Yet, unless you were brought up in the Mediterranean where children are taught to like olives at an early age, Margaret Visser, Anthropologist and author says that ‘Eating olives in our society is sophisticated behaviour. Liking them is proof of an adventurous readiness to try foreign foods. As well as of familiarity with an exotic yet universally acclaimed cuisine. Eating olives, one is grown up, broadminded and a person, as we say, ‘of taste.’
How fortunate that on my parents farm we had a huge 100ha olive orchard. Tall proud grey trees with long grey green leaves. Carefully pruned and carefully tended while young and, once able to cope, stood proud in their soldier-like rows, delivering their wondrous harvest year upon year. So eating olives came to me early in life as I used to help my mother pickle her olives using the First Trumpeter’s Method. The First Trumpeter, from whom y mother got her recipe was Roy Lilley, who played in what is now the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra.
The history and mythology of olives
Since pre biblical times olives have been associated with wealth and health, while the olive tree itself is a revered symbol in religion and many cultures. Think of the olive branch brought back by the dove to Noah’s Ark. And important is its ability to provide wood, fruit and oil.
In the legends of Greek mythology Athena, the Goddess of wisdom and peace, who wore a wreath of olive branches in her hair struck her spear into the Earth, and it turned into an olive tree. Legend further has it that the location where the olive tree appeared and grew was named Athens, in her honour.
In the book of Judges chapter 9 in the King James version of the bible, verse 8 says ‘The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.’ At Willow Creek Olive Estate, the olive tree reigns, is celebrated and gives forth its bounty for the Rabies to produce world class olive products.
The Nuy Valley
If you live in the Nuy Valley, in the Western Cape of South Africa, there is a good chance that your name is Rabie. Even the Rabie Mountain, part of the Langeberg Mountina range, overlooks the estate. Willow Creek has been owned by the Rabie family since the late 1700s when it was first cultivated by Johannes Stephanus Rabie.
Johannes Rabie’s descendant and current CEO, Andries Rabie, planted the first olive trees in 1999 and three year later in 2002 the first oil was pressed on the farm. The Nuy Valley is ideal for the cultivation of premium quality olives. Calcium rich ideal olive growing soils and rain in winter sunshine in summer Mediterranean climate combine to produce oils which are complex packed with flavour and with great balance.
Later that year a partnership was forged with the owners of Alomzicht Olive Estate, Johan Pretorius, and his wife Mariette, a partnership with global potential and aspirations. And the rest. As the cliché goes, is history. And what a history.
From its humble beginning in 1999, Willow Creek today has 260 hectares planted to some 200 000 olive trees – Coratina, Frantoio, Leccino, Barnea, Koroneiki, Favoloza, Mission, Kalamata, Noccelara del Belice and Manzanilla being the varieties growing there. Establishing itself as one of the largest estate olive oil producers in the Southern Hemisphere. With a medal cupboard creaking under the weight of awards both in South Africa and beyond our borders the quality, consistency and appeal of Willow Creek’s products is well established.
The Olive Tree Nursery
Interestingly Willow Creek has a nursery on the estate which propogates the very best olive trees, disease free, vigorous, true to type plant material. Cuttings are propagated in hotbeds and monitored daily for disease and pests and the young trees are sold in in 2-litre bags, planted in a premium commercial potting mix topped with compost.
The Willow Creek Oils
There is an old Spanish proverb which goes, ‘Let the salad maker be a spendthrift with oil, a miser with vinegar, a statesman with salt and a madman for mixing.’
A passion for what they do and an unrelenting focus on quality are the cornerstones of Willow Creek’s success with their brilliant olive oils. After an intense process involving harvesting and oil extraction, the art of blending is the final stage in this journey towards excellence. Andries Rabie blends the oils of various olive varities and in differing stages of ripeness to best ensure a premium quality, well balanced oils of distinction. Willow Creek offers a broad range of oils, some of which are infused with variety of flavours.
The Director’s Reserve
This is the Estate’s flagship oil and an indulgence as it is blended to accommodate the flavour most liked by the directors. The leading varities in this blend are Coratina and Frantoio. Layers of flavour reminding of crushed tomato leaves, globe artichokes with rocket, salad herbs and an undertow of nuts which are found in the long flavour of this oil. The enchanting bitterness and green tingleing pungency provide structure to the oil without overpowering the flavour.
The Gourmet ‘Squeeze Me’
My favourite and the easiest to use is this popular Estate Blend which is a medium intensity extra virgin oil, blended from half ripe Frantoio and Mission olives. Lovely sparky green notes, like scrunched up fynbos herbs. This is perfect for cooking and so easy to squeeze over a salad. The brilliant nozzle allows you to direct and control flow of the olive oil. I love using it to cover the bottom of a frying pan.
