An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Feb 28, 2014
07:05 AM
The Connecticut Table

Gourmet Olive Oils at Shoreline Vine's Madison Shop, Tasting Room

Gourmet Olive Oils at Shoreline Vine's Madison Shop, Tasting Room

Dawn Schwab has a pressing issue she would love to share with you. It’s your olive oil and vinegar — she wants you to get serious about them. Schwab owns The Shoreline Vine in Madison, along with her husband Eric Weiss, where they have more than 40 traditional, mixed, fused and infused oils and vinegars for sale in their spiffy new tasting room located in the downtown Madison.

Schwab was first in real estate management, and then retail with Crate and Barrel in Michigan, where she fell in love with oil from a good producer. When she and Weiss moved to Connecticut it seemed as if Madison was the perfect place to open her own store.

“I just knew this kind of store would work in a small, upscale market like Madison,” she said. She was right. It works brilliantly.

Having Bomster scallops for dinner tonight? Try them drizzled with an olive oil infused with basil and orange. Something strawberry for dessert? Shoreline Vine’s chocolate infused balsamic would be just the trick to wow those important dinner guests. In fact, corresponding recipe cards are provided throughout the shop, set in between gleaming stainless steel fustis (urns), each affixed with detailed taste profiles and production stats. She works closely with Veronica Foods, a respected importer, who provides the oils, in addition to continuing education and marketing support. Not incidentally, Veronica Foods olive oil and balsamic were chosen to be used at 2014 Olympic Games at Sochi. Why go all the way to Russia?

Schwab and her assistant Katie Anderson are a wealth of knowledge, eager to inform, and their enthusiasm is downright contagious. Who knew that 95 percent of all olive oil comes from the Mediterranean basin, with the most volume coming from North Africa? Spain, however, is still the world’s largest individual producer of olives and olive oils. Each geographic area uses specific varieties of olives, all with their own taste profile. In Spain, they use the Picual, Hojiblanca and Arbequina olive varieties, in Italy it’s the Corratina, Leccino and Frantoio, with Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey using their own specific varieties. Up and coming production regions include the U.S.w, Australia and South America, all using different varieties that provide maximum production and quality for their specific “terroir.”

Olive oil immediately starts to lose its flavor intensity and health benefits once bottled. Schwab’s extra virgin selections all include the olive varieties used and their crush date, so you can make an educated choice.

“It helps to taste these extra virgin oils side by side, at the same time,” said Schwab, “that way you can decide which suits your individual taste. The strength of taste comes from the polyphenol count, the higher the count, the stronger the taste.”

There is a method for tasting olive oils. Much like a wine tasting, one starts with the least pungent oil and moves on from there, comparing the range of acidity and fruitiness in all the oils. Then you move on to “infused” and “fused” oils. Infused means that the flavorings are steeped in already pressed oil. Fused oil means that the whole fruit and whole olives are crushed together and then bottled.

The basic method of olive oil production has remained the same for thousands of years: pick the olives at their ripest, crush them, separate out the solids and water, and bottle it immediately. The ancient method is to stone-grind the olives with their pits, and then press the pulp through woven mats into basins to separate out the solids, and then skim the oil from the top. Still in use today, this method is very labor intensive with considerable product loss, but purists insist it provides the best tasting oils due to the cultures that build up in the mats, imparting flavor with repeated use.

The Shoreline Vine is located at 724 Boston Post Road in Madiso; the phone number is: (203) 779-5331. For hours, directions and more, see the website.

See the full story at The Shoreline Times online.

 

Gourmet Olive Oils at Shoreline Vine's Madison Shop, Tasting Room

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