The International Olive Council recently granted accreditation to UC Davis’ olive oil tasting panel — making it the first in North America with the authority to certify the quality of olive oil, according to council standards.
Only 57 tasting panels worldwide are so accredited.
“UC Davis wants to do for olive oil what the university did for wine,” said Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center within the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. “This certification is a giant step in that direction.”
The UC Davis olive oil sensory panel comprises 19 members and 12 apprentices.
In evaluating oil from producers, retailers and importers, the panel provides descriptive analyses of the oils’ attributes and certifies oils that are free of defects, which is necessary to be rated as “extra virgin’” olive oil.
The panel also conducts research on the sensory characteristics of olive oil.
“We hope that the panel’s research will provide sound analysis of olive oil produced in California and, eventually, lead to the identification of a hallmark California style of extra virgin olive oil,” Flynn said.
The Olive Center formed its tasting panel after screening and training potential members, in a process led by Jean-Xavier Guinard, a sensory scientist and professor in UC Davis’ Department of Food Science and Technology; Paul Vossen, a Cooperative Extension farm adviser who is an expert in olive oil processing and sensory analysis; and the California Olive Oil Council.
First-ever President's Blend hits the shelves
The Olive Center's first-ever President's Blend oil arrived at the campus bookstore on Dec. 13, just in time for holiday gift giving.
The "president" in this case is UC President Mark G. Yudof, who joined a tasting panel that selected the blend. Dan Flynn, the Olive Center's executive director, described the blend as medium-bodied with a balance of grassy and nutty flavors — and "with a bit of a spicy kick."
Olive Center personnel plan a Dec. 16 field trip to UC headquarters in Oakland to unveil the President's Blend.
Yudof took part in the tasting panel on Sept. 30, a day when he came to UC Davis to tour the university's new winery, brewery and food science laboratory at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The Olive Center is another part of the institute.
With the President's Blend, Yudof is celebrating great California olive oil and the Olive Center's progress in advancing olive research and education in North America, Flynn said.
The extra virgin olive oil is from freshly harvested Arbequina and Italian varietals donated by the California Olive Ranch of Oroville and Saltonstall Estate Olive Oil of Petaluma, as well as the Teichert construction company, which has property with olive trees.
The Olive Center has more in the works for 2011, including the first Wolfskill oil in three years. Flynn made the announcement from the Winters area, while harvesting olives at the university's Wolfskill orchard experiment station.
The Wolfskill oil is due out in the spring, along with the Olive Center's Gunrock and Silo blends, Flynn said.
The President's Blend is $12 per 250-mililiter bottle, at the bookstore and online. Here are the bookstore hours (and closure dates) for the remainder of winter break: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday through Dec. 23 and Dec. 28-29; closed Dec. 24-27 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1; and noon-5 p.m. Jan. 2.
Earlier coverage, including a photo slide show: "Yudof gets a taste of what UC Davis can do with olives," Dateline UC Davis, Oct. 8, 2010
Wednesday Night Wine Flight: Jan. 5
The Wednesday Night Wine Flight series is celebrating its two-year anniversary on Jan. 5.
Wednesday Night Wine Flights are scheduled the first Wednesday of every month, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Gunrock Pub, on the south side of the Silo. The pub and the Cal Aggie Alumni Association’s Vintage Aggies Wine Club are the sponsors.
"We are paying homage to our first-ever tasting with a repeat of the popular 'Red Wine and Chocolate,'" said Robin Clement, marketing and project specialist for Sodexo, the company that runs the Gunrock Pub and most other Davis campus food services except the Coffee House.
"This is the perfect time of year to shut out the cold, snuggle up inside, and wind down the evening with some seriously good wine and decadent sweet chocolate!"
Admission is $10, and no reservations are needed.
Clement also announced the themes for the February and March events:
• Feb. 2 — "Get to Know Joel Gott Wines" — Described by Clement as "one of the hottest California labels right now, bar none!"
• March 2 — "Crew Wine Co." — Winemaker Dan Cederquist, a UC Davis vitriculture and enology alumnus (1987) is a partner in the Yolo County winery with founders John and Lane Guguiere.
Sweet wines symposium
Registration has opened for the Robert Mondavi Institute's World View Symposium on sweet dessert and dried fruit wines.
Organizers said experts from around the world will discuss the varying techniques of achieving the concentrated sugar content that distinguishes sweet wines. Those techniques include partial drying, freezing, botrytis and late harvesting.
The program also includes a discussion of the economics of production costs and technologies, and how to enter niche markets.
Participants also will have the opportunity to learn more about the university's new Teaching and Research Winery.
The cost is $125 for the general public, and $95 for Friends of the RMI, and UC Davis staff, faculty and students.
More at the RMI
• Women, Wine and Chocolate — Ann Noble, professor emeritus of vitivulture and enology, leads this guided tasting of wine and chocolate, coupled with conversation with three leading female winemakers: Tondi Bolkan of Rubicon Estates, Kathy Joseph of Fiddlehead Cellars and Melissa Stackhouse of Jackson Family Wines. Women, Wine and Chocolate is scheduled two days before Valentine's Day — and men are welcome, the organizers said. $55 general public, $45 for Friends of the RMI, and UC Davis staff, faculty and students; $65 day of the event. 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, Sensory Theatre. Registration and more information.
• Cheese Loves Beer III — With Bamforth and Moshe Rosenberg, professor and specialist, dairy engineering and technology. Saturday, March 5, time to be determined, Sensory Theatre. Registration is not yet open for this event. Look for updated information on the RMI website, or contact Kim Bannister, (530) 752-5171 or email@example.com.