Ode to Olive (Oil)
While olive oil tastings are nothing new, there is quite a buzz surrounding the brand-new Long Meadow Ranch tasting room in St. Helena. The expansive property also includes a rambling organic “wine flavor” garden and nursery (seeds and plants available for purchase) and the latest Napa “it” spot, Farmstead restaurant. The culinary compound is a showcase for proprietor Ted Hall’s Long Meadow Ranch, which produces a bounty of organic fruits and vegetables, poultry, artisan meats, wine and olive oil. “Growing organic produce and sustainably raised beef and poultry has nothing to do with red, blue or green politics,” says Hall, “but everything to do with creating the highest-quality product at the lowest cost.”

And he is happy to offer proof. Most of the items on the menu at Farmstead are from LMR, and the wine-and-olive-oil tasting room is open seven days a week. If you’re planning to head up to St. Helena anytime soon, use these notes on olive oil tasting to impress your friends.

Depending on the type of olive, a tasting might elicit these common descriptors: freshly mowed grass, skin of Granny Smith, green zebra tomato, hay or nosegay. A bottle with oil from yet a different type of olive might have a nuance of alfalfa, banana or the husk of a walnut.

Next step for sounding like an expert is the ability to detect flaws. Here’s a primer, direct from LMR (

Fusty: a muddy, slightly sweet smell, which is the result of olives starting to ferment prior to processing (usually because they were held at the mill beforehand).
Musty: smells associated with mold or mildew on the olives.
Winey: a wine-like smell, from harvest contamination.
Vinegary: a vinegar-like smell, probably from damage while on the tree.
Rancid: wet cardboard smell, from the chemical breakdown of the oil’s hydrocarbon molecule due to heat, light or mechanical action.

Toast of Tahoe!
Truckee River Winery, which claims to be the state’s highest and coldest winery, is open for tastings. Here in a cozy red cottage on Brockway Road in Truckee, visitors can sample winemaker Russ Jones’ handcrafted wines in front of a crackling woodstove when it’s cold or at a picnic
table overlooking the Carson Range on a sunny day.

No password needed! 
Next time you’re in Healdsburg, stop by Prohibition Speakeasy Wine Club. The new Roaring Twenties–style wine bar features a secret entrance, hard-to-find wines, wine cocktails and special brews.

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.