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Strike oil in San Luis Obispo


OIL THE POSSIBILITIES :  We Olive owner Ray Russell offers featured oils from California and around the world. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • OIL THE POSSIBILITIES : We Olive owner Ray Russell offers featured oils from California and around the world.

# From Napa to Santa Barbara, California wines have developed as one of the state's most coveted agricultural products. But there's more to the fruits of the Golden State than just grapes. People in the know indulge in olives. California now produces some of the finest olives and oils in the world including the locally grown Pasolivo and now SLO has a shop devoted to olives in all their glorious forms.

We Olive, at 958 Higuera, is the fourth franchise store by that name. The first opened in Paso Robles seven years ago. Owner Ray Russell took a crash course in olives, and now he wants to spread the good word.

"The most important thing is that we have a comfortable environment to come into," Russell said. "Everything is available to sample so people can taste all the different varietals and flavors. The main focus is to educate people, and for them to have a good experience."

One of the most common queries Russell answers is "How long can these oils last?" The answer, from the time they're pressed and bottled, is 18 months for best flavor and most benefits.

About 80 percent of the oils Russell carries are from California, which means they're as fresh as possible. The rest are chosen for their unique qualities from among the best oils in the world. The price reflects the superior product, but We Olive also offers many reasonably priced oils, including their bulk oil for $1 per ounce.

The oils can be as complex in flavor, Russell said, as a fine wine with three standout tastes: buttery, fruity, or peppery. Like wine, these flavors are affected by the location of the tree, the age of the plant, and the time of harvest. Thousands of olive varietals exist, and from those, oils can be blended or bottled pure.

We Olive doesn't just carry the berries and oils it offers everything related to olives, including ceramic ware, linens, candles, and body products, but those things don't taste nearly as good as the tapenades, olive salsas, flavored oils, seasoned sea salts, and vinegars. Each day, Russell features at least four premium oils to sample in addition to the dozens of sample dishes that take up every bit of counter space.

We Olive even has a few oils and vinegars produced exclusively for their stores, including an aged balsamic vinegar that stands out as the most memorable flavor in the shop.

Stop in and try some any day of the week between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., or until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. We Olive is located at 958 Higuera (next to Louisa's). For more information, visit or call 595-1376.

Staff Writer Kylie Mendonca compiled this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to

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