Fresno State Orchards Estate Reserve Olive Oil — California State University, Fresno's very first pressing — won a bronze medal at the prestigious San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.

Harvested and processed a year ago and bottled in March, the university's olive oil joins Fresno State wines as an award-winning, student-produced agricultural product recognized in competition against established commercial products. With 7,000 bottles of olive oil run from 900 gallons in its first year, this year's stock is nearly sold out.

Bottled and released in March with the Fresno State Orchards label, the Estate Reserve is a “blend of Arbequina, Arbosana and Koroneiki oils; fruity with a mild pungence that leaves a pleasing, persistent taste reminiscent of green herbs, tomato and banana,” said Gino Favagrossa, orchard manager, who directed the project.

The San Diego event is an international showcase of premier wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities that is produced by World of Wine Events to benefit the American Institute of Wine and Food Culinary Arts Scholarship program.

Ganesan Srinivasan, director of the University Agricultural Laboratory at Fresno State, said it is the largest and most-recognized wine and food festival in Southern California. This year's festival Nov. 9-11 attracted more than 700 wines from 150 wineries around the world, hundreds of olive oil processors, 50 of San Diego's finest restaurants and 30 gourmet food companies. More than 5,000 visitors attended, 1,000 of whom visited the olive oil displays.

“It is truly an honor for Fresno State Orchards to be able to win a medal for its home-grown olive oil in its debut year — more so when you look at the field of competitors who have several years of experience growing and processing olive oil,” Srinivasan said.

He congratulated Favagrossa and Andrew Horn, orchard technician and grad student, “for making this project a dream come true for Fresno State.”

The “olive for oil” project is conducted on a 22-acre block of super high-density plantings on Fresno State's Agricultural Laboratory, the 1,053-acre University Farm. Under the academic auspices of the Plant Science Department and Favagrossa's direction, the olives were mechanically harvested, then processed and bottled by the California Olive Ranch, a partner in the venture.

The planting system was showcased in October 2005 when the harvest was completed: the first commercial mechanical harvest of an olive plantation for oil from a super high-density planting in California's Central Valley. Shortly thereafter, a limited specialty release, Olio Nuovo, was pressed and made available for the holidays as an appetizer to the Estate Reserve full release.

Srinivasan said sales of olive oil have far exceeded predictions.

“We now have only limited quantities available,” Srinivasan added. “The good news is that our olive crop yield doubled this year and we hope to have the oil from this year's harvest bottled and released in March 2007.”

The olive oil is available for $14.95 (500 ml vintage bottle) at the Fresno State Farm Market (corner of Barstow and Chestnut avenues, phone 559.278.4511). Proceeds benefit the university's agricultural education programs. The market is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information contained in this release, please go to the following Web site: www.fresnostatenews.com/2006/03/OliveOil.htm