I guess no one should be surprised that there is a gourmet olive oil company in Sonoma County but if you haven’t been to Figone’s of California Olive Oil Company in Kenwood than you are in for a very pleasant surprise. This Tuscan family tradition goes back to the turn of the 20th Century. Yes, it was over 100 years ago, in 1907, that Egildo Franceshci left his family behind in his hometown of Lucca, Tuscany to come to America seeking a new life. Among the few possessions he brought along (don’t let the Department of Agriculture know) was an olive tree sapling. Egildo made his way to California and the San Joaquin Valley.
- Egildo Franceschi and Family
Making a long story (very much worth investigating on your own at www.figoneoliveoil.com
) a little bit shorter, Liana Giovannini Figone (Egildo’s grand-daughter) and her husband Aldo Figone planted a grove of Mission and Manzanillo olive trees in honor of her grandfather. (Liana’s family cook book is available at the store and online.) Their three sons helped with the grove but Frank, who was nine when his family planted their grove, really was taken with the process and eventually took over the family grove of Mission and Manzanillo and added several Tuscan varieties now totalling over 4000 trees.
Frank is a leader in California’s Olive Oil industry with new ideas in diversified (interplanting grapes and olives) farming for example. Even more interesting is his knowledge and recommendations about traveling to northern Italy, but I digress. We tasted many of the blended and infused olive oils available at the inviting tasting bar at the retail store at 9580 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. The hands down favorite was the traditional Tuscan Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil but the Meyer Lemon Infusion, for its zestiness, and the Truffle Mushroom Olive Oil, for its strong flavor, also got raves.
Frank, to our good fortune, was behind the bar during our visit and had cooking tips for using the oils as well as family stories and a guided tour of the tasting room. After we mentioned that we would be in the Piemonte, Veneto, Liguria and Lombardia this fall, Frank proceeded to dazzle us with recommendations for restaurants, hotels and wineries through those northern Italian regions.
Frank Figone - Owner (L.Compisi)
Frank also makes aged balsamic vinegar including 20 year traditional as well as 20 year fig and raspberry balsamic vinegar.
The store is surrounded by vineyards which by itself makes the location enticing. The parking lot is marked by a beautiful grove of tall redwoods providing shade for a picnic with your favorite bottle of wine from a local winery and of course bread and olive oil. Inside there are tributes to Egildo and the family traditions he brought to California.
If you are a local Sonoma County resident consider the special Olive Oil refill program. Buy a liter bottle filled with your favorite extra virgin olive oil and the following month bring it back for a refill of the same or something different. A great way to keep fresh (and local) olive oil in your pantry year round. If you are not a local, of course, the La Visione Club is available with 4 shipments a year.
Finally, Frank offers the opportunity to make your own olives into olive oil. All you have to do is bring your olives to the tasting room or their crush facility in Glen Ellen during November and December and you’re on your way.
For us, this was the total wine country olive oil experience. Great olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the Tuscan and Modena tradition by a man who is passionate about all things Italian.
Gusti molto buoni e grandi!! Ciao.