Recognizing the glory
In 2004, we purchased a 400 acre olive orchard that had not had much attention for many years. The branches of most of the trees reached from 40 to 50 feet into the air.
In 2005, two days after our organic certification was in place with California Certified Organic Farmers, consultant Steven Dambeck introduced himself to us at our orchard gate. Besides purchasing several tons of our certified organic Mission olives, he began consulting with us on orchard management.
Ever expanding the quality of orchard culture and milling knowledge, we joined with Steven Dambeck at his home for dinner when first meeting with Marco Mugelli. Conversations included the orchard, mill concepts, mill location - and of course olives and oil.
With a translator at our orchard in 2006, Marco stated that nowhere in all of Italy was there an orchard of such size. While walking through the trees planted 65 per acre in 30 foot triangles, Marco stated, “This soil with great drainage, the spacing of the trees, and the alignment of the rows to the sun is exactly the method in which a grove would be planted with what is known about olive culture today. This grove deserves to be brought back to its former glory.”
Marco sent his land manager from Italy and, learning a lot, we had a team prune 60 acres.
In 2007-2008 when we first began milling our olives into oil, we experimented with four quality mills to learn what style works best with our olives. One of the mills was Marco’s invention in-the-works which incorporates a vacuum state during a portion of the milling process - reducing oxidation and protecting polyphenols in the oil. The oil from this milling won us a Gold Medal and carried on its label "selected by and bottled for Darrell Corti" to offer at Corti Bros. While we did appreciate the oil made from this mill, our Mission olives and this mill – the miller stated in a lively manner - were not entirely a match.
(Worked out okay though as the mill we did select to continue with the next year brought us the best possible award from the LA International EVOO 2009 Competition: Best of Show.)
Continuing with Marco in developing excellence, Darro met with a few other like minded people in taking Marco's sensory evaluation and milling knowledge class.
(It was though these meetings over several days during lunches where we first learned – along with other exotic to us food experiences - of a quality aged Balsamic Vinegar over ice cream. Since that experience, we have purchased for ourselves and for gifts such Balsamic from the locked cabinet at Corti Bros. And following the Italian style of amount of olive oil, it was the beginning of our custom of having olive oil shiny plates of food.)
Prior to meeting Marco we had heard of his vision and mission to have (like wine) olive oil on the menu to properly pair with the food. He, opinionated (e.g. olive oil should be bottled in stainless steel) in a manner close to Darrell Corti – who when I mentioned to him at an olive oil food pairing event that I thought he certainly had strong opinions, Darrell Corti replied, “What good is an opinion if it isn’t a strong one?” – anyway Marco certainly had strong and not necessarily of the norm opinions. And, it feels as if Marco’s departing so abruptly with his knowledge and passionate energy for highest quality olive oil leaves a tear in the Universe.
Here I hold a thought of deep appreciation for all that he has shared and from his inspiration feel there will be continuance toward his vision.