Twenty years ago we planted our first baby olive trees, and all year long we'll be celebrating and reflecting on our hopeful beginnings.
In the coming months, see photos from our archives, hear about the early days from our staff and marvel, just as we do, at the extraordinary vision of Nan Tucker McEvoy.
As the story goes, it all began with a book given to Nan by her son Nion - The Feast of the Olive by Maggie Klein of Oliveto Café and Restaurant. Inspired by the book, Nan embarked on a fateful trip to Tuscany, intent on bringing olive trees home with her. Nan had taken cooking classes from Lorenza di Medici and Marcella Hazen at the Badia di Coltibuono winery; there she met with John Meis who translated the initial conversations with her future consultant, Maurizio Castelli.
Dr. Maurizio Castelli, one of Italy's foremost experts on both olive oil and wine, was considerably lukewarm to the idea of helping Nan pick out an olive tree. Sensing his apprehension, when asked how many trees she wanted to begin with, Nan said, "how about 1,000 to start."
Needless to say, Nan got Maurizio's attention, and three days later, as we're told, he was on the ranch. Once there, he stuck his hand in the ground, smelled the dirt and pronounced that this was a very good place indeed to plant olive trees!
Coincidentally, many others claimed the exact opposite about Nan's property, advising that it was unsuitable for growing olives, but with Maurizio behind her, Nan determined to carry on.
Twenty years ago, the first 1000 baby olive trees landed in California on a Lufthansa flight, but got held up in customs until Nan demanded their release. And in February 1991, Nan and Maurizio, with the help of a crew that included our current Master Oil Maker, Jose Chavez, and our current Nursery Foreman, Guillermo Ramirez, set about planting our first orchards.
By propagating the original trees, including those used in our signature Traditional blend (Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Leccio del Corno, Maurino and Coratina) and by expanding our varietals to over 20 different types, our trees now number over 18,000.
The rest, as they say, is history.