Updated 2009-06-02 17:32:52 ID=322:1

© 2009 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table, Susan O'Reilly and Ron Sanders, owners of Alta Cresta Orchard 2009-02-24 14:44:57:124
©2009 The Romantic Table

Susan O'Reilly and Ron Sanders, owners of Alta Cresta Orchard

Extra Virgin Olive Oil Producers Ron Sanders and Susan O'Reilly of Alta Cresta Orchard

Today we paid a visit to Ron Sanders and Susan O'Reilly's Bed and Breakfast and Olive Orchard. Picturesquely situated high up on High Ridge Road, just east of Paso Robles.

Today we paid a visit to Extra Virgin Olive Oil Producers Ron Sanders and Susan O'Reilly, owners of Alta Cresta Orchard. Picturesquely situated high up on High Ridge Road, just east of Paso Robles, the estate is a meticulously maintained and picture perfect home, olive orchard and Bed and Breakfast.

Susan O'Reilly, a ball of energy and enthusiasm, is a southern transplant from Florida. Trained as an accountant, her last position before running Alta Cresta Orchard full time was as a Senior Applications Consultant with SAP America. Sarbanes Oxley compliance kept O'Reilly busy. "As a consultant I traveled extensively Monday through Thursday living in hotels. My specialty was assisting corporations with the implementation of SAP's Consolidation Accounting Software and in SEC Reporting." she explains.

The more "laid-back" Ron Sanders originally from Alabama then Florida is an environmental engineer. Sanders is a pioneer in that profession, "My work in environmental affairs began in early 1970 --the United States Environmental Protection Agency was formed later that same year." His current position is "Western Region Environmental Manager," CertainTeed Corporation. Says Sanders, "My job is to assure that CertainTeed's manufacturing plants in the western US and Canada are compliant with all environmental rules and company policies that go beyond the basic governmental requirements." Ron is still employed full time.

Both Susan and Ron are avid gardeners. Knowing that gardening would always be a part of their lives and anticipating a welcomed change in their hectic lifestyle as retirement approached (influenced a bit by the reality show "The Good life" admits Susan) they began to look for a lower stress rural environment with an ideal outdoors climate. Feeling that the Florida humidity can be oppressive during a large part of the year, they began a search for a place with a drier Mediterranean climate. Their search quickly focused upon California. At first they looked at Northern California, with visits and trips exploring the possibilities of the area. Paso Robles Wine Country, not well known at the time was a chance discovery during an impromptu visit to the area in 2002. Susan said "we wanted a place that was rural --but still easy access to a city." Paso Robles fit the bill. They located an ideal property, but the seller was not quite ready to sell at the time. Susan said "we contacted a local realtor and asked her to watch the property and contact us when it came on the market." They got the call from the realtor several months later and the rest is now history.

©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-24 18:04:29:125
©2009 The Romantic Table

Picturesquely situated high up on High Ridge Road, just east of Paso Robles, Alta Cresta Orchard is a meticulously maintained and picture perfect home, olive orchard and Bed and Breakfast.
There was nothing on the property when they finally acquired it. As owner-contractors they managed the design and installation of the house, guest cottage and olive orchard on the ten-acre estate. Susan, in her own words a "interior designer by avocation" focused on the interior design, while Ron applied his engineering training to the "physical plant." 95% of the energy needs of the site are supplied by a solar electric system, and the orchard is irrigated with a highly efficient automated drip irrigation system fed from a central 18,000 gallon tank. Susan and Ron handled the design and installation of the extensive house gardens, and now maintain it themselves. "We have to get Ron retired" laughs Susan, "so he can help out around here full time!"

One of the objectives of the project was to develop a commercial agricultural operation. Since the site has a classic Mediterranean climate, they chose to grow olives, because "the infrastructure investment was not as intensive as grapes" explains Susan. The terroir of the location is a perfect match for Italian varietal olives grown for olive oil. The orchard is planted with three Tuscan varietals: Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino, and one from southern Italy, Coratina. From the olives Alta Cresta offers three certified Extra Virgin Olive Oils: Coratina, a southern Italian style olive oil made from 100% Coratina olive oil; Tuscan, a blend of Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino oils; and Italian, a blend of Coratina, Frantoio, Leccino and Pendolino olive oils. All off the olives used in the extra virgin olive oil production are 100% estate grown. In December of 2008, the couple opened an on- site extra virgin olive oil tasting room where you can purchase, and sample and compare the different olive oils. The tasting room is open Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM and by appointment. You can contact them by phone at 805.227.4751

Susan and Ron are firm believers in sustainable farming practices. "It is our belief that the olive trees will produce the highest quality fruit by cultivating them without the aid of chemical fertilizers. All of the orchard tree trimmings and green wastes are returned to the soil to replenish its nutrients" they explain.

When it comes to the Alta Cresta Olive Cottage Bed and Breakfast, guests are in for a real treat. The location is the epitome of peacefulness, privacy and tranquility. Sitting and looking out from the Cottage's veranda, you can enjoy your wine while viewing the serene and beautiful Olive Orchard and neighboring vineyards of the Creston Valley.

Susan and Ron have thought of everything for the Olive Cottage right down to the nitty-gritty details. Originally built as a guest cottage, in 2006 Susan and Ron remodeled it by adding extra conveniences and touches and transformed it into a high-end Bed and Breakfast, with a complete kitchen, serene and spacious bedroom, living/dining room and full bath. If a guest doesn't feel like cooking dinner or going out to a local restaurant after a busy day in the Paso Robles Wine Country, visiting personal Chef Terry Birchfiel is available to provide a full-course wine-country dinner.

Alta Cresta Orchard is located at 6075 High Ridge Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. For directions to Altat Cresta and more information about Alta Cresta Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the Alta Cresta Olive Cottage Bed and Breakfast visit their website, www.altacresta.com.

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A tip from Sue!

Mark perishable ingredients

When ever you bring home a brand new spice, oil, vinegar, flour, sugar or other perishable ingredient, mark the bottle/container with the day’s date with a felt tip pen. Most "permanent markers" will write on just about any container.

That way if you don’t use it very much, but it’s been opened, you know how fresh it is. For an important meal don’t “submarine yourself” by using past expiration ingredients that have long lost their fresh taste and flavor.