When most people think high-quality olive oil, they associate it with Europe. Rio Bravo Ranch is trying to change that. They started making Rio Bravo Ranch olive oil almost 12 years ago from the question, “why shouldn’t we produce top quality olive oil on our ranch near the mouth of the Kern River Canyon?” Lots of research and effort went into making the idea a reality.
The hard work has paid off as evidenced from the numerous awards they’ve been winning, most recently taking home the coveted Best in Show for their 2018 Coratina from the California Olive Oil Council and from the Central Coast Olive Growers Association.
Situated on 48 acres that mirror the hot and dry climates of the southern Mediterranean climate of traditional olive oil producing regions from Spain to Greece, Rio Bravo Ranch grows 7 different varieties of olives, focusing on Coratina olives from Italy and Picual olives from Spain. In addition to these main varieties that are available in stand-alone varietal bottles, they also grow Pendolino, Nocellara, Maurino, Frantoio, and Ascolana that are blended into their Miller’s Reserve bottle or used for infused olive oil with flavors including blood orange, rosemary, garlic, jalapeno and lemon.
All Rio Bravo Ranch olive oil is extra virgin, certified organic and it produces an array of individual robust flavors.
“Most consumers understand the health benefits of olive oil, but few understand the added nutritional bonus and amazing taste aspects of fresh, high-quality olive oil,” states Jim Nickel of Rio Bravo Ranch, who added, “once people try our olive oils, they soon realize what they’ve been missing.”
It is clear that theranch takes great pride in their olives and oil. Being situated at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon provides great sandy loam soil and perfect air movement that shields from frost or excessive moisture.
“We care for the olive trees, mother nature does the rest,” says Juan Corral, Rio Bravo Ranch Manager who has over 30 years of experience growing almonds, citrus, cherries and, of course, olives along the banks of the Kern River.
Entering their 6th harvest, anticipated to be in mid-October, they have honed the craft of growing olives to maximize quality, not volume. This includes harvesting earlier than producers going for the bulk market, which produces bolder flavors and higher nutritional content. Once harvested, the olives are pressed on-site using modern cold press technology afforded by a mobile mill called Mill on Wheels, which minimizes the time from tree to oil, an important distinction in the creation of extra virgin olive oil.
Their Olio Nuovo which is essentially fresh oil straight out of the mill is a treat, but only available for a few months after harvest. Once the oil settles out, it is then bottled and sold directly through their website (www.riobravoranch.com) or at local retailers and restaurants including Coseree’s Deli, Luigi’s, Sully’s, Dot + Ott as well as Vons and Albertsons. Rio Bravo Ranch stores its olive oil in a temperature-controlled storage facility on the ranch until it is shipped to the consumer. This allows Rio Bravo Ranch to guarantee the freshness, and therefore the quality of the olive oil—a benefit that European producers are unable to guarantee the American consumer.
Rio Bravo Ranch finally feels like the word is getting out that you can in fact produce high quality olive oil right here in California. Sales are picking up each year, and each year they are winning high honors and awards. In 2017the entire Rio Bravo Ranch line was recognized with gold medals from the California Olive Oil Council and the Central Coast Olive Growers Association with the Miller’s Reserve blend receiving Best in Class and Best in Show from the CCOGA.
“Bakersfield has been great in pushing our local product, and we now feel like the time has come to expand into larger markets in southern California,” states Stefanie Wickensheimer who handles the bulk of the production and sales for Rio Bravo Ranch. She adds, “now that we’ve proven ourselves, we feel our locally grown, organic mantra still applies over the hill into Los Angeles”.
Rio Bravo Ranch plans to continue its award-winning streak as they approach the 2019-2020 harvest and hopes to continue expansion in stores and restaurants, not only in the surrounding counties, but here locally as well.