide, the largest cause of mortality among young people. The 12-week randomized controlled trial, conducted by experts from the University of Technology Sydney, was recently published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

According to lead researcher Jessica Bayes, a Ph.D. candidate at the UTS Faculty of Health, the study was the first randomized clinical trial to examine the influence of a Mediterranean diet on depressive symptoms in young males (aged 18 to 25).

“We were surprised by how willing the young men were to take on a new diet,” Bayes said. “Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet were able to significantly change their original diets, under the guidance of a nutritionist, over a short time frame.”

“It suggests that medical doctors and psychologists should consider referring depressed young men to a nutritionist or dietitian as an important component of treating clinical depression,” she said.

The link between food and mood

The research contributes to the emerging subject of nutritional psychiatry, which seeks to investigate the impact of particular nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns on mental health. The study’s diet was rich in colorful vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, as well as oily fish, olive oil, and raw, unsalted nuts.

“The primary focus was on increasing diet quality with fresh whole foods while reducing the intake of ‘fast’ foods, sugar, and processed red meat,” Bayes said. “There are lots of reasons why scientifically we think food affects mood. For example, around 90 percent of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes. There is emerging evidence that these microbes can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis.”

“To have beneficial microbes, we need to feed them fiber, which is found in legumes, fruits, and vegetables,” she said.

Roughly 30 percent of depressed patients fail to adequately respond to standard treatments for major depressive disorder such as cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. “Nearly all our participants stayed with the program, and many were keen to continue the diet once the study ended, which shows how effective, tolerable, and worthwhile they found the intervention,” Bayes concluded.

Reference: Bayes J, Schloss J, Sibbritt D. The effect of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young males (the AMMEND study): a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022;116(2): 572-580. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqac106

Kudos from Club Members

This oil is insane!
WOW! Fantastic tasting oils like we’ve never had before. I gifted some to my son and his comment was “This oil is insane!”—meaning he was delighted. Just wanted to tell you what a fabulous product you have.
Christine S.Silverdale, WA


  • Ma'amoul (Date-Filled Cookies) Ma’amoul (Date-Filled Cookies) These buttery date-filled cookies featuring olive oil hail from the Middle East—potentially from ancient Egypt—and are an unexpected addition to holiday cookie trays. Ingredients 1/3 cup roasted, salted pistachio nuts, chopped 1/3 cup pitted whole dates, chopped 1/4 cup apricot spreadable fruit preserves or jam 1/2 teaspoon orange zest 1 cup white whole wheat flour… view recipe
  • Baby Bok Choy Baby Bok Choy Looking for a simple side dish for an Asian-influenced meal? We love baby bok choy. You could substitute rapini or broccoli florets if baby bok choy isn’t available. Ingredients 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 pound baby bok choy, stalks separated, washed and spun dry 1/4 cup fresh orange juice 2 tablespoons natural rice… view recipe
  • Baked Salmon with Basil and Garlic Baked Salmon with Basil and Garlic A quick romp in an olive oil-based marinade for as little as 30 minutes, a brief stint in a hot oven, and dinner is served! If desired, serve with the Braised Fennel and Lentils. Rice or couscous work well with the salmon, too. Ingredients 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, skin off Coarse salt (kosher or… view recipe
  • Zucchini Bolognese Zucchini Bolognese No, it’s not a typo. You really do cook zucchini for 4 hours for one of the most unctuous iterations of this vegetable we’ve ever encountered. The foodie website “delish” claims Meghan Markle shared this pasta dish with them before she married into the Royal family. Regardless, we were impressed when we made it for… view recipe
  • Pork Schnitzel Pork Schnitzel with Giardiniera Duck into almost any pub in Australia, and you’ll find schnitzel on the menu—chicken, beef, or pork. “Schnittys,” though nicked from European immigrants, are now one of Oz’s iconic foods. Giardiniera is a versatile Italian condiment that can be used as an antipasto or on eggs, sandwiches (a must-have on Italian beef), and even hot… view recipe
  • Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia) Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia) Melbourne, a sister city to Thessaloniki, is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece and Cyprus. It’s no wonder, then, that the local cuisine thrums with Hellenic influences. Ingredients 8 large lamb rib chops 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing and serving 6 cloves garlic, crushed with… view recipe
  • Prawn Tacos with Asian Slaw Prawn Tacos with Asian Slaw Nagi Maehashi is one of Australia’s most popular food bloggers. We were inspired by her recipe for tacos made with prawns, and paired them with one of our favorite Asian cabbage slaws featuring extra virgin olive oil. Ingredients For the prawns: 1 pound large prawns or shrimp, peeled (tails, too) Zest and juice of 1… view recipe
  • Roasted Cauliflower Soup Roasted Cauliflower Soup Silky and rich-tasting (though it contains no cream), this is one of our favorite fall soups. Ingredients 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for garnish Fine sea salt 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced1 quart… view recipe
  • Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki My wife, Meghan, and I often order souvlaki (both chicken and lamb) during our stays in Oz. We present it as an appetizer here, but it can easily become a main course—especially when served with a Greek salad and pita. Ingredients For the chicken and marinade: 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 2 cloves garlic,… view recipe
  • Turkish Shepard's Salad (Çoban Salatasi) Turkish Shepherd’s Salad (Çoban Salatasi) If you find dicing vegetables and chopping herbs relaxing, you’ll enjoy making this healthful salad. It makes a great accompaniment to grilled meats. Find sumac and Aleppo pepper online or at well-stocked spice stores. Ingredients 1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and diced 1 European (English) or 4 Persian cucumbers, diced 1 green or red pepper,… view recipe