Every year, as soon as we finish our grape harvest, La Cuadrilla shifts their attention to Olives. Olives can be picked anywhere from right now through February, but the longer you wait, the more rain falls, and the olives become fat and diluted.
By picking immediately after the grape harvest, the Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio, and Maurino olives give us rich and robust oil. For the first time ever, this year, we are also sending a fraction of our harvest, about 1.5 tons, to Duo Events’ commercial kitchen in Santa Barbara where owner Ashley Transki will brine and jar them for us.
The process of picking olives is even more painstaking than hand-picking our wine grapes cluster by cluster.
First, the olives must be banged loose or stripped off each branch.
After the olives fall onto tarps laid out under the trees, they are gathered up and put into yellow bins.
We then slowly dump the olives from the small bins into 1,000 pound macro-bins. And this is where Ruben and La Cuadrilla have gotten a bit more inventive. Ruben uses a gas powered leaf blower to sort the leaves out of the olives.
One more pass with the leaf blower and the olives are ready to be transferred over to Figueroa Farms’ Olive Press to be made into oil. Tomorrow, we will pick the olives intended for brining and jarring.
For next year’s olive harvest, we are looking at new technology to aid in effectively picking the olives. Joe Haslett came out to the vineyard to demonstrate his new machine invented in France by Daniel Delmas. This electronic multifunction tool made by INFACO, called the Powercoup, now has an olive-harvesting rake that substitutes banging on the olive trees and hand-stripping the branches.
Ruben tested it out and we were all pretty impressed. The Powercoup’s vest has cutting edge batteries within it and can run for most of the day without being recharged. The attachments with blades have sensors that prevent injuries to hands. Ruben also tested out some of the other attachments in the vineyard. The demonstration might have given us a vision of the future, one day Cuadrilla might resemble Robo-Cop, augmented with electronic attachments , zooming through the vineyard with even more meticulous movements.