Mike Coldani (left), chief olive oil maker for Calivirgin’s Coldani Olive Ranch, sorts olives with employee George Cecchetti at its Lodi mill.

In the Making: A Fresh Crush at Coldani Olive Ranch

Back In the Making Jan 9, 2020 By Shoka

Unlike a typical orchard with rows of olive trees, Coldani Olive Ranch’s olives are grown on trellises, resulting in dense, long walls of olives for its oil label, Calivirgin. 

Mike Coldani, chief olive oil maker of the Lodi-based company, says, “This style of planting is relatively new in the olive oil industry,” enabling them to harvest the fruit mechanically versus handpicking, so they can plant more, pick quickly and process the oil faster.

The Coldanis cultivate around 200 acres of olives — plus olives from local farmers — that they harvest October through December and mill into oil on-site. “You got one shot to do what you need to do and make a product that you have to sell year-round,” Coldani says.

When the fruit arrives at the mill, it is carried into the building via conveyor belt and into a machine to be washed, and twigs and leaves are sorted out. It is then crushed in the grater, and the paste is pumped up into a malaxer machine, where it is heated up to begin drawing the oil out, and then it goes into a horizontal centrifuge that separates the oil from the solid matter. 

The unfiltered, bright chartreuse oil is then stored in stainless steel containers, ready for bottling. Coldani, who operates Calivirgin with his wife, parents and sister, says they’ve been a farming family for about 90 years. “I’m fourth generation, but the olive oil business, we’re going into our 12th year.”