In the hills surrounding Paso Robles, seemingly every prized lot is devoted to wine production, but Karen Guth charted a different path. 18 years ago, she purchased part of film director King Vidor’s estate and began keeping cows, but eventually switched to olives after an inspiring trip to Italy. It’s been 11 years since she first started pressing the olives, and since then, she’s carved a niche with the Pasolivo brand and on-site tasting room.
We gradually worked our way around the tasting room, which also offers pours of Villacana wines. Pasolivo offers free tastes of every product, so we grabbed a complimentary bag of fresh-cut baguette and filled our tiny papers cups with different olive oils.
California Extra Virgin Olive Oil is bright green and fruity, includes Mission and Manzanillo olives and is designed for salad dressings or fish. The suggested pairing was their Dukkah Seasoning, a blend of nuts and spices that was okay but unnecessary.
Pasolivo Extra Virgin Olive Oil was slightly darker green, had and a spicier finish, and combined Tuscan varietals like Frantoio, Leccino, Lucca, Moraiolo and Pendolino. This olive oil is designed for tomatoes, pastas or steak. Pasolivo’s suggested pairing was black lava salt, flinty crystals from Cyprus. This combination was a bold winner.
Pasolivo Olio Nuovo had an identical blend to the Pasolivo Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but carried a more aggressive flavor that eventually subsides after several months. Their suggested uses were for beef stew, tomato sauce or roasted turkey.
My favorite olive oil of the day was Olio Segreto, a single tree oil originally diagnosed as Kalamata. It turns out the olive was an unknown varietal. Thus the Segreto (secret) tag. This bold oil is recommended with toasted bread, garlic and sea salt; or tossed with pasta and spicy herbs. Speaking of Spicy Italian Herbs, they were aromatic and included oregano, thyme, sage and chile peppers.
At the next counter, Pasolivo featured extra virgin olive oils flavored with peels from tangerines, limes, lemons and citrus.
They even had Olive Oil Jam – green and black – which were both compelling combinations of sweet and salty. A Pasolivo employee suggested Manchego.
Of course Pasolivo sold several different jars of stuffed olives: Martini Style, Feta Cheese, Garlic, Blue Cheese, Sun Dried Tomato. They were sampling Martini Style olives, soaked in dry vermouth, with a good back bite.
I’ve been to olive oil stores in downtown Paso Robles and Pasadena, and while they both featured larger varieties, there’s no substitution for sampling premium olives at the source.
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December 30, 2009 at 6:06 PM
interestingly, at the foodbuzz olive oil tasting seminar, they told us to avoid using bread–instead taste it like wine tasting–swirl, smell, sip, gurgle..etc 🙂
December 30, 2009 at 6:11 PM
Uh-oh, conflicting advice. Interesting. Unadulterated oil couldn’t possibly experience conflicting flavors, so that might be the way to go. At Pasolivo, pairing olive oil with bread and salt worked well, and so did adding spicy Italian herbs, but the dukkah seasoning definitely overwhelmed my palate.