When Ana Hernandez attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the late 90s, she discovered an appreciation for the art of making olive oil. She had grown up around the healthy elixir, as her family owned and ran an Italian restaurant in their home country of Guatemala.
And then a serendipitous thing happened.
“My family and I bought a property that had hundreds of 180-year-old olive trees on it,” she said, noting that the trees had been planted in the 1880s by famed Napa Valley wine pioneer Charles Krug. “That is when I truly fell in love with olives. I didn’t find the olives, they found me.”
So when the opportunity came up in 2019 to purchase the Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil Company from its Calistoga founders, she realized her dream. The timing was perfect – her daughter, Marcela Hernandez, had recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
“I decided to partner with my mother on her business venture, and the rest is history,” Marcela explained.
Originally established in 2009, the Grove 45 brand remains a boutique, Wine Country treasure. Annual production is only about 500 cases a year, derived from premium, organic, hand-farmed olives grown in Chiles Valley and St. Helena. The oil is pressed at Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill in Kelseyville, but the Hernandez duo is testing their own, new Pieralisi mill with plans to take production in-house in the near future.
A visit to their shop on Silverado Trail east of Lincoln Avenue finds the oil packaged in elegant silver metal bottles, plus the option for wooden gift boxes.
“Our aluminum cans are 100% recyclable, sourced in the United States,” Ana explained. “And they protect our olive oil from light and heat exposure, unlike traditional glass packaging.”
The shop also offers a selection of small-batch oils from around the world, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. Currently, oil tastings are available at picnic tables outdoors, as the indoor space is being renovated for an October opening. You can also shop online at https://www.grove45.com and learn about products from the duo’s sister companies, Monte Olivos EVOO, Napa Safe Hand Sanitizer, and Hernandez Family Wines.
Yet really, the focus remains on the Grove 45 oil, with its delicious, delicate character of fresh cut grass and sweet green citrus, underlaid with fruit-forward spice.
“The combination of the rich Napa Valley terroir and our unique blend of five different Italian varietals creates our exquisite liquid gold that extends into a delightful peppery finish,” Ana said.
As Napa Valley residents for more than a dozen years now, Ana and Marcela have long loved what Ana calls Calistoga’s “very tight-knit community where there is great business promotion, collaboration, and tourism.” Currently, their businesses support the Napa Valley Food Pantry, the Napa Valley Restaurant Worker’s Fund, and the Calistoga Boys & Girls Club through donations and fundraising auctions.
When not working with their oils or their new Fig Balsamic Vinegar, they make time to soak up the beauty of their Wine Country lifestyle. Ana tends to her fruit orchard and flower garden, while Marcela enjoys “soccer, being a dog mom, and live music.”
You’ll also find them gathering together with friends and family for a favorite pastime: movie nights, complemented by Grove 45’s movie kit. The gift pack is a best-seller, including Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a jar of Grove 45’s American Blend Popcorn, a jar of Truffle Shuffle’s Truffle Salt for sprinkling, and a Grove 45 kitchen towel to keep the crumbs tidy.