Oregon winemakers use festival to promote its olive oil

By on November 14, 2014
Paul Durant grows olives in Oregon's Dundee Hills.

Paul Durant is working to make Oregon’s Dundee Hills famous for something besides Pinot Noir with his family’s Oregon Olive Mill. (Photo courtesy of Red Ridge Farms)

DAYTON, Ore. — Paul Durant successfully champions the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium, but he’s also building a following for the Pacific Northwest Cool Climate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Conference.

The Dundee Hills’ reputation for world-class Pinot Noir has been established for decades, but the Durant family is pushing for olive oil to earn a reputation beyond the state’s boundaries. They operate Red Ridge Farms, which features Durant Vineyards and the Oregon Olive Mill, fed by 17 acres of olive trees planted among the family’s 120 acres.

“We host this conference as a way to expand knowledge of cool-climate olive growing in Oregon and beyond,” Durant said in a news release. “We are thrilled with the panelists we have this year, and are looking forward to hosting this event for many years to come.”

The Oregon Olive Mill is home to the Pacific Northwest’s lone estate olioteca and is the first certified modern milling operation in Oregon. It was founded in 2008 by the Durant family with five generations of working their land.

The second annual conference will be staged Feb. 28-March 1 at the Dundee Hills farm, which includes acclaimed Domaine Drouhin-Oregon as a neighbor. Two weeks later, Durant and fellow winemaker Erica Landon spearhead the Oregon Chardonnay Symposium on March 14 at nearby Stoller Family Estate.

Fall busy for harvesting grapes, olives

Oregon Olive Mill dundee hills

Olives grown in Oregon’s Dundee Hills are harvested each fall. (Photo courtesy of Red Ridge Farms)

Autumn is a remarkably busy time of year for Durant. Olive oil gets milled during the same time of year as wineries go through crush, so the Oregon Olive Mill times its annual Olio Nuovo Festa with the weekend prior to Thanksgiving.

This year, the festival runs Nov. 21-23, which provides visitors with the first opportunity to taste and purchase freshly milled olive oil. Olio Nuovo Festa also serves as a way to begin promoting the 2015 Pacific Northwest Cool Climate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Conference, which features a panel of olive oil and food experts for technical and consumer-focused sessions, and the weekend culminates with a grand finale dinner.

Last year’s inaugural conference gathered more than 100 attendees and experts for sessions in EVOO cultivation, sensory analysis and a grand finale dinner by famed Portland chef Vitaly Paley. The family recently published a booklet of recipes and interviews from the 2014 conference panelists, which is now available for $5 at the Red Ridge Farms gift shop and online at http://goo.gl/PR9MqP.

Panelists for the conference include Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil; Dan Flynn, executive director of the University of California-Davis Olive Oil Center; Jim Dixon, editor of Real Good Food; Michael Pierce of Saturna Olive Consortium in Vancouver, British Columbia; naturopathic physician Antonella Aguilera-Ruiz; Fabio Bellini, olive oil sommelier; and Durant, master miller at his family’s olive mill.

Libby Clow, Oregon Olive Mill program ambassador, will moderate. The March 1 dinner will be prepared by James Beard Award nominee Cathy Whims, chef/owner of Nostrana in Portland.

Tickets are $75 per day, $100 for the Sunday dinner only or $200 for the full weekend. They can be purchased online.

To celebrate the conference and 2014 milling season, Oregon Olive Mill is staging a social media contest  Nov. 23. Participants simply upload a photo of your favorite way to use EVOO.

Grand prize is a weekend getaway to Red Ridge Farms, including lodging and a pair of tickets to the 2015 conference. Winners will be selected based on the number of votes their entries receive.

About Great Northwest Wine

Articles authored by Great Northwest Wine are co-authored by Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue. In most cases, these are wine reviews that are judged blind by the Great Northwest Wine tasting panel.

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