Eleven years ago when we decided to plant 30 acres of the farm with something, the obvious choice was grapes. My family had grown grapes in Yolo and Napa counties since 1870 and my mother and brother are currently growing grapes in Sonoma County at Tobylane Vineyards. The soils and Mediterranean climate were perfect, the experts assured me of the future success of the vineyard. So naturally I decided to grow olives. The property the olives are planted on is destined to become a permanent open space and I could think of nothing more permanent (or more beautiful) than olives.
The first step was to decide what style of oil to make. The vast majority of oil produced in California is made from Spanish varieties. Either the old growth canning olives (Mission and Sevillano) now converted to oil production or the modern varieties of Arbequina and Arbosana grown in high densities on a large scale. Both styles produce mellow more buttery oil, soft in flavor. There are currently 50,000 acres planted to this style in California.
As a small producer, it made no sense to compete on their style of oil so I kept looking. The most interesting oil on the market to me were the Tuscan blends. These oils tend to be more pungent and peppery and, in my mind, more interesting. It was suggested that I consider growing an orchard using a single variety. After much research and tasting of varietal oils we decided on the Frantoio (Fran-toy-ō) variety and then planted Frantoio Grove in 2005.
Although I had always been fascinated by my grandmother’s stories about her grandfather’s farm near Davis in Yolo County, I had only recently discovered that he grew olives. Since olives live for hundreds of years, I thought it would be great to see the trees. We took a trip to the farmhouse and there next to the house was one of the grandest groves of olives I have seen in this country. These are the trees pictured for this website.
It is with more than a little pride that we revive a family tradition started by Hugh M. LaRue in 1867 in Davis, Yolo County California.
Jeff & Pam