Italian Roots and California Terroir

Olive oil isn’t the first product that comes to mind  when  one  thinks of Napa Valley. But the grape and the olive have a symbiotic relationship, found growing together in regions around the world and complementing each other in culinary circles. That’s part of the reason why Jamie Anzalone was drawn to the olive industry. He’s spent 20 years as a culinarian and wine professional, and his natural inclination to those industries may be deeper than academic. His family roots include an olive and almond producer in Sicily, a fact that Jamie finds inspirational. He proclaims, “My Sicilian side inspires it and the German side engineers it.”

Anzalone’s paternal family immigrated to the US from Sicily in the late 1800s and settled in New York to become became grape farmers and later restauranteurs. A century later, Jamie moved to Napa Valley to study food and wine at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. He then began building an olive oil business and eventually owned two retail locations in wine country, selling olive oil and olive-related products. Times changed, and his business model adapted, and he’s now transitioned out of retail and moved into a direct-to-consumer business.

olive oil pic

He got into the olive industry by offering to harvest olives where he found them, and in return for the olives he kept, the landowners received fresh-pressed olive oil. Through word of mouth, the business has grown such that he is now the one being contacted to manage the harvest and pressing for olive grove owners. He brings in a trained crew to  handpick the olives. He initially used the “raking” and tarp method but found that nothing compared to the quality of handpicked olives. Once harvested, he transports the olives to a mill to where they are pressed and then he oversees the bottling. He keeps his negotiated percentage of the bounty as payment and returns a small portion to the landowner, who receives the benefit of cleaned olive groves and fresh-pressed extra-virgin olive oil each year. With his years of expertise, Anzalone has become a sought-after consultant to oversee olive cultivation throughout the growing season too.

Going forward, Anzalone’s  Olive Oil will be primarily sold direct-to-consumer except  for sales at select specialty retail shops, such as Oakville Grocery in Oakville, California, and Cal- Mart in Calistoga, California. He’s also in works to expand his offerings. Currently available, the olive oils infused with Meyer lemon, blood orange, and lime are made by pressing the fruit in the olive press with the olives, which imparts a fresh, vibrant, and natural flavor. Anzalone’s Olive Oil also offers balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, Italy, and is infused with fig, blackberry, and strawberry flavors. The culinary lineup also includes applewood smoked and truffle flavored sea salts, smoked almonds with sea salt, and rosemary-infused and garlic-infused olive oils.

Anzalone’s products are available online, at specialty shops, local food and wine events and farmers markets. Anzalone Olive Oil is also served at several of Napa’s premium restaurants such as Perry Langs in Yountville and Angele on Napa’s Riverfront.



Article By: Layne Randolph