Olive oil tourism in California is growing

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The state produces 99 percent of the extra-virgin olive oil in the United States and 4 percent globally, according to the California Olive Oil Council, a trade association. Many artisan labels are within a few hours’ drive of San Francisco and have recently opened their estates to the public.

The founders of the six-year-old brand Grove 45 in Napa Valley, Nena Talcott and Bonnie Storm, started private tours this year that they lead together. Guests stroll the groves, learn about the different olive trees and taste the oil in dishes at lunch. (Tours, offered through October, are $200 for two and arranged by emailing info@grove45.com.) Also in Napa Valley, Round Pond Estate has small group tours of its orchards and olive mill. Sampling the nine kinds of oils it makes with foods like homegrown vegetables and learning how to use them at home are highlights of the 90-minute excursion. The cost is $65 a person.

Seka Hills in the Capay Valley, two hours northeast of San Francisco and run by the Indian tribe Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, has three oil varieties and shows guests how they are made. The tours include an oil sampling, a visit to the mill where the olives are pressed and bottled, and a stroll through the 82-acre orchards. (Tours are free and arranged through the company’s website.)

Seeing the orchards and olive mill are part of the two-hour group tours at the family-run McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, but guests also learn the techniques used to grow trees for the oil the company makes. (Tours are $35, by appointment, and can be arranged through the McEvoy website.) The hilltop Trattore Farms in Geysersville, in Sonoma County, has a 90-minute “Get Your Boots Dirty” group tour: Visitors learn how the 1,500 olive trees are sustainably grown, attend a session on making oils and can try the dozen oils the company produces (including one flavored with Persian lime). The cost is $40 a person.

The tours are worth adding to a travel itinerary, says Curtis Cord, publisher of the online Olive Oil Times. “The smaller producers in California are creating beautiful oils in exceptionally picturesque settings so you get double appreciation from every one you visit,” he said.

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