by Dan Clarke
Feeling that California offered great educational prospects for their four sons, Angelo and Santa Bariani relocated their family from Lombardy to California in 1989. After a year they bought a house with a little acreage southeast of downtown Sacramento. Sebastian, youngest of of Angleo and Santa's four sons, says that the first fall the family spent in their new home they noticed that trees on the property were producing olives—an apparently unexpected development. His mother urged that they take advantage of the situation, so Angelo built their first crusher and press. They produced 125 gallons of olive oil that first year—enough for an Italian family's own use, but not really a commercial quantity. In 1993 there was a bit more production and they began to sell some oil at farmers markets. “And by 1994 we basically figured it was going to be our business,” Sebastian explained.
Soon they purchased an adjacent 11-acre parcel and planted Manzanillo olive trees to complement the Missions on their home ranch. Their oil was well received and the business showed steady, if not spectacular, progress. In 1997 they bought 130-acres near Zamora in Yolo County, where they planted both Missions and Manzanillos. The family completed the planting of another 50-acre orchard on a recently acquired parcel just before the harvest of 2014 was to begin.
Eldest son Luigi, now 49, lives in Germany, but returns each fall to help with the harvest. Angelo and Santa are working full time in the family business, as are their sons Enrico, Emanuele and Sebastian.
Coming from a culture steeped in olive oil—at least figuratively, if not literally—the Barianis considered planting Italian varieties, but Sebastian says, “We're in California. It didn't make sense to plant Italian varieties.” The Mission is the olive originally brought to California by the Franciscan missionaries in the 18th Century. Manzanillos also have a Spanish origin, but came to California via Mexico, according to Sebastian, who believes “the Manzanillo gives a different flavor here than when grown in Spain.”
Sebastian said that most Bariani olive oil, which is bottled with a white label, is made from a mixture of “green” and “black”olives.” The company also produces a limited quantity, green label bottling of oil made from not-quite-ripe (green) olives picked early in the season. Such olives yield less oil, but provide a more intense, grassy flavor appropriate for use on salads or drizzled on vegetables or bruschetta.
Might giving some of his oil a “reserve” designation as is sometimes done with wine be a way to accommodate customers eager to pay more for what they perceive as higher quality, we asked? “The quality of the white and green labels is the same, the only difference is the flavor profile,” Sebastian Bariani responded. “Every bottle is the best we can produce—every bottle is a reserve bottle.”
As Americans develop their taste for olive oil, it's inevitable that some will reach for more knowledge. This has given rise to the “oleologist,” a title eschewed by Bariani “By no means are we experts, despite being in business for 24 years and continuing to return to Italy for many classes,” he said. “The learning curve is so big. You don't stop learning. You have to be humble cause there's always somebody better than you. When you keep that in mind you strive to do the best you can . . . and that's when you make progress.” Sebastian recently asked people in Italy if they have oleologists these days and reports, “They just laughed and said no one would call themselves that.”
What about curing table olives? Would that be a way to expand the business? “We keep talking about it, but not yet,” Bariani responded. “Every year we have a project. This year it is to cure olives and make an olive pâté. This would be made just from olives and different from a tapenade.” (Editor's note: A tapenade may include capers and anchovies and even sun-dried tomatoes and spices in addition to crushed olives.)
Serendipity brought another aspect to the Bariani family business a couple of years ago. “Olive trees are self-pollinating, but we added some bees to help this process,” Sebastian related. “We found we got a bigger crop. And we found we had some honey, also.” Their bottled honey is now sold at farmers markets and at local retailers such as Corti Brothers and Whole Foods, as well as through the internet. They've also begun to make a skin lotion using just three ingredients: water, olive oil and beeswax. “It's as natural as we can make it,” said the youngest of the Bariani brothers.