Nuy Valley Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This oil pays homage to the valley of it provenance. Packed in glass the oil is pressed from olives which ripen on the tree, thus delivering a delicate style extra virgin olive oil which will especially appeal to the novice olive oil user. Subtle and fresh in flavour, good with fish and salads, perfect for homemade mayonnaise, and ideal for marinades Recently won a silver medal from the South African Olive Awards
The Extra Virgin
A fruity oil blended from Frantoio and Mission olives gives forth lovely grassy notes, with a whisper of apple. and has a medium fruity character. The aroma of freshly cut green grass and a hint of apple follows through on the palate. The piquancy is balanced and fades to leave a pleasant aftertaste. A Gold Medal winner at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition in the USA.
It is a versatile one, good with grilled or pan fried fish, oven roasted chicken and vegetables, home made mayonnaise and in baking – as muffins and carrot cake – come to mind also an Olive Oil noble Late Harvest Cake.
The Flavoured Oils
Exciting products. Willow Creek oils are infused with a wide range of flavours, anything from Jalapeno to Parmesan, Blood Orange to Persian Lime, Coriander to Lemon. Add so much flavour to your cooking and as you get to use them you learn how much you need to get just the right additions of flavour.
Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Vinegar
On Willow Creek, they use the slow Orleans method originally written up by Louis Pasteur. Slow is the secret for this excellent balsamic style vinegar made from Cabernet Sauvignon grape juice. Matured in oak barrels, this concentrates the sappy berry flavours of Cabernet Sauvignon and achieves the perfect balance between the residual sugar of the grape and the acidity of the vinegar. Salads, salads dressings, deglazing of sauté pans, drizzled over carpaccio, on goats cheese bruschetta, are all home to this excellent addition to your kitchen armoury.
Olives and olive products
For the Willow Creek black olives, full ripe Mission olives are handpicked and cured according to the benchmark Greek method to deliver a flavourful natural olives. Also packed in rosemary and garlic as another option.
For the Willow Creek green olives, Manzanilla and Noccelara del Belice olives are picked when they reach optimal size, but before turning colour. The olives are carefully sorted and then fermented in the Spanish style.
Willow Creek Tapenade & pestos
This clasical Mediterranean paste is a blend of black olives, anchovies, capers and garlic. Delicious on crispy goat’s cheese bruschetta or as a crust on oven baked fish or roasting lamb. The black Mission olives for the Chilli Olive Pesto are pounded with bird’s eye chilli for a bite of bite and heat. Perfect for topping big brown mushrooms or folding into bread dough for a delicious savoury bread. The Thai Olive Pesto has ginger, lemon grass, coriander and coconut milk flavouring green Manzanilla olive paste base. Perfect with oriental dishes when mixed with a little cream. Spread on fish, or chicken, this pesto works really well with vegetables.
Snap and squeeze sachets
You might also come across the Willow Creek single serving snap and squeeze sachets. A first on the local market, they are filled with 8ml of Willow Creek Olive Estate’s award winning Directors’ Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the one and the Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Vinegar the other.
“Happiness is…finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.” – Johnny Carson, Happiness is a Dry Martini
The Deli and Bistro
The Deli and Bistro are situated in the two oldest buildings on the farm, one dating back to the seventeenth century and the other the 1840’s. The buildings have been lovingly restored to preserve their character and history. The offices are also situated there. Here a unique range of olive and tapas cutlery consisting of sterling silver, pewter, bone and indigenous wood, created in the studio of local jeweler and gold smith, Philip Joubert, are displayed and available for sale along with exquisite olive wood items from France. A licensed bistro offers an olive inspired menu and guests can enjoy the freshly prepared cuisine either inside the authentic building or on the enclosed stoep. A constantly changing menu offers delectable lunches to suit a variety of taste preferences. The cheese platters offer salad in summer, soup in winter along with pasta and traditional favourites.
“Italians…seemed never to die. They eat olive oil all day long…and that’s what does it.” – William Kennedy
Willow Creek Weddings
The spectacular views and wonderful ambience of Willow Creek Olive Estate makes it the perfect wedding venue and backdrop for your memorable photos. The combination of the relaxed atmosphere and dedicated staff will make your wedding day a day to remember, for ever.
Buy Online – Click here to buy Willow Creek products on line.
33 deg 39 minutes 59.31 seconds South 19 deg 37 minues 24.79 seconds East
Directions from Cape Town: Turn off the N1 highway at Worcester and take the R60 towards Robertson. After 14 km turn left into the Nuy Valley at the Nuy sign. Continue for 4 km and turn left at the ochre coloured Willow Creek entrance wall.
Visitors are welcome to the Willow Creek Deli and Bistro during the following hours:
Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 16h30
Saturdays from 09h30 to 14h00
Sundays please enquire
Please note that Willow Creek is closed on New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Christmas Day and 26 December.
Please call (023) 342 5793 should you have problems locating Willow Creek