What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Bariani Family Expands Olive Oil Business

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Angelo Bariani at Farmers Mkt PicmonkeyAngelo Bariani sells at farmers market

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.

Bariani olive close up PicmonkeyOlives turn from green to black

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.

Sebastian helps a young picker PicmonkeySebastian shows technique to harvester

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.)

Sebastian with tree at bee box PicmonkeyBee hives help with olive tree pollination

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/

Copyright © 2005 - 2017. Taste California Travel. All rights reserved. | Phoenix Website Design by CitrusKiwi