Local Spotlight: Texas Hill Country Olive Company

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WHAT: Beautifully pure olive oil that will have you dreaming -- not of Italy -- but of the verdant Texas hills...

When John Gambini moved back to Texas after ten years away, he just knew he wanted to build a vineyard. It would be a family-run business, just like the ones our country was built on, and it would connect him back to his Sicilian heritage. But research told him was too late for the wine train... what to do, what to do. Then he happened to read an article about Texas's burgeoning olive industry, and suddenly his future was clear. Olive trees generally produce for about 2,000 years, making them the perfect foundation for a family business that could last for generations, and you can't get much more Italian than olive oil.

But heritage doesn't mean that Gambini was born pressing olives and pulling pasta. "The learning process is continual," he laughs. One thing they've certainly discovered is that the olive's entire lifecycle emerges in the finished oil -- and it starts with the land, itself. Gambini doesn't use harsh chemicals of any kind to maintain his olive trees; he and his family also ensure that the grove receives the right amounts of water and organic nutrients, proper pruning, and plenty of sunlight. Then once the olives are picked, the Gambinis make sure the little guys are pressed into oil within 72 hours to maintain the Extra Virgin classification -- the sooner the pressing, the better the oil. And they must be doing something right: Texas Hill Country EVOO just won a Silver Medal at the LA County Fair, beating out 365 olive oils from all over the world at the largest olive oil competition in the U.S. Yowzah!

Gambini speaks of his business like a proud papa. He loves that his entire family participates. He loves that he can ensure the highest quality products. And best of all, he loves the impact: "When a customer looks you in the eye and smiles with delight at the taste of our olive oil -- and then understands why buying local and supporting family farms is so important to the quality of food they eat and their overall health -- that's when we know we're doing something right." You know what? We're sure glad that wine thing didn't work out after all.

WHERE: You'll find Texas Hill Country olive oils at the Urban Harvest, Highland Village, and Grogan's Mill farmers' markets. They've applied for spots at several other markets and hope to be on a few store shelves in the near future, too. Seek 'em out and taste the golden purity for yourself.

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