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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Liquid Gold from Bari Olive Oil in Dinuba

Sep 23, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Hard Pressed

October 2016
By Jordan Venema

Known as the Judgment of Paris, the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 was the competition where California wines proved superior to their French counterparts, ostensibly establishing Napa Valley as the new mecca of wine. It’s been 40 years since California vintners shocked wine connoisseurs around the world, but the Golden State might be poised to make a move in another sphere traditionally dominated by other European countries: olive oil.

In 1976 few Parisians could find Napa Valley on the map, and today, Italians or Spaniards would be just as hard-pressed to locate Dinuba. But in our very own backyard, Bari Olive Oil is pressing some of the purest California olive oil, which come October will be sold throughout every state in the nation.

It’s no surprise that olive oil industry, like wine, thrives in California’s Mediterranean climate, but also like wine, the pressing of olives takes a certain artistry and skill.

Forty years ago, most Californians probably could identify two varieties of wine: red and white. The same might be said today of olive oil: virgin and extra virgin. Bari Olive Oil owner Kyle Sawatzky cooks with all of his company’s 14 different oils, from organic to extra virgin, and nine flavor-infused oils including garlic, lemon, basic, even tandoori masala.

Bari Olive Oil got its start 85 years ago in 1936, so the company has had plenty time to perfect its press, but it has only been since 2008, when Sawatzky purchased Bari, that the company actually began pressing its olives. 

“We wanted to bring everything in house so we had more control over it,” explains Sawatzky. And unlike most olive oil companies, Bari is within a very close distance of its olives. The pressing plant is located on 10 acres with Bari’s own olives, while the majority of its acreage is within 30 to 40 miles of the facility.

“The olives don’t travel very far to get to us. A lot of your imported products blend oil from other countries, and when you pick up that product, who knows where that oil is coming from,” says Sawatzky. “We can take our bottle and trace it right back to the ranch where it came from.” 

While knowing your olives’ source is important to quality, Sawatzky says it’s also important to look for darker glass bottles, which protect the oil from harmful UV rays and preserve shelf life, and also for third-party certification, which validates higher-grade pressings.

The extra virgin oil is essentially the oil pressed straight from the olive. The lower grades, not certified virgin, are additionally processed. That’s your sunflower, canola or just plain “olive” oils. 

The best way to spot good olive oil? According to Sawatzky, just trust your taste.

“It’s like wine. It’s a matter of tastes, a matter of what you like as an individual. When you have a lower quality oil, the finish won’t be as clean, and it can leave an oily texture in your mouth,” he explains. Some lower-grade oils can have a chemical quality due to processing, while the purer oils can have a buttery or grassy finish.

“For whatever reason, just drizzling a little oil helps enhance all the flavors of your food. It’s almost like this tsunami effect that brings everything else together to help elevate the dish.” 

The difference in price, maybe just $5 or $6 for a better oil, says Sawatzky, “is like night and day.”

For those who still might believe an olive is an olive is an olive, Bari will open its doors for its annual Harvest Festival, the one day a year the facility opens to the public.

“It will be a regular work day for us,” Sawatzky says, but it provides guests the opportunity to see the pressing process and “watch the fresh oil coming out of the machine and taste it right at its freshest.” 

There will also be olive oil tasting classes, for those who haven’t quite figured out yet the difference between virgin and extra virgin, plus a bounce house for the kids, a classic car show and hot dogs for all.

The event is free to the public, “and the one thing we ask,” says Sawatzky, “is that people call in ahead of time and make reservations.”

Bari Olive Oil and Harvest Festival • 40063 Road 56, Dinuba

(559) 595-9260 •

Saturday, Nov. 5, 9 am-3 pm • Find them on Facebook and Instagram