Thursday, November 30, 2006


I've arrived at the olive ranch. The ranch is on a road called Vineyard Drive, which indicates the nature of Joeli's neighbors. This is about 20 miles in from the Central Coast of California, with countryside that resembles (so I'm told) Tuscany's. That would make perfect sense since Pasolivo's oil rivals some of the best oils I've tasted from Tuscany.

Vineyard Drive winds. Twists and turns hold hills that hide two-thirds of the grapevines that predominate; but even with only a third of them showing, vines, vines, and more vines hide the half a dozen deer that stare at me as I search for Willow Creek Olive Ranch. After turning onto the ranch, driving over a concrete bridge, driving up a long, long road that hugs a dropoff, driving back down that road because I encountered an empty house, and finally seeing what I take to be the right house, I walk up it not sure what to expect, hearing the loud whir of machinery coming from the brightly lit tasting room house only dozens of yards away.

After receiving a big hug from Joeli, I walk in and find Robbie and Sarah, friends of the family from Chicago, Matt, a worldwide award-winning brewer for Firestone Walker brewery, James, a wine maker, and eventually Josh, Joeli's husband, and Rich, jokingly referred to as Joeli's other husband during the harvest season (the two people who run the olive mill's machinery). The coffee table has cheese and snacks; the dress and language is super casual, inviting camaraderie; 2-4 bottles of wine are open (yum) as well as a scotch whisky Robbie bought on a trip to London that was super yum. Some butternut squash soup made an appearance and was consumed quickly with murmurs of "This is so good" after Joeli drizzled a meandering creek of Pasolivo Lime olive oil over the top. The night was off to a great start.