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Saturday, March 25, 2017

03/20/2017 - The Grove 45 Olive Oil Story, and Chef Bob Hurley

Slow Living Radio welcomes show regular, Chef Bob Hurley, to join host Stephen Andrews in learning the story behind Grove 45 Olive Oil, an exciting venture started by Bonnie Storm and Nena Talcott, who also join us. We then get the low down on what's new and happening at Hurley's Restaurant, Yountville.

Nena Talcott and Bonnie Storm
Partners and Co-Founders
Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

About Grove 45

Located in Chiles Valley, a remote corner or the Napa Valley northeast of St. Helena.  Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil is cultivated and produced from imported Tuscan and Sicilian variety olive trees, (Frantoio, Leccino, Maurino, Pendolino and Nocellara de Belice).  The Tehama loan soil, coupled with the unique qualities of the olive varieties and microclimate, yield a balanced, robust, fruity and spicy oil. 

Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an artisanal finishing and condiment oil packaged in an artful aluminum bottle with an embossed pewter label that is applied by hand.  All oil is sourced from the organically certified proprietary groves as well as select organically farmed groves in Napa County.  First released in February 2010.

Nina and Bonnie’s Story

Two Friends:  Longtime friends Nena Talcott and Bonnie Storm were individually assessing the rest of their lives.  It was early 2009 and they would be turning 65 the next year, signing up for Medicare and applying for Social Security.  They had both lived extraordinarily busy lives, each in her own right, having grown olives and grapes in Napa Valley for many years.  Retiring didn’t have a good sound to it.

Bonnie had been growing olives and raising cattle on her ranch tucked away in a little known corner of northeastern Napa County known as Chiles Valley.  Among the first to import Italian variety olive trees to California and make a Tuscan style oil for which she’d won numerous gold medal awards, Bonnie loved farming. Trouble was she didn’t enjoy marketing so in 2008 she quit selling oil commercially and sold it out of her barn, one bottle at a time.  Nena had been on a similar track, having spent thirty years in Napa Valley growing premium grapes, owning a winery and producing her own gold medal, award-winning olive oil from Bonnie’s olive tree cuttings she’d planted around her vineyards.  In 2006, Nena sold her vineyards and winery and retired.  It wasn’t long before she missed farming. 

Over Lunch:  During lunch in early 2009, the two good friends got to talking about their lives, assessing what was next.  Before the meal was over they had agreed to share the 2009 farming costs of growing Bonnie’s olives, producing an oil and bringing it to market.  It would be a small-production, tree-to-bottle operation. Their hands would touch every aspect from growing and harvesting the olives to packaging and selling the finished oil.  They would strive to make their artisanal oil one of the best produced in California.   

Bonnie and Nena would name their oil “Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil” after the year they were both born.  Bonnie agreed to handle the farming aspects, since that was what she knew how to do, and Nena said she’d take on the marketing effort.  They were jazzed.

Grove 45:  Bonnie and Nena quickly breathed life into the term “hands-on”.  After the enthusiastic duo hand harvested and pressed the olives in November 2009, they racked the oil and allowed it to rest for several months in Bonnie’s barn.  In February of 2010, they bottled the oil in an eye catching aluminum container from France, which can be recycled or reused.  The container also prevents UV rays from deteriorating the oil’s color and flavor and dresses up the kitchen counter.  The first harvest, the women produced 58 cases of 550 ml. containers of EVOO, hand applying all 700 embossed pewter labels from France.  

With Grove 45 bottles in hand, Nena and Bonnie immediately hit the road.   A month later, much to their astonishment, they had sold every bottle of the 2009 harvest and customers were asking for more – many more.  Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil can be found in many parts of the country.  In 2011, Grove 45 will gently grow in production to 200/400 cases.  

Medicare, Social Security & Starting Over:  The first Grove 45 harvest coincided with Bonnie and Nena receiving their Medicare cards and first Social Security checks, proving it is never too late to start something new.


Bob Hurley
Executive Chef, Hurley’s Restaurant & Bar

In the summer of 1988 Chef Bob Hurley planted his roots firmly in the California Wine Country, first as a chef at Domaine Chandon, then later as Executive Chef at the Napa Valley Grille. 

In November 2002 he opened his own restaurant, Hurley's Restaurant, in Yountville, California.  Chef Hurley describes his menu as local California cuisine high in flavor and influenced by the Mediterranean so that it fits very well with wine. The regular menu offers a wide array of options.  The “Wine Country” theme allows diversity so that it is not tied down to a particular style or ethnicity.  It is creative food done simply and he always has two or three wild game selections as well. The menus are revised about three times each year to take advantage of seasonal changes, particularly with produce and seafood.  Fall brings on wonderful risottos with wild mushrooms and squashes, and in the chilly winter it’s time for the deep rich braises with root vegetables and hearty potato based soups.  His summer menu lightens up again with fresh vine ripened heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and wonderful summer stone fruit. 

