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ou might be surprised to learn that Texas is home to several olive orchards— or as we say in Texas, olive “ranches.” If you find yourself just east of San Marcos, be sure to stop by Bella Vista Ranch (texasoliveoil.com), tucked away in Wimberly. This working ranch is not only home to First Texas Olive Oil Company, it also produces artisan foods created from produce grown right there on the ranch. You’re in for a treat with tastings of their olive tapenade,

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fruity preserves, oils and vinegars—and wine! From vinegar flavors such as fig and vanilla balsamic to olive oil flavors such as blood orange to garlic, basil and Parmesan dipping oil, make sure your taste buds come ready for a workout. Bella Vista offers tours on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Sundays at noon. The staff boasts that everyone who takes a tour leaves the ranch with a Ph.D. in all things olive and olive oil—beginning with a history of the ranch and olive

growing in Texas. The tour includes the frantoio (olive press) room and ends, of course, with a tasting where you’ll learn the proper way to taste and qualify extra virgin olive oil. Not to worry, wine connoisseurs, the tasting includes Bella Vista’s handcrafted wines, too. The best time to visit the ranch is during harvest, September through November. At that time of year, tour attendees get to see the ranch in full swing—and even get to try some olive oil fresh off the press. If you fall in love with the process, general manager Greg Henny says Bella Vista accepts volunteers to help harvest the olives on certain days during the season. You’ll get to work with Henny and his crew picking olives off trees and picking his brain about the olive business, see the frantoio up and running, and taste the fruit of your labor.

Here are some Texas olive orchards producing oil you’ll want to be on the watch for. Lone Star Olive Ranch is a working ranch producing olive oil, soaps, lip and body care products. lonestaroliveranch.com Texas Olive Ranch invites guests to join them during harvest and stay to taste award-winning oils, infused with flavors such as roasted garlic and mesquite smoke. texasoliveranch.com Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, just south of San Antonio, is open for lunch Mon.-Thurs. and hosts a slew of special events throughout the year. sandyoaks.com Texas Hill Country Olive Company has an orchard in Dripping Springs where they host events against the beautiful backdrop of their Tuscanstyle tasting room. texashillcountryoliveco.com Central Texas Olive Ranch is a working ranch producing extra virgin olive oil, but you can call ahead to see if they’ll show you around. txolive.com

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PRIME Living's 2014 "Food & Wine" Issue