What’s with the olive trees?

What’s with the olive trees?

What's with the olive trees?

Have you ever noticed the olive trees dotting the stretches of grapevines in Calaveras County’s wine country? What’s their story? Do they benefit the vineyard soil? Are they used in the winemaking process? …Are they just pretty? What’s with the olive trees?

As it turns out, olives and grapes grow in similar climate and soil conditions. California delivers the third largest output of olives in the world so why not throw some olive trees into the mix?

While the plants are quite similar in terms of conditions and timeline — harvest time is September/October and the first harvests tend to be in the third or fourth years — the economics of harvesting and processing the plants differs vastly when one looks at each individual piece while the sum total remains relatively the same. For example, it costs approximately $2,000 a year to maintain an acre of grapes, yet only $500 a year to maintain olive trees. Harvesting costs for grapes are approximately $100 per ton versus $200 per ton for olives. The biggest difference comes when we look at the price of production per gallon, especially when we consider the amount of oil that comes from a ton of olive fruit versus the amount of wine from a tone of grapes. While grape production may be twice the cost of olive production, price of production per gallon of olive oil is twice the price of production per gallon of wine. What does all of that mean? To put it incredibly simply and in very general terms, it pretty much balances out.

So the next time you’re taking your leisurely drive through the Foothills on your way to California Cavern or White Pines Lake or Calaveras Big Trees Park and you notice an olive tree nestled into a hillside vineyard, you can say: “Ya’ know what? Olives and grapes grow in the same conditions and, in the end, make about the same amount of profit for the grower. Didn’t know THAT, did ya’?”

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