Business

North Island's first oil and vinegar tasting bar opens

Signature Oil & Vinegar specializes in quality extra virgin olive oils and Italian balsamic vinegars. - PHOTO SUBMITTED
Signature Oil & Vinegar specializes in quality extra virgin olive oils and Italian balsamic vinegars.
— image credit: PHOTO SUBMITTED

A unique tasting experience has come to the Comox Valley. Signature Oil & Vinegar specializes in fresh, high-quality extra virgin olive oils and Italian balsamic vinegars.

When you walk into the shop at 2060 Guthrie Rd. you will be greeted by 37 gleaming stainless steel containers called fustis, each with a different product available for tasting before purchase.

"That's the only way you really know what you're getting," says co-owner Lisa Whitmore.

Olive oil, it seems, is not created equally. When Whitmore and her business partner, Sigrid Lees, went to Oakland, Calif. to study the olive oil industry, they were stunned to learn a significant per cent of what is available in grocery stores does not meet the standard for authentic extra virgin olive oil.

Unlike wine, which improves over time, olive oil loses its health benefits and flavour within a year, even if the bottle has never been opened. The date on bottles in grocery stores is the date the product was bottled, not the date the olives were pressed. Signature is bringing in fresh olive oil twice a year from seven countries, including Italy, Australia and Chile. Each of the oils is subject to a chemical and sensory analysis. Nothing but the highest quality product is shipped.

The aim of the tasting bar is to change the way consumers understand the benefits of olive oil through accurate information, tastings and education.

Sampling these products is like wine tasting. There are substantial differences in character between different kinds of olives. The staff at Signature can guide you in pairing the right oil to the correct balsamic. All vinegars are organic, made in Modena, Italy, and barrel aged up to 18 years.

"The blackberry/ginger dark balsamic paired with Persian lime infused olive oil is amazing on spinach salad," says Lisa.

The products can be used in everything from marinades to pasta sauces. Their philosophy is fresh plus natural leads to delicious.

Prices are reasonable with a 200ml bottle at $12 and a 375ml at $18.

"This is an everyday product," says Sigrid. "We don't want to be a special occasion boutique. We want to be your next stop after the bakery or the grocery store."

The new shop has been open less than a month, but plans to expand into evening tasting events and olive oil 101 sessions.

The tasting bar is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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