March 16, 2021

The Estate Arbequina Orchard at Hall Road

Liz Tagami sit-in in the wheel well of an olive harvester

The estate Arbequina orchard at Hall Road has been the primary source of Lucero  Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil since 2011. Its 267 acres are set among California oak savannah and planted with 204 acres of olives. The farm's main gate is less than a mile from the west bank of the mighty Sacramento River.

It Starts with the Land

The character of this land is informed by millennia of Sacramento River alluvial deposits, by cattle grazing during the 19th century Rancho days into the 20th century, rice farming in the late 20th century, and the orchard and remaining savannah that live there now. This orchard exists because the Crane Family redeveloped those water-hungry rice fields and nurtured it into one of California's premier high density olive orchards in 2009.

Although a monoculture, the six blocks which make up the Hall Road orchard are farmed distinctly, and nature surrounds the entire parcel with a creek to the north, meadows to the east, and another creek to the south. The two northern-most blocks are separated from the main blocks by old Valley Oak trees which provide habitat for a pair of great horned owls and many other creatures--from skunks and raccoons to foxes, rabbits, turkeys, deer, and even a bobcat, just to name some of them.

Oak Savannah looking south to Hall Road Arbequina

Standing among tall Valley Oaks, looking south to the main blocks of Arbequina.

The Olives and Olive Oil

As with many early 20th century California orchards, the Hall Road site is mostly populated with Arbequina olives on a trellis system with 2% of the rows planted with Arbosana and 6% with Koroneiki olives. Those two varieties are well suited to this style of cultivation and were selected to support pollination for Arbequina. Those perform well on their own; one of the smaller blocks here is 100% Koroneiki, in fact.

 Arbequina olives show a spectrum of color, from yellow-green to deep purple.

Hall Road Arbequina olives shown here display a spectrum of colors, from yellow-green to deep purple. 

The top 5% of oil produced from this land is identified and set aside for the Lucero brand each year, however, whether from this orchard (my favorite) or another California Arbequina orchard, I select the subsequent oil for its forward aroma and flavor. The oil must exhibit complexity with both ripe floral and green fruit aroma, have a classic ripe, nutty and buttery arbequina flavor, and be  complemented by a bit of green herbaceousness, too! 

The "green-ness" is truly a function of some of the olives being green at time of harvest. This particular orchard has consistently delivered Arbequina with more "bite" than typical "California Arbequina"; a bit more bitterness in the mouth and pungency in the throat. Whether due to the watering scheme or the land itself, we've worked to have this oil consistently deliver relatively high total polyphenol levels for this variety making it a truly high performance Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. 

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