In the lush, picturesque wine-producing Dundee Hills southwest of Portland, there’s a new kid in town.
Well, not so new.
This is Durant Vineyards and Olive Oil Mill. The Vineyard has been here for 50 years, but the olives are relatively new to Durant and Oregon in general.
“We also really got into growing olive trees about 20 years ago. And we’re really one of the first in the valley to grow trees here in Oregon,” said owner Paul Durant. “It’s really just been in really the last probably ten years that things have really taken off for us in terms of growing the trees.”
And of course, the trees produce olives. And from the olives come olive oil.
“So in 2008, we built a small olive mill and started producing our own oil,” Durant said.
Once the olives had been harvested, the effort to turn them into olive oil begins.
“You’ve done the harvest and now you kind of get to reap the fruits of your labor, so to speak, and really transform this beautiful crop, ancient crop — olives — into this really wonderful product, you know, that we all know and love this extra virgin olive oil,” Durant said.
The public is invited to Durant Farms to observe the milling process, which takes place through the month of November.
“We’re open to the public seven days a week. If we’re milling, you’ll come on by. We’re happy to show it to you. Taste a little bit of oil off the end of the mill. It’s such a unique product,” Durant said.
This is a new industry in Oregon and not many people have seen how olive oil is extracted from the olive.
“When you bring in the olives, it’s a fairly simple, straightforward process. You get the olives nice and clean, then you grind them up into what we call a paste. And then you put them into a tank and you slowly turn that paste and the oil starts to separate from the solids ,” Durant said.
“We’re turning that and it separates out and then we go through a series of centrifuges where we separate the solids using kind of the differential densities and centrifugal force to skim off the solids and separate oil and water. And then we remove the water at the very last step,” he added.
The public is invited to come in and observe the whole process in a month-long celebration.
“It really culminates in the month of November where we are celebrating the new oil — Olio Nuovo,” Durant said. “I was taught by an Italian miller from Rome, came over and worked with us for a couple of years and he said, ‘Paul, in Italy, Olio Nuovo is the best thing ever and it’s a celebration. And so you should really embrace that as a celebration of the harvest and let people come and taste this incredible, unique product,” Durant said.
“I think what the real fascination is is that flavor because it’s very vibrant. The new oil starts a little bit of that olive particulate in it. So the viscosity’s different, so it tends to be a little thicker than an oil you would buy off the grocery store shelf. And then the flavor is incredibly vibrant and the color is just a bright, beautiful green,” Durant said.
If you are looking for a fun fall trip to a beautiful part of our state, this just might be the ticket.
“We do these free tours throughout the month of November, so we really try and brace the public to come out complimentary tastings of the new oil as well as well as they are the other oils we make here throughout the year,” Durant said.