When my husband and I took our trip to Napa Valley in April we had a very fun experience: olive oil tasting at Round Pond Estate. They grow and press their own olives to make a variety of oils. They also make two red wine vinegars using their own grapes.
After a quick tour of the oil-pressing equipment, we sat down to this intriguing array of plates and dishes:
I was very curious to know what the sugar cubes were for!
In the blue cups were four different olive oils, and in the white dish on the right were 3 infused oils. We learned how professionals taste olive oil. First you stick your nose deep in the cup and take a big sniff. Then you take a little sip and inhale quickly to suck it across your tongue to the back of your throat. If it irritates your throat (or even makes you cough), that’s a sign of a high-quality olive oil!
It turns out the sugar cubes were for tasting the red wine vinegar. You pour some vinegar over the sugar cube, then quickly pick it up and suck the vinegar out before it disintegrates. The sugar helps takes some of the sharpness out of the vinegar so you can taste the underlying flavors better.
After the more formal tasting, we were given two plates of food and a bowl of salad greens and had free time to experiment with the different oils and vinegars to see how they affect the flavors of the food. It was really fun!
All in all, a great break from wine tasting and a very fun experience.
I made a wonderful vinaigrette with the Blood Orange Olive Oil. I served it drizzled over fresh, wild halibut and tossed it with asparagus. Fabulous! It was also good as a traditional salad dressing.
Blood Orange Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar or bowl. Shake or whisk until combined. Taste, and add more sherry vinegar or salt and pepper, if necessary.