In a vibrant showcase of California’s olive oil excellence, the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) recently hosted its first in-person Annual Member Meeting since 2019. This event, drawing together the crème de la crème of the industry, including leaders like UC Davis Olive Center Executive Director Javier Fernandez Salvador and President of the American Olive Oil Producers Association (AOOPA) Kimberly Houlding, signified more than a rendezvous of minds; it was a testament to the burgeoning landscape of California’s extra virgin olive oil industry.

The conference, held in Clovis, California, spanned two days filled with critical updates on regulations, research, and marketing efforts that are shaping the future of extra virgin olive oil production in the state. However, it was the announcement of the winners of the 16th Annual Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition that captured the attendees’ anticipation.

The competition, an esteemed event celebrating the pinnacle of olive oil production, highlights the dedication of California’s producers to crafting exceptional extra virgin olive oil. This year, focusing exclusively on extra virgin olive oils from the 2023 harvest season, the competition drew entries from across the state, each showcasing the unique terroir and varietal characteristics that define Californian olive oil.

Emerging as the Best of Show was The Ranch at Birch Creek for its Italian Blend, a testament to the quality and exceptional flavor profile that can be achieved through meticulous cultivation and production processes. Other notable accolades included Best in Class awards, distributed across various categories such as Italian Blends, Spanish Single Varietals, and Other Blends, highlighting the diversity and excellence within the industry.

Gold and Silver medals were awarded to dozens of producers, underscoring the high standards and competitive nature of the Californian olive oil landscape. From the delicate and nuanced to the robust and vibrant, these award-winning olive oils represent the pinnacle of what California has to offer.

The COOC Board of Directors, in extending congratulations to all the winners, underscored the dedication of COOC members to adhere to best practices in olive oil production. This commitment is not only to quality but to fostering a sustainable and innovative industry that continues to push the boundaries of excellence.

The support for 100% California-certified extra virgin olive oil, both from consumers and retailers, speaks volumes about the evolving palate and growing appreciation for high-quality olive oil. It also reflects a broader trend towards locally sourced, sustainably produced artisanal food products.

California, with its unique climate and passionate producers, is at the forefront of this shift. The state’s olive oil industry, though relatively young compared to its European counterparts, is making a mark on the global stage through its commitment to quality, innovation, and sustainability.

As the COOC celebrates this year’s competition winners, the event is more than an award ceremony; it’s a reflection of the industry’s vibrant future. With ongoing research, regulatory updates, and marketing efforts aimed at educating consumers and supporting producers, California’s extra virgin olive oil industry is poised for continued growth and success.

Interested individuals are encouraged to explore the vast array of award-winning olive oils and to support the talented producers behind them by visiting the COOC website and following their social media platforms. This not only aids in promoting local agriculture but also in elevating the culinary experience offered by high-quality, artisanal extra virgin olive oil.