Frantoio Grove Olive Oil from Northern California

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Regenerative and rhapsodic!

From San Martin in Central America to another town of the same name in Central California. There, about half an hour south of San Jose, the fifth and sixth generations of the Martin family are crafting some of this country’s most delicious olive oil. It’s produced using regenerative farming techniques, and its flavor is beyond terrific. 

The Martins are not new to the land—the family began growing grapes on the farm all the way back in the 1870. The olive oil is a more modern piece of their work. The Frantoio Grove olives were planted 19 years ago by Jeff (the fifth generation) and Pam Martin. Regarding the exploration I wrote about above, they dove deep into a single varietal—the Frantoio, the classic olive of the region of Tuscany. They put in about 3500 trees that first year. As is the way with olive trees, it took a good five years to get oil—2010 was the first meaningful pressing. For many years they grew organically, and then a few years ago, as Patrick (the 6th generation) says, the family made the decision to raise the quality of the oil and their care for the land further by taking 

A deep dive into regenerative ag—reducing macronutrient application to nearly zero, focused on balancing our micronutrients, and developed a biologically intensive management regime. … Our research into Regenerative methods led us to the Regenerative Organic Alliance, who just issued final approval on our regenerative organic certification. We are the only olive grove + mill like this in the world so far and we are very excited about the program. We’ll be releasing our flagship oil shortly which will feature the ROC mark. Our goal is to build resilient ecosystems on the farm and produce robust, high polyphenol oil that is wildly expressive but also low on the bitterness and astringency that comes from stressed trees and this year early in our harvest we realized we had exceeded even our own expectations.

I’d say with certainty that the Martins have absolutely hit their mark. Frantoio Grove olive oil is totally terrific. Like listening to music on an exceptional sound system, it’s really remarkable—everything about it seems clearer, cleaner, more coherent, and very compelling. It’s intensely green and peppery, but somehow in an especially balanced and surprisingly gentle way. A little nuttiness with lots of low notes to go with the beautiful bitterness that comes with early harvests like this. It has hints of green apple, and I’ve also heard it described as having notes of persimmon and pistachio. Whatever descriptors you decide to use, the oil is exceptional and special. 

Great on salads, bruschetta, or the Tuscan way, on a just-off-the-grill steak (rare, is how they would cook it there). I’m an advocate for it on a simple spaghetti (Rustichella or Mancini) with nothing more than oil, garlic if you like, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and some grated sheep milk Pecorino or, alternatively, a bunch of creamy fresh ricotta.