UC Davis olive oils normally come out just before spring. And, indeed, that is when the 2008 bottling is scheduled for release, featuring oils named after university landmarks (Wolfskill Ranch, for example) and the school mascot (Gunrock).
But this year’s harvest, still under way, is proving so plentiful -- an estimated 44 percent larger than last year -- that there were enough olives for an early bottling of what in the business is called a “new oil.”
“The olives literally go right from the tree to the mill (for pressing) to the bottle,” said Katie Hetrick, communications manager for Buildings and Grounds, the campus unit that runs the award-winning olive oil operation, now entering its third season.
Other olive oils, like the UC Davis blends due for release at a public celebration in March, are allowed “a period of rest” after milling and before bottling, Hetrick explained. During this rest, she said, the flavors “settle down a little.”
“New oil,” on the other hand, goes from tree to table in a hurry, offering the freshest, most powerful flavors. The olives for UC Davis’ “new oil” -- called Olio Nuovo, which is Italian for new oil -- came off the campus’s historic European trees Nov. 1. Within hours, the olives had been pressed, and the oil poured into bottles, unfiltered.
Olio Nuovo “has a vivid golden green color that echoes the intensity of its flavor and freshness,” according to the UC Davis olive oil Web site. It describes the blend -- from Manzanillo, Picual, Rubra and Koroneiki olives -- as “wonderfully peppery with an assertive grassy aroma.”
Hetrick said the “new oil” flavor and aroma will not last forever. Which is why the Web site reminds buyers: “To ensure you experience Olio Nuovo at its peak, we recommend lavish use during the holidays and enjoyment before the end of January 2008.”
Nor will the supply last forever: Olio Nuovo is a limited edition of 500 bottles. The oil is set to go on sale Dec. 5 at the campus bookstore. Advance reservations are being taken through Dec. 3 by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 375-milliliter bottles come in gift boxes with red ribbon and an olive branch made of silk -- perfect for holiday giving, said Hetrick, who designed the packaging. The cost is $25 per bottle.
Meanwhile, the olive harvest continues, and the Wolfskill and Gunrock varieities and one other oil are due for launch at a public party March 19 at the Silo Café & Pub.
Dan Flynn, olive oil manager, said he hopes to see total production of 650 gallons of olive oil from the 2007 harvest -- enough to fill 10,000 bottles. Last year’s harvest produced about 450 gallons, for 7,000 bottles.
The Olio Nuovo is designated a 2007 olive oil, based on the year of bottling, whereas the blends yet to come from this year’s harvest will be 2008 oils, because that is when they will be bottled.
The forthcoming oils have a tough act to follow. The UC Davis olive oils from the first two years of production earned three gold medals, two silvers and a bronze at the Los Angeles County Fair’s prestigious international olive oil competition.
On the Net: oliveoil.ucdavis.edu
Previous Dateline coverage of the UC Davis olive oil operation: