A cast of characters in Sonoma town have
fallen under the drupes’ spell, growing and
curing them and pressing them into oils,
including Don “the Olive King” Landis.
Refrigeration technician by day and olive
Merlin by night, Landis leads workshops
for interested folk who want to learn how to
de-bitter the famed local drupe. “It’s a nasty
trick to entice someone to taste an olive off
the tree,” he says. “To make a table olive,
you gotta beat them up to make them edible.
Harvest time is any where from four to six
weeks after maturity (which falls usually
in August or September) to just before they
drop off the trees, depending on the recipe
and plan for the olive.
produce high-quality oils with clear stan-
dards and labeling.
The town of Sonoma, in particular, has
a long history with the olive; trees were
planted at the local mission circa 1823.
Today the area’s artisan producers sing
the praises of the fruit and its oil each winter in an extended annual Sonoma Valley
Olive Season festival. After the grapes are
harvested and the vines are ablaze with a
golden hue, the farming community turns
its attention to a second harvest, continuing the celebration of the area’s agricultural
roots. Some olive growers may commence
harvesting as early as November, depending on Mother Nature, and it can last
“No other fruit is harvested over such a
Interested parties can also see the olives being
wide spectrum of time,” he adds. “People har-
vest according to color, and that makes for the
different textures in the final product.”
Several Sonoma wineries grow olives and
welcome visitors to wander through their
groves and experience the harvest, in which
old-fashioned methods, like using rakes to
pull down olives from the trees, are employed.
pressed and taste the spoils of the hard work
at Jacuzzi Family Winery, an olive mecca and
the location of The Olive Press.
Fun for Everyone
“In 1996, The Olive Press was the first company
to bring a community press to Sonoma Valley,”