Most olive-oil reviews don't even include domestic brands in their taste tests, preferring to stick to more familiar, nationally available, imported supermarket and gourmet-store favorites. Yet for more than two decades, California olive growers have worked to develop a product that will hold its own against the most popular premium imports. According to Cook's Illustrated, California produces less than 1 percent of the 70 million gallons of olive oil that Americans consume every year -- a statistic that domestic olive growers are hoping to change.
When a review site does include California olive oils -- or, as in the case of Cook's Illustrated, actually focus on them -- California Olive Ranch Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil is nearly always prominently featured, with highly positive results every time. In particular, reviewers mention California Olive Ranch's well-rounded, fruity flavor, which one tester characterizes as having notes of vanilla, lemon and honey. Yet the taste, one site tells us, is still pure olive.
For most review sites, testing methods are pretty basic and involve dunking (with good bread) or slurping with a spoon. With olive oil, the experts tell us, it's all about the flavor, and the more olive-y, the better. Olive oils with the strongest olive flavor, whether imported or domestic, tend to get much higher marks from connoisseurs. Because of the highly unscientific subjectivity of taste buds, most review sites employ a panel of olive-oil experts -- some even trained in International Olive Oil Council standards -- to conduct the tastings.
While some reviewers qualify their remarks by saying they prefer the imports, the experts from one prominent foodie publication reveal that California Olive Ranch Arbequina comes in a very close second to their favorite imported brand -- a circumstance that, in their opinion, bodes well for the California olive-oil industry.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
In this report, Cook's Illustrated poses the question Is it time to stop importing olive oils? Testers pit their favorite imported brand against 10 California extra-virgin olive oils, including California Olive Ranch Arbequina. While testers admit to a slight preference for their imported favorite, they nevertheless highly recommend several domestic brands.
Review: California Olive Oils, Editors of Cook's Illustrated, Sept. 1, 2009
In this comprehensive report comparing expensive premium brands with inexpensive supermarket-shelf staples, ConsumerReports.org tests both imported and domestic olive oils, including California Olive Ranch Arbequina. The results may be surprising to some foodies and connoisseurs.
Review: A Cheap Bottle Beats a Pricier Lineup, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Sept. 1, 2004