Olive tasting at Olio Nuevo

By Donna Polizzi

A dear friend invited me to join her on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to visit the Olio Nuevo Ranch in Paso Robles. She promised that, by the end of the day, I would know the proper way to “taste” and select olive oil. I’ve been to more than my share of wine tastings, but I admit that I didn’t know that there is a right and wrong way to do an olive oil tasting.

The drive to Paso Robles after the rains is beautiful. From Highway 101, you can take 41 east through Atascadero and into Paso Robles. The rolling hills are the deepest green that you can imagine. Longhorn cattle graze in the distance behind barbed wire fences passing magazine-worthy properties.

Upon arrival at Olio Nuevo, we were greeted by the owners, Art and Lynn Kishiyama. Together, they have turned their home and land into a stunning showplace where 100 percent of the farm power needs are met with solar power.

To top it off, these two are funny, humble and beyond interesting people. Lynn was an airline attendant/marketing professional for a Fortune 500 company, who met Art in flight. She is a talented and accomplished artist. If you have the chance to talk with her and see her art, you will enjoy every minute spent with her. One of her most interesting pieces is called “The Raven,” which is one of my favorites.

If the name Art Kishiyama sounds familiar, it is because he is a big deal. He grew up in San Luis Obispo, graduated from Cal Poly with his first degree in architecture and went on, after capping a 26-year career in the Air Force, to work 15 years with Walt Disney Imagineering. During that time, Art and his team built the Disneyland in Tokyo. He started with six people and by the time he left, there were over 6,000 employees. Tokyo Disneyland opened to the public on Sept 4, 2001.

When that ride was over in 2002, he and Lynn decided to leave the big city life and they bought a 19-acre ranch, just outside of Paso Robles near Creston. The couple planted 3,700 olive trees. The orchard, in total, is a smidge over nine acres. Three years later, the first olive harvest took place in 2005.

If you don’t know how to do an olive oil tasting … let me tell you that you can’t do it with one hand tied behind your back and it can be noisy. I’m serious!

First step … you take the small plastic cup with olive oil into the palm of your hand and cover it with your other hand. You gently swirl it to warm it up in your hands and bring out the aroma. Next, take it into your mouth, let it linger on your tongue and slurp it to the back of your mouth to release all of the flavors.

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