The Napa Valley Olive Oil Competition, produced by Celebrate Napa Valley, marked its ninth year this May. Best of Show awards went to Fandango Olive Oil‘s “Elegante” Organic Arbequina, Grgich Hills Estate‘s Organic Extra Virgin olive oil and Dry Creek Olive Co.‘s co-milled Persian Lime olive oil.
The competition brings together the farming community in the Napa Valley and educates everyday consumers about the importance of quality olive oil and its many uses.
The competition is divided into micro-producers, larger producers, co-milled, and infused oils. The winning olive oils were showcased in Calistoga, California, during the County Fair & Fiesta held May 3-5 at the Napa County Fairgrounds.
Like all agricultural ventures, the 2018 vintage brought its own set of challenges.
“Our fellow California growers experienced an unusual heat spike during flowering and fruit set,” said Carolyn Shaffer, proprietor of Fandango Olive Oil. “We mitigated Mother Nature’s whims by moving up our deficit watering program. Our total focus was on quality not quantity and we are so pleased with the results.”
“2018 was a tough year for olive oil in California, but despite the challenges some of our producers made truly exceptional oils,” said Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, who serves as Head Judge of the competition. “We had many beautifully crafted oils that are sure to delight discerning consumers.”
As the competition works to spread more public awareness of olive oil, consumers are picking up on trends.
“One wonderful trend I see is the public’s increased awareness in the benefits (both health and taste) of purchasing and using high-quality, California produced olive oil,” said Mary Louise Bucher, master miller of Dry Creek Olive Oil Co. “While the American palate seems to still be working its way up toward the more pungent and bold oils, there is an overall appreciation for the diversity of flavors produced throughout the state.”
The luxury foods space continues to grow as American consumers demand higher quality foods, according to competition organizers, adding that “this growing focus on health and wellness has opened up an opportunity for premium producers to educate a curious audience on high-quality olive oil.”
“The No. 1 question we personally have been asked lately concerns polyphenols, the antioxidant component of olive oil,” says Carolyn Shaffer of Fandango. “Polyphenols appear to be the new buzzword for those consumers committed to a wellness lifestyle. Thus, we believe the trend you will see is more and more growers focusing on the health-related education of the public.”