Ann Sievers wears many hats. While her former life had her feet firmly planted in the health care industry taking care of patients, she now plants her hands and feet in the olive groves, citrus trees and vegetable gardens that she oversees in Suisun Valley.
When asked her official title at Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company, Sievers replied with a smile, “I consider myself a grower, miller, weeder, chef and fork lift driver.” “She loves driving the fork lift,” added husband Mark.
The couple have been making olive oil for 10-11 years in Fairfield, California. They bought the property and planted 2,000 olive trees eight years ago. Growing 13 different olive varieties, the trees range from Italian, Greek, French and Spanish. Ten Mission olive trees grace the front entrance of Il Firoello in a nod to California’s adaptation of the olive, developed by Spanish Missions along the El Camino Real during the late 1700’s.
Not one to stray far from her Italian heritage, Ann Fiorello Sievers named the olive oil company Il Fiorello, translating to little flower in Italian, named after the tiny white blossoms on an olive tree.
Beyond bread and salad
Living in Northern California, I’ve gone wine tasting on numerous occasions, but olive oil tasting was new for me. It turns out that I had a lot to learn about this liquid gold.
“We give people suggestions on how to use olive oil beyond bread and salad,” says Ann. “I want people to make sure they are buying certified extra virgin olive oil in California.”
How to taste olive oil
Unlike swirl, sniff and spit, olive oil watch words are color, mouth feel and taste.
Warm a small tumbler of extra virgin olive oil (evoo) with the heat from your hand, cover the container with your hand and then release the aroma – smell the beautiful aroma.
Swirl and spray the evoo in your mouth.
Taste the flavor – assess the oil.
The aroma, bitterness and pungency should be balanced. Il Fiorello includes harvest and mill dates on their bottles. Depending on the variety, most olive oils are at their peak when they are young. The family-owned company also makes balsamic vinegars – in this case, the more aged the vinegar, the better.
The company offers oil tasting flights (for a fee) and full tasting flights of olive oils, balsamic vinegars and wines (for a fee) in the visitor center. Additionally, Il Firoello Olive Oil Company offers cooking classes. I attended the pasta making class with Executive Chef Marvin Martin and left with a full tummy and inspiring recipes that even the non-cook (that’s me) can re-create. Check the website for details.
Olive oil is a fruit juice; the fresher the better. This product is meant to be enjoyed when it is young and fresh. Store your olive oil in a dark bottle in a cool pantry, away from sunlight. Remember, heat and sunlight are the enemies of olive oil.
Have you gone olive oil tasting in Suisun Valley or anywhere else? Do you prefer a blended olive oil or single varietal?
For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and Il Fiorello @ilfiorello.
If You Go:
Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company (707) 864-1529
2625 Mankas Corner Road
Fairfield, California 94534
Article written by, photos and video courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. Il Fiorello sign and bottom photo courtesy Jane Reid. Disclosure: I was a guest of Il Fiorello’s cooking class. All opinions are my own.