My awakening to the glories of great Tuscan oil came in the mid-1980’s, when my wife and I had dinner one April night at the venerable Montalcino estate, Il Poggione, with the late, great Pierluigi Talenti.

Mr. Talenti was rightly proud of the estate’s extra virgin olive oil, encouraging us to pour it on every dish short of dessert. It was exhilarating. Richly green, intensely aromatic, with great body and texture, I had never imagined olive oil could be so exciting.

We dipped and drizzled with abandon: over the thick Tuscan soup, on fennel bulbs, over the grilled meat, and on thick slices of toasted bread.

We didn’t realize at the time that we were enjoying a precious commodity, as great Tuscan oil can only be made from tiny yields, and by harvesting early. A tree in the hills near Florence—harvested in November—may yield only a liter of olive oil. Compare this to the commercially farmed trees along Tuscany’s coast—harvested much later—which produce 20+ liters of oil per tree.

After our experience at Il Poggione, we were shocked to discover just how difficult it was to find comparable oils in the United States. Even the expensive oils available here didn’t come close to matching Il Poggione’s. In fact, most of the oils we found were tired, the result of being too old or improperly stored. We were also frustrated by the fact that few labels revealed the olive source or year of production.

But we were wine merchants, not olive oil importers. And so for the next few years, we did nothing more than to add three or four cases of each year’s oil to our Tuscan wine orders. These were for us to use over the next year and to give friends as gifts.

But then a second transformative experience happened. During the spring of 1995, I walked into an Alba wine shop (near Barolo) and spotted ten cases of 1990 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo that was still sitting on a hand truck, having arrived only minutes earlier. The market for Barolo wasn’t what it is today, and the shop was happy to sell it all to me. (It was around $20/bottle at the time.) In fact, they were so thrilled, they gave me a bottle of 1994 Castello di Ama Tuscan olive oil as thanks.

I’ll never know why that bottle of Ama oil had such a big effect on me, but it convinced me to take the long overdue step of importing the best Tuscan olive oils to share with our clients.

That fall, I embarked on a mission that continues to this day: each year, we visit the olive groves during harvest, choosing the very best pressings to be bottled exclusively for us. Unlike “normal” olive oil importers, we didn’t just accept a blend of all the year’s pressings, we chose individual pressings with the most character, structure and balance. And we have done so for nearly three decades.

We also have the trade’s strictest standards: offering only ruthlessly selected single-estate oils, providing clear and informative labels, shipping under strict temperature control, and offering thenew oils as soon as they are pressed and bottled.

If we’ve become America’s best source for Tuscan olive oil, these are the reasons why.

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