Olive Harvest Begins at Long Meadow Ranch
With Blessing of The Olives
January 2001, Napa Valley, CA
The annual olive harvest has begun in earnest at Long Meadow Ranch with the blessing of the olives and the new olive oil by Father John Brenkle, pastor of Saint Helena Catholic Church. On a cold, misty morning, Father Brenkle conducted a brief ceremony for staff, family, and friends gathered in the warmth of the entry hall of Long Meadow Ranch’s awarding winning rammed- earth winery building.
Olives will continue to be harvested from the Ranch’s 120 year-old historic orchards over the next three weeks. Now in their fourth harvest, the restored orchards provide the fruit for the ultra premium estate olive oil, Prato Lungo, which means Long Meadow in Italian. Acclaimed by noted international olive-oil authority, Anne Dolamore, as California’s Best Olive Oil, Prato Lungo, is one of just eight oils in the world to earn Dolamore’s Top Recommendation. The Prato Lungo achieves a nearly unheard of acidity of .055 percent. Acidity of 1.0 percent or less is criteria used to establish the "extra virgin" distinction. "One of the keys to making extraordinary olive oil is the capability to press the olives within a few hours of picking. We preserve the freshness of the fruit by processing immediately with our state-of-the-art Pireralsi equipment right here on the Ranch," said owner Ted Hall.
"We are particularly excited by the prospect of tasting the oil from two of our orchards that have not been harvested in probably at least 100 years," Hall added. "The fruit from these orchards is yet another unidentified variety." Long Meadow Ranch has been working to restore the historic orchards discovered hidden in the dense second growth forest on the Ranch’s hillsides. In conjunction with American and Spanish experts, the Halls are working to identify the origin of the trees that probably came to California as cuttings aboard ships around the Horn. Although the olives are clearly oil producing cultivars, even DNA testing has not yet revealed their origin. The two most recently restored sites are producing a commercial olive crop for the first time since before the turn of the last century.
A crew of eight workers begins each day at sunrise and works until dusk using ladders to reach the 12- to 14- foot high trees. The olives are gently removed by hand from the trees using a "milking action" and are allowed to drop onto tarps carefully arranged under the trees. The crew also works with the aid of Italian-made pneumatically driven "hands" on six to eight foot wands that are connected to an air compressor mounted on a tractor. Once on the tarps, the olives are then gathered into lug boxes and taken to a sorting table where leaves, twigs, and imperfect fruit are removed. The olives are deposited in white bins (the same ones used to harvest grapes) and are taken to the "frantoio" or olive pressing room in the winery building. The world-class Pieralisi olive-oil equipment at Long Meadow Ranch features a traditional 8-ton Italian granite olive crusher and the latest two-phase horizontal decanting system.
Olive oil maker, Mike McDaniel, has mastered the state-of the art Italian-made equipment after four years of processing at Long Meadow Ranch. A former cellar worker with at Newton Vineyards and a former coffee roaster, McDaniel has a finely developed palate and the experience to operate one of the very few newly- constructed olive oil facilities in the United States. "The fruit coming from our orchards this year is in beautiful condition. The first oil out of the press shows that this will be an outstanding year," said McDaniel.
At the blessing ceremony, owner Ted Hall welcomed the guests to the "first annual" event and introduced Father Brenkle. Following a short scripture reading and traditional prayers, Father Brenkle blessed the olive fruit and the new oil. In his homily Father Brenkle described the major role of olive oil in the Catholic liturgy and its use in four of the Church’s sacraments.
Prato Lungo is only one of the many products created by owners, Ted and Laddie Hall at the roughly 600-acre Long Meadow Ranch. The property, known as Long Meadow Ranch since the turn of the century, was an original "patent grant" ranch signed over by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. Having been home to a variety of uses during its long history, Long Meadow Ranch continues to grow and prosper through the Halls’ stewardship. In addition to restoration of the olive groves, new vineyard plantings, wine and oil making, Appaloosa horse breeding, organic vegetable gardening and egg production, the Halls’ activities have been expanded with the recent purchase of America’s premiere herd of Highland cattle. In 18-24 months, this highly prized beef - also raised by Britain’s royal family - will be available in the Napa Valley.
"At Long Meadow Ranch, we set out to achieve excellence through responsible farming. World-class products can be produced using simple sustainable farming methods," says Ted Hall. "We have developed an integrated farming system that relies on each part of the Ranch contributing to the health of the whole - we make our own fertilizers on the Ranch through an extensive composting operation that relies on each segment of the Ranch. Soil erosion is controlled and new soils are built through the use of permanent cover crops of indigenous grasses, clovers and legumes." Long Meadow Ranch does not use herbicides or pesticides and its products are organically grown and produced in accordance with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990.
Prato Lungo is available in a limited supply for $45, plus $5 including shipping and handling, per 500 ml. bottle from Long Meadow Ranch Winery through the website at www.longmeadowranch.com or by calling toll-free to 877-NAPA-OIL (877-627-2645).
Contact: Monty J. Sander