Their landord, Signore A. Belelli, had a beautiful, sprawling estate, with hundreds of old growth olive trees, a working wine cellar and a converted horse stall for his lemon trees from Capri. Sr. Belelli and Michael spent many mornings bottling wine in the damp cellar, sampling limoncello in the late morning, and, above all, tasting his gorgeous estate extra virgin olive oil. The seed, as they say, was planted.
In early 2002, with Sofie now at medical school and Mia and Eva in elementary school, Michael was laid off. To take his mind off the job search, he went on a much needed bike ride to clear his head. On the outskirts of Winters, he meandered down a side road called Olive School Lane, and the surrounding area brought him back to 1996 and Tuscany, with rolling hills, vineyards, and assorted fruit and olive trees. Upon hearing that there was land for sale on that same road, Michael drove out to the site, called Sofie and said “we have to buy this land!”.
Seven years after that Italian sojourn, Signore Belelli’s olive oil still left a lovely peppery, herbaceous memory in their minds. Unable to find the same quality olive oil in California, Sofie and Michael set about planting a 2-acre olive orchard on their new land with Italian varietals from the Tuscan region of Cortona.
The seed that was planted in 1996 continued to grow with the completion of their Italian-inspired straw bale house in 2010. Read about it here.
In addition to producing olive oil, Michael has been making wine since 2008, and is an avid bread baker. A visit to the orchard is never complete without a tour of the cellar, a tasting from the latest wine barrel and a generous pour of Olio De Nardi with some natural leavened sourdough bread.
Michael & Sofie De Nardi