Olive Oil Secrets, From Fruit to Bottle — with Corto Olive Company’s Master Miller, David Garci-Aguirre
In Episode 78 of the Kitchen Confidante Podcast, Liren talks to David Garci-Aguirre, the Master Miller at Corto Olive Company about what the role of Master Miller entails, what makes the best quality olive oil, olive oil tips and myths, and so much more.
On the podcast, I recently spoke with David Garci-Aguirre, Master Miller for Corto Olive Company. Much like a winemaker, David ensures Corto’s 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil adheres to rigorous flavor and freshness requirements while maintaining a full-bodied and dynamic flavor profile. Under David’s direction, Corto won 30 olive oil competition medals in 2021 alone, including seven gold. Before joining Corto, David produced numerous award-winning oils, including four best-in-class awards at the California Olive Oil Council competition.
In this episode, we chat about what the role of Master Miller entails, what makes the best quality olive oil, olive oil tips and myths, and more. David provides more insights than I could ever include here, so listen to the full episode or keep reading for some of the highlights from David.
What is a Master Miller, and how do you become one?
The title Master Miller comes from traditional Spanish and Italian mills where they had a Maestro Molinero or Mugnaio. The Maestro was the oil maker in charge.
In the U.S., olive oil production is pretty new, so there is no clear, direct path to becoming a master miller. I became one a bit by chance.
After returning to the States after a career-ending soccer injury in Spain, I opened an art studio for my metal sculpting. One day, a neighbor asked if I could build a mobile olive oil plant, and I said absolutely. Within just three weeks, we started traveling around California to wineries making the freshest oil.
At our first event, hand-harvested olives were rushed to the mill and crushed, making the most beautiful, green, aromatic olive oil I’d ever seen. That was my first time having fresh olive oil, which was life-changing. That “aha moment” set my olive oil career in motion, and everything grew from there.
What makes Corto Olive Oil different?
The hardest part of olive oil production is getting the fresh oil to customers. The founders of Corto are innovative agricultural entrepreneurs who invest in new technologies along every part of production to get consumers the freshest, highest-quality olive oil.
First, all of Corto’s olives are grown within two hours of the mill, ensuring freshness and quick processing. They are grown in the Sacramento Delta, providing the ideal climate for olives. The olives grow in super-high-density or vineyard-style hedges, which helps mechanize and shorten harvest time. The olives are harvested at peak ripeness in October and November. They are then immediately crushed, agitated, stirred, and centrifuged — with just an hour between harvest and oil.
All these factors help Corto Olive Oil retain the beautiful flavors, aromas, antioxidants, polyphenols, and so forth that make olive oil special. But light, heat, and air can damage and oxidize olive oil, removing all those benefits. So, Corto takes every precaution to slow oxidation.
The mill has climate-controlled cellars where they pump nitrogen into casks, avoiding oxygen exposure. They also use innovative bag-in-box packaging that blocks light, insulates, and creates an oxygen barrier. That helps the oil stay fresh to the last drop.
How do you know olive oil is fresh?
Fresh olive oil should smell earthy and natural, transporting you to the garden. It should smell like fresh herbs, roots, grass, and earth, not cardboard, nail polish, or paint thinner.
Getting fresh, high-quality olive oil can be tricky. Instead of worrying about different labels and seals in the supermarket, David recommends buying olive oil directly from the producer. This is the only way to truly know where your oil comes from and to ensure freshness.