The winners for the 7th Annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition were announced last Thursday, April 14th by the Big Fresno Fair. The Fair holds this event as an opportunity to “judge quality California-produced olive oils.” The competition is open to all olive oil producers throughout California with products made from their most recent olive harvest, this time being from farmers’ 2021 harvest.
The show received a total of 69 entries from 25 different olive oil producers with entries falling under two categories. With ten classes in total, Extra Virgin Olive Oil or (EVOO) and Flavored Olive Oil were the two categories chosen from. Best of Show and Best of the Valley awards were handed out to the highest scoring Gold Medal winners of both categories. Silver medals were also awarded.
With 50 EVOO and 19 Flavored Olive Oil entries entered for judging, the committee had quite a bit to judge from. Deputy Manager II at The Big Fresno Fair, Stacey Rianda stated, “We could not be more pleased with the number of entries submitted by these amazing California olive oil producers – making this year’s entries tied for the most entries received since 2017!” She went on, “This year the competition saw new submissions by students at Fresno State and then our first San Diego County entry, Toothacre Ranch – with both producers winning Gold! It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to showcase these new and returning California-produced olive oils through this competition highlighting the incredible olive oil made right here in the State of California.”
According to the Fresno Fair, participants were evaluated and scored, with winners receiving Gold Medals and Silver Medals. For the highest quality gold medal winner overall, Best in Show was awarded, and to the oil that scored the highest throughout the San Joaquin Valley, Best of the Valley was awarded.
Top prizes of the event are as follows:
Best of Show: EVOO – Tres Osos, Taggiasca (Carmel Valley)
Flavored Olive Oil – Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Habanero (Lodi)
Best of Valley: Coldani Olive Ranch’s Calivirgin Habanero (Lodi)
Locally, ENZO’s Table, a 4th Generation Family Farm, had olive oil’s that placed high in multiple categories. Their Extra Virgin Olive Oils Bold, Medium, and Delicate Spanish Singles and Other Single received Silver Medals. For Flavored Olive Oils, ENZO’s Organic Basil Crush and Organic Fresno Chili Crush received Silver Medals for the Herbal and Pepper categories, while their Organic Clementine Crush was awarded a Gold Medal.
ENZO’s Table, a subsidiary of PR Farms has been competing in the Fresno Fair’s competition since its inauguration as well as other olive oil competitions up and down California including the State Fair and the LA County Fair, according to Vincent Ricchiuti, co-founder of ENZO Olive Oil and COO of PR-Farms.. According to Ricchiuti, he and his company want to make a great product and something that they can be proud of. On being an award winning olive oil producer, Ricchiuti explains, “Whenever you can win an award, that backs up the amount of effort that you’re putting into making a high quality product, and it’s reassuring.”
On the total competition at the Fresno Fair, Ricchiuti reminds, “California is blessed to have amazing producers up and down the state where they are with the craft to make a great extra virgin olive oil or flavored olive oil. So knowing that there were so many entrants into the competition, with ENZO’s getting such high praise, it makes you feel really good.” With ENZO’s receiving such acclamation, it gratifies the amount of work Ricchiuti and his family put into their business. “It’s great that the Fresno Fair provides this competition, it’s a great way for our area to be introduced to brands up and down the state to have coverage and exposure,” said Ricchiuti.
Fresno State’s Miller’s Blend, competing as the only entrant for Fresno State at the Fresno Fair won a gold medal for their Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spanish Blend. In speaking with Orchard Manager Robert Willmott of Fresno State, he plans to have multiple other olive oils, both Extra Virgin and Flavored competing at next year’s competition. “Right now we have a Citrus, a Garlic, and we also have a Basil. And I hope to try getting those in next year, I was just unable to do so this year.”
Willmott, Orchard Manager for nine years, was especially proud of Fresno State to be considered an award winning olive oil producer. “I feel very fortunate that everyone liked our oil. This is our first year that we’ve been able to send in to the competition.” He continued, “I just feel great that we got it in [Miller’s Blend], and made it on time and that it was a great product.” Willmott states that Fresno State’s field is one of the first high density fields in California. This creates a better product in his eyes as he credits the overall team for creating the award winning Miller’s Blend.
Overall, the competition from other entries to the olive oil competition saw multiple awards from Spanish to Italian Blends throughout both the Extra Virgin and Flavored Olive oils. California, especially the heart of the state, here in the Valley, proves time and time again that its produce seems to be extra fulfilling to consumers, whether it be through products from companies such as ENZO’s Table, or schools like Fresno State.
The Fresno Fair looks ahead to the 8th Annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil Competition next year.