Family businesses tend to mean round-the-clock involvement and can produce more stresses than the nine-to-five world. “We're always talking and arguing, but we never fight,” said Sebastian. “We have very high expectations of each other. We give ourselves two weeks vacation a year. I haven't taken mine this year. My brother Emanuele took one weekend. We don't complain because our work is our vacation. When I'm in the orchard it's amazing . . . I love my trees. My parents went to Italy for two weeks to celebrate their 50th anniversary, but wanted to come home after a couple of days.”
There isn't a lot of structure in the Bariani family business. There are no formal job descriptions and no titles, but a lot of work seems to get done. “We don't have a schedule or a calendar. We don't have meetings,” said Sebastian. “I go to the farm and just see what needs doing and I do it. There's no schedule so it's never boring, it's exciting.”
Editor's note: More information about the Bariani family olive oils can be found at https://www.barianioliveoil.com/
Dry White Wine of Koropi
Suggested Retail: 8 Euros (about $10)
“This week's selection is a wine the publisher enjoyed when attending Kerasma, an international food, wine and spirits conference in Greece in 2006. Unfortunately, no tasting notes from the visit to the winery could be found. His recollection is that the five or six wines tasted that day were all pretty good and modestly-priced. The winery's website indicates the current release of this wine, the 2013 vintage, is made from Savatiano (80%) and Roditis (20%), grapes unknown in the United States. The winery describes it as showing, 'Summerfruit on the nose, nectarines and apricot. Rich concentration of fruit on the palate. Pineapple throughout to intense lemon on the finish.' This description sounds about like what he remembers of this wine, but after all these years, how could he be sure?
“He returned to California with a bottle of the 2005 Ambelones, probably planning to pour it at some Greek dinner he hoped to have. Such a meal never came off and it wasn't until this week that he remembered this wine. So he took the bottle to a gathering of pals who were going to be doing some heavy snacking while watching game three of the World Series. Most cast a very dubious eye at this unfamiliar and quite old white wine. Besides, Bob (the host) had opened several nice bottles of red. The cork crumbled when the corkscrew went into the Ambelones—not a promising beginning. A glass was poured. The color was more-or-less a golden shade—surely darker than when the wine was young, but at least it wasn't brown. No off odors were detected, but there wasn't much aroma at all. Time can rob a wine of its youth in various ways. Certainly this wine had changed, but it didn't really seem oxidized or spoiled in any way. What aroma and flavor remained did seem to have some of that nectarine character. There seemed a little Riesling-like minerality, too. The 2005 Ambelones might not have been the best wine tasted this week, but it was the most interesting experience. George Vassiliou's wines are not distributed in the U.S. so revisiting that taste of a current release anytime soon is unlikely. The publisher's friend Phil was asked to read the notes from the back label. Though of Greek ancestry, this apparently was beyond his powers. He did taste the Ambelones, though, and said it really wasn't too bad. In fact, he was seen pouring himself a second glass later in the evening.”
Food Affinity: “The winery recommends pairing with fresh salmon or sea urchin.”
Boulder Beer Company
Style: Fresh hopped rye ale
Serving style: Kegs
Availability: Seasonally distributed in Colorado and much of the West
Appearance: “Amber to copper color. Maybe a light reddish-brown. Nice head.”
Aroma: “Some of the rye perceived and a bit of the hops. Slightly toasty.”
Taste: “Good balance of rye malt and the hops. Lush mouthfeel. Slightly nutty.”
Food Affinity: “Seems like a good fit for some fall dishes. Maybe a pozole rojo or osso buco served over polenta.”
Reviewer Dan Clarke enjoys the brews and foods of autumn
TASTE News Service October 24, 2014 - Located at the western end of San Diego’s “Hops Highway,” Oceanside’s craft beer industry is booming. In the last year, nearly a dozen new venues, from microbreweries and tasting rooms to gastro pubs with a craft beer focus, have opened in the city providing visitors and locals with numerous options for sampling the best brew of the region.
