Blog Post By Tessa Henry, Clif Family Farm Manager
The grape harvest gets most of the attention in the Napa Valley. But just after the grapes are resting in the cellars and the vineyard and winery crews are getting a much-needed break, the olives are ready for their turn.
Clif Family’s olive groves are located on our organic Clif Family Farm, just below the Howell Mountain ridgeline. Set among vineyards, fruit orchard and mixed vegetable row crops, our olives encompass 4 acres of over 400 trees. They are our second largest crop after our wine grapes.
Making olive oil began as a family affair for Gary and Kit. Each year they would gather their family members, harvest the olives and then hand mill and bottle them. The family would each take a share of the small production home with them. As the farm has grown and we have planted more olive trees, this isn’t practical anymore. But Gary and Kit are always there on the first day of harvest lending a hand.
Our olive trees are a mix of Italian and Greek varieties including Arbequina, Koroneiki, Manzanillo, Frantoio and some established Mission trees. We make just one field blend, harvesting all of our olives at the same time.
The 2019 olive harvest was a celebratory one at Clif Family. It was a record-breaking year, yielding just shy of 10,000 pounds of olives. A heavy fruit set demanded extra protection from olive fruit fly, our most challenging pest. In organic farming, using more than one technique to control a pest is often necessary. With a combination of setting traps, baiting, and lightly coating the fruit with a white clay, we had a crop with little to no damage. Even our chickens have a part to play as they eat up fruit fly larvae while grazing under the trees in the winter.
Months of hard-working farmers, happy chickens, summer sunshine and a little luck all contributed to the beautiful field blend of our 2019 Estate Grown Olive Oil.
Try these recipes using our Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Chef John McConnell: