A decade ago, the Dirk family of Newport Beach and Irvine, owners of Costa Mesa-based printing equipment and software maker Troy Group Inc., made a trip to wine country.
They came back with an olive oil company, Pasolivo, and an accompanying 140-acre ranch in the middle of Paso Robles.
“We fell in love with the area and our realtor informed us of this property,” Brian Dirk said. “It was already an existing olive oil producing property and tasting room, which was part of the intrigue when we purchased. We were excited for the opportunity to grow the business.”
Dirk said his family did not have a background in anything to do with olive oil production.
“When we purchased the business, we brought in experts as well as sent staff to courses to help expand our knowledge.”
It’s been a fruitful decade of ownership for the business.
Pasolivo had an impressive showing at this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, receiving honors for all five extra virgin olive oils entered for the event. Four of the olive oils—Tuscan, Cucina, Classic and California—each received the competition’s highest award, Gold. The limited-run Il Singolo olive oil received Silver.
Those awards come on the heels of the accolades heaped on Pasolivo at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition in March, where Pasolivo collected 16 medals including Best in Show.
Since its conception in 2020, Pasolivo has received more than 120 awards from the industry’s most competitive events.
“We firmly believe that a great end product must begin with quality ingredients, which is why we dedicate an immense amount of time and energy to perfecting our tree-to-table olive oil making process,” said Marisa Bloch Gaytan, Level 2 Olive Oil Sommelier and Pasolivo’s Master Blender.
An olive oil sommelier? It’s not only a wine industry title—there are indeed respected experts in olive oil.
Tree-to-table is an apt description of the olive oil making process, which Gaytan described in detail during a recent olive oil tasting at the Pasolivo property.
Gaytan has a B.A. degree in journalism, was hired at Pasolivo in 2012 to do marketing, and is now the general manager and sommelier.
To be an olive oil sommelier, Gaytan took courses that included tasting hundreds of olive oils including defective ones. There was a written and tasting exam that required identifying the flavor notes and place of origin.
“I never thought I would end up in agriculture, but it has been a fun journey,” Gaytan said.
“No day is ever the same. I enjoy it. I oversee the orchards, the tasting rooms, the online store.”
7,000 Trees, 45 Acres
The businesses’ orchards include 7,000 olive trees planted on 45 acres, within the family’s larger ranch.
There are 12 varietals of olive trees, some of which are used for creating flavored olive oils by co-milling the olives with real herbs and fruits, which delivers a bold end product free of artificial flavorings or preservatives.
Pasolivo’s sustainably grown olives are pressed and bottled in small batches on-site to create blends that celebrate the bold, distinctive flavors of the olives.
An important difference between growing olives and grapes: while grapevines can pick up flavor profiles from the terroir, olive trees do not absorb any attributes of the soil—it is all based on the variety. Not even smoke from fires can impact the olives.
The end result is all about the flavor profiles of each olive varietal.
Pasolivo is only available for purchase at the tasting room in downtown Paso Robles and at the property on Vineyard Drive as well as online, although Brian Dirk said he has plans to open a tasting room in Orange County in 2023.
Visit Pasolivo.com for more information and to order.
The OCBJ Review
Every summer for the past 20 years, I’ve made a pilgrimage to my favorite wine country oasis. No, not Napa or Sonoma. My wine country of choice is Paso Robles.
Even during the pandemic, Paso has been my go-to spot for wining, dining and relaxing.
My last trip was in early August. I always travel with my maltipoo pup, Spencer. With so many wineries, hotels and restaurants welcoming visitors with canine companions, traveling with your pooch is as easy as ever.
This trip was a little different. Yes, I managed to visit a handful of wineries—Tobin James, Niner, Halter Ranch, Windward, Justin—but my main destination this time was Pasolivo.
As the name suggests, Pasolivo makes olive oil. Really good olive oil. Make that superb olive oil.
After tasting more than a dozen varietals and blends, I purchased three bottles, along with several jars of salt and herb blends.
This is super premium olive oil and is more expensive than what you’d find in a supermarket, but my palate was pleased with the tasting and the cost is well worth the quality.