New Harvest Olive Oils of 2023

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A great gift for any olive oil lover and a great way to celebrate Chanukah!

The story of the Enzo Olive Company begins back in 1914, when Vincenzo Ricchiuti immigrated from Puglia in Italy—home to the bread we know here at Zingerman’s as Paesano—to the U.S., ending up in the Central Valley of California. Back in his homeland, Vincenzo had been very adept at growing vegetables in his garden. Here, he figured out how to turn his passion into his profession by growing high-quality produce for a living. Four generations later, in 2008, the family added olives and olive oil to the business. We’ve been carrying their excellent Enzo olive oil for a few years now at the Deli. Made from Koroneiki olives, it’s so good that last year it made Food & Wine’s “Five Favorite New California Olive Oils” list. Earlier this month, the 2023 olio nuovo, the new harvest oil, arrived. As with all new harvest oils, the Enzo 2023 Extra Virgin New Harvest Oil is extra “peppery” because of the abundance of polyphenols that are present in high ratios right after the oils are pressed.

The second recent arrival is the 2023 Séka Hills New Harvest Oil from the Capay Valley region in northern California. The Séka Hills oil is part of the very positive, environmentally focused, work of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation near the town of Brooks, in the Central Valley of California, about an hour to the west of Sacramento. Through return and repurchase—of the same sort that Winona LaDuke has led at White Earth—the Tribe now has acquired many acres of farmland, much of it worked organically. The Yocha Dehe are growing Arbequina olives, from which this lovely oil is being made. It’s got a full, accessible flavor with a hint of green apple. The Séka Hills new harvest oil is exceptionally green in color, big in flavor, and fantastic. I like it on fresh ricotta (love that Bellwether Farms at the Creamery), on a City Goat from the Creamery, on toasted Paesano bread from the Bakehouse, or pretty much anything else you can think of.

One little-known note on new harvest olive oil. Although they never told me this in Hebrew school growing up, it became obvious to me in the years after we began working with great olive oils, that the Chanukah miracle is actually tied to the arrival of new harvest olive oil. Think about it—waiting for more “holy oil” to arrive at the Temple? What was given to the priests in every culture was always the first fruits of a harvest? What time of year is olive oil harvested (in the Northern Hemisphere)? What harvest happens around the same time as Chanukah? Add all these questions together and the obvious answer is that the Maccabees were waiting to bring the new harvest olive oil to the Temple to relight the Eternal Light with the “holy oil” we hear about it when the Chanukah story is told.