Chef Bob Hurley is a world traveler and a devotee of the culture, cuisine and lifestyle of many other countries. His years of trekking and working around the world provide the basis for his theory that Napa Valley is no longer a melting pot of cuisines from the rest of the world; but they have come together to create a Napa Valley regional cuisine.  Chef Hurley says that concurrent with the development of the Napa Valley’s prestigious wine industry, the origins and methods of local cooking have changed.  Prior to the wine industry’s rise to prominence, cuisine of the Napa Valley was often prepared using methods defined by the limitations of experience.  Then with the success of the wine industry, its corresponding tourism and the plethora of cooking schools, the food of the region has become influenced and includes the tastes of Asia, Europe and Mexico, as well as other regional and ethnic areas of the United States.

Since Chef Hurley began cooking professionally more than 30 years ago, he has always had a strong belief that the use of regional, seasonal ingredients is important on many different levels.  It promotes sustainability, showcases local producers and provides the finest dining experience to the customer.  He says that the Napa Valley is particularly blessed with a wide range of such products, from produce and meats to fish and fruits, as well as artisanal breads, cheeses, oils and much more.  This philosophy is a guiding light behind the menu development at Hurley’s Restaurant.

The wine program at Hurley’s Restaurant also closely follows his local ingredient philosophy.  Chef Hurley likes to regard the town of Yountville as the epicenter of his restaurant, first by using wine and other products of the distinct Yountville appellation, then working out into other parts of the Napa Valley and beyond.  Given the fact that Hurley’s Restaurant is literally the center of Yountville and Yountville is the center of the Napa Valley, Chef Hurley feels an extra responsibility to expand his diner’s horizons when it comes to wine selections, and the response has been gratifying.  Many area winemakers and winery owners have chosen to make Hurley’s Restaurant their neighborhood watering hole.  As such, he gets to try and offer wines that are in short supply.  While the restaurant does not employ a sommelier, each of the managers is extremely wine and beverage knowledgeable and they, in turn, guide the entire wait staff in a continual program of tastings and education.  Just as Chef Hurley looks for strong classic cooking skills, and a consistent work ethic and attention to detail in the kitchen staff, he has also been able to hire managers that have solid food and beverage skills plus a considerable depth of local knowledge.

Always the first to respond to the needs of the non-profit sector, Chef Hurley has been a regular participant in charitable events including Guide Dogs for the Blind,  the Veterans Home of Yountville Luncheon and Pathway Home Programs,  Napa Valley Wine Auction,  Copia: American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, the Napa Valley Academy Awards AIDS benefit, the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, VIP chef for Hands Across the Valley food bank, the Staglin Family Vineyard Music Festival for Mental Health and many others.  Other Napa Valley community events he actively participates in are the Napa Valley Film Festival, Sense Yountville, Flavor! Napa Valley, Yountville Festival of Lights and is an active board member of the Lincoln Theater Center For the Arts located at the historic Yountville Veterans Home.  He also finds time to do a large number of food and wine demonstrations. 

Chef Hurley has brought his Napa Valley cuisine to the famous James Beard House in New York City several times and was also named a Shining Star Chef by Cooking Light Magazine.  He has been a regular on San Francisco’s Bay TV and has appeared several times on the award-winning California food show, Bringing it Home with Laura McIntosh.  Chef Hurley is a featured chef on the nationally syndicated PBS special “The Great Chefs of Napa Valley”.

In addition to special events throughout the year, such as his Dungeness Crab Festival in December,  Robert Burns Scottish Supper in January and Mardi Gras in February, he also prepares custom menus for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  But his personal favorite is Wild Game Week, which is normally the second week every November.  For almost 20 years, Chef Hurley has been matching the grape harvest with the autumn hunt and for six days prepares a changing all-day menu of exotic game dishes and invites all adventurous diners to come and sample the delicacies from around the world. 

Hurley’s Restaurant is a white tablecloth, full service establishment that is focused on quality food and service.  The dining room, highlighted by a stone fireplace, is a favorite among locals and winemakers.  The ambiance is casual and friendly without losing the special feeling you get when you come to a well-run establishment that is serious about what it does.  The expansive bar opens up to a large wrought iron and stone-enclosed patio right in the center of town where you can watch the world go by.  It’s the perfect place to meet friends, or make friends, where you can enjoy the late night menu every night.  When there is a chill in the air, they light up the patio fireplace and turn on the outdoor heaters which enable even large groups of friends to gather for a casual drink, good conversation and a late-night snacks well into the evening.

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