For the love of olives
DON “THE OLIVE GUY” LANDIS shares his love for olives during the annual Olive Odyssey, a free Olive Season event at Jacuzzi Family Winery this weekend.
There’s something about olives that brings people together – a fact proven time and time again throughout history. Not only a symbol of peace, the olive branch was a mark of celebration during the ancient Olympic games, where olive wreaths picked from the temple of Zeus were presented to athletes. Even in death, olives were a point of connection – King Tut was entombed with olives and olive oils, said to assist his transition to the other side, in 1323 BC.
It is that sense of community, that unusual bond found over olives that drew Don “The Olive Guy” Landis to the salty fruit. It began as a hobby, but transformed into a passion he’s compelled to share at a string of olive curing workshops he’s hosted – at no cost – throughout the years of the Olive Season, the three-month celebration of Sonoma’s “other crop.”
“I take a lot of joy in it, I just love talking olives,” said Landis, who by day works as a refrigeration technician. He said, for him, it’s all about paying it forward.
“What goes around comes around,” he said. “It all really started with Professor George York from UC Davis.”
York, a noted chemist, was a leader of the university’s Department of Food Science and Technology, with a special focus on olives. When Landis was starting out, he contacted the expert to ask for advice, not really expecting a response.
“He was so open to sharing,” Landis said, explaining that for years he worked with the professor to perfect his olives at home. “That’s the reason why I started sharing what I know and not charging for it, it was inspired by Professor York.”
Working with Jacuzzi Winery and the Olive Press, Landis will share his love of olives with the Olive Odyssey, a two-day olive event. It takes place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16 and 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jacuzzi, 24724 Arnold Drive – and, true to Landis form, there is no cost to attend.
“Come experience the olive in many different ways – all of your senses will be stimulated,” Landis promised.
In the main courtyard, olive producers will share their wares, showcasing a variety of curing techniques. Catherine Venturini, of Olive and Vine in Sonoma, will create a sampling of olive-infused small bites, while Costeaux Bakery will sell loaves of olive bread. The barrel room will spotlight artists who use olives as their muse. Dr. Louise Ferguson, with the UC Davis Olive Center, will be on hand both days to answer questions and share her expertise on growing olive trees.
“You can quench your thirst for olive knowledge,” Landis said.
Over at the Olive Press, the full array of olive products will be available, from olive oil ice cream to hand lotions. Attendees can see how olives are pressed into oils during tours beginning at 2 p.m. And, of course, Jacuzzi Family Winery will be offering tastes and a 15 percent discount for olive enthusiasts.
“People who want to drink wine will have a really good time as well,” Landis promised.
If it’s wine you seek, the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance’s VinOlivo has got you covered. To mark the Olive Season’s Grand Finale weekend, Valley wineries are coming together for a mixture of wine events with an olive twist.
Friday’s Grand Tasting at the Lodge of Sonoma, 1325 Broadway, marks its eighth year of showcasing a wide swath of the Valley’s top wineries and food purveyors during the Olive Season. More than 60 wineries will be pouring, with around two-dozen winemakers set to attend to share their knowledge. Then there’s the sparkling Bubble Room.
“In Sonoma Valley, there are 15 wineries that produce a sparkling wine – 12 of those wineries will be pouring in the Bubble Room at the Grand Tasting,” said Maureen Cottingham, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance. “Wine Country Party and Events décor will help transpose the Stone Building and tent at the Lodge at Sonoma to a beautiful, romantic evening for all attendees,” she added.
And then there’s the food. About 25 restaurants and caterers will share samples of their culinary creations, many of which bring an olive theme. Chefs such as Andrew Cain of Santé and Peter Smith of Carneros Bistro will be on hand to talk food. The event may have sold out by the time this story publishes, but if not, $85 tickets can be purchased at the door.
From Saturday through Monday, wine lovers can tour dozens of Valley wineries with the Ticket to Sonoma Valley event. Passes can be purchased for just one day ($25) or all three days ($50), and offer insider access to the winemakers and wineries, some of which rarely open to the public. Each winery is coordinating its special events, ranging from winery tours at Annadel, Buena Vista and Clarbec to food parings at Tin Barn and Spann Vineyards.
Finally, the VinOlivo weekend includes winemaker dinners on Saturday, nearly all of which have already sold out. Cottingham said, after selling out, Keating Wine’s dinner by Bruce Riezenman of Park Avenue Catering and Park 121 Restaurant increased its capacity, so a handful of spots are available for $85.
Proceeds from the weekend’s events help fund the SVVGA’s marketing, which spreads the word about Sonoma Valley wines. For tickets, or more information, visit sonomavalleywine.com or call 935-0803, ext. 1.
For those who want to stay home this weekend but still get in on the action, the VinOlivo online auction will be accepting bids through Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. Most lots feature wine, with a few weekend getaways sprinkled in as well. See what’s available at biddingforgood.com/VinOlivoWeekend.