So fast and furious has been the growth in craft beer venues, that Visit Oceanside recently added a dedicated section to its website (www.visitoceanside.org/oside-beer-tours) where visitors can view an interactive map of the venues and also be inspired by recommended “pub crawl” itineraries. These itineraries include the Coast Highway Crawl, which features hot spots that offer both sensational beers and delicious local eats; Brews on Shoes where visitors can explore the diverse beer scene in downtown Oceanside’s walking district; South O Swing that takes visitors to the charming neighborhood of South Oceanside, which sports a fun and eclectic vibe and is frequented predominately by locals; and Back Alley Brews featuring popular brew spots off the beaten path, but worth checking out.
“People have always traveled for great food and drink and, when it comes to craft beer, Oceanside is serving it up in spades,” says Leslee Gaul, CEO of Visit Oceanside. “Our map is like an insider’s guide to the area and makes it easy for visitors to decide which places they want to check out during their stay.”
Among the most ambitious of the newly opened beer venues, and destined to become a flagship destination for Oceanside, is Bagby Beer Company. Two years in the making, the 1,500 square foot facility is prominently located on Coast Highway and features two stories, outdoor gardens, a restaurant, private dining room and on-site brewing with special tasting areas where guests can watch legendary brew master Jeff Bagby in action. Formerly a brew master for the Pizza Port chain, Bagby is one of the most highly decorated brew masters in the country and recently took home a bronze medal at the prestigious 2014 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado for his Dry Stout Asphault Jungle, only the fourth batch of beer to be made at his new facility.
“Craft beer is the perfect fit for Oceanside’s laid-back surf culture and creative spirit,” says Gaul. “The quickly expanding Oceanside beer scene is being spearheaded by local entrepreneurs looking to create fun, one-of-a-kind experiences and a destination where locals and visitors want to hangout.”
Oceanside’s other homegrown beer labels with tasting rooms include the popular Oceanside Ale Works—Oceanside's first microbrewery, Legacy Brewing Company—which pays homage to the founding fathers of the United States, and Breakwater Brewing Company—a downtown gathering place since 2008. Although not technically a beer, Golden Coast Mead is another specialty drink made in Oceanside and also recently opened a tasting room to showcase its popular version of mead, a drink that dates back to ancient times.
Complementing Oceanside’s local beer labels are an eclectic mix of new restaurants, tasting rooms and tasting gardens that feature a wide selection of regional craft beer. Like Bagby, many of these venues have made their homes along Coast Highway near Oceanside’s downtown beach community. Some, like Surfside Tap Room, Stone Company Store Oceanside and Beer Brewing Company, are primarily places for beer tasting. Others, such as Local Tap House, Master’s Kitchen & Cocktails and Mission Avenue Bar & Grill combine a rotating selection of regional beer with delicious local pub cuisine based on fresh, seasonal ingredients.
“Craft brew is taking off throughout San Diego and Oceanside is defining its niche in the industry,” says Gaul. “Each of our local venues has a unique personality, but all are reflective of our city’s popular beach culture and welcoming spirit.”
For more than 125 years, Oceanside has been known as an ideal place to stay and experience Southern California's casual spirit. Located along the beautiful Southern California coastline between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside boasts a number of important historical and cultural attractions such as Mission San Luis Rey (The King of Missions), California's longest wooden pier, vintage 101 Café, 1920's era Robert's Cottages, Top Gun House, California Surf Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art. The city has served as a film location for dozens of Hollywood productions and was once the preferred getaway of many of Hollywood's elite. Bordering Camp Pendleton, Oceanside has long enjoyed a strong relationship with the U.S. military and a deep commitment to the men and women serving the nation. Today, with 3.5 miles of sandy beach, a quaint New England-style harbor and a stellar year-round climate, Oceanside is a highly sought after location for enjoying active pursuits including surfing, stand up paddling, kayaking, boating, fishing, bike-riding, skydiving and more.
Editor's note: If you're thinking of visiting Oceanside, or any of San Diego County, check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as sections linking to the sites of area wineries and craft beer specialists.