When researching Sicily, I kept seeing vague references to an olive oil estate near Segesta where you could go do a tasting and tour. I was intrigued. I had done plenty of wine tasting, but olive oil tasting sounded novel.
After a lot of Googling and driving around the country roads of Sicily, we finally stumbled upon Villa de Fontanasalsa.
Fontanasalsa is a 300 year old family business and the exclusive olive oil supplier for elite clientele like Dom Perignon. We figured this must be the famous estate everyone was talking about.
Despite limited information and lack of an appointment, we decided to try our luck and walk in anyway.
The estate smelled heavenly – like olives, citrus, and almonds.
When we walked in, we were greeted by a stern woman named Colette. “You’ve come for an olive oil tasting?!?! At this hour?!?” she exclaimed. (It was about 4:30 in the afternoon.)
We nodded sheepishly.
She went on to explain that she was a 74 year old woman working 19 hours a day and that we had arrived during her much-needed afternoon nap. We felt terrible, apologized profusely, and turned around to leave.
But to our surprise, she insisted we stay, ushered us to a table, and proceeded to bring out bread, bottles of olive oil, and apple slices. For the next half hour, she gave us a thorough lesson on her beloved olive oils.
With a glint in her eye, she labored over the tasting notes and personalities of each, appropriate food pairings, and the best way to taste the oil. We were instructed to rub the rims of our tasting cups, inhale the scent, then slurp the oil through our teeth.
Along the way, we also got life lessons.
“Good olive oil is just like love. It doesn’t overpower or compete; it enhances whatever you pair it with.” she counseled.
After we tasted the oils, she said “you eat something. I bring you ice cream and cookies.” It was a statement, not a question. It felt like a moment out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Before we could politely refuse (we really felt bad for disturbing her nap), she had hurried into the kitchen. Moments later, we were presented with the most luscious, delicately flavored olive oil ice cream and crispy-on-the-outside-yet-soft-on-the-inside olive oil cookies.
Colette then gave us a full tour of the estate and factory. We learned that this badass woman does it all: oversee the staff, lead olive oil production, manage customer relationships, design packaging, and everything in between.
When the tour concluded, Colette sent us home with some olive oil bottles, marmalade, soap bars, and cookies as gifts “so we would remember her.” As if we could ever forget her.
She gave us a long Sicilian goodbye, hugging us multiple times and wishing us well.
If you’re in Sicily, don’t miss Villa de Fontanasalsa. You’ll find a lovely Sicilian grandmother you never knew you had. Just make sure you call ahead.