By MARCY BRADSHAW-ANGIER/Staff writer
Located in the middle of Capay Valley is Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room, which carries a line of agricultural products from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.
Yocha Dehe means “home by the spring water” in the native Patwin language. As the historical Capay Valley inhabitants, their homeland is at the heart of their cultural heritage.
The name Séka Hills translates to “blue hills,” referring to the hills overlooking the Yocha Dehe lands in the Capay Valley. Séka Hills owns and manages over 16,000 acres of farm and ranch land in the valley and takes great pride in practicing sustainability in everything they do.
Today, much of the land is planted with olive trees, vineyards and a variety of seasonal crops. With 16 crops, it is one of the most diverse farming operations in Yolo County. Some of the other sustainable crops they grow are asparagus, sunflowers, safflower, sorghum and oat hay. They also manage over 700 head of cattle on their lands.
In 2008, Séka Hills made its initial land investment, and planted Syrah, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, as well as their first olive trees. The first olive harvest was 2011, and in 2012, they produced their first vintage of Viognier.
They also completed their mill that year and had their first onsite milling of Arbequina olives. The mill has immensely helped local olive farmers, offering custom crush services with a capacity of 3.5 tons per hour. No mill of this size was formerly available in the valley. They are grateful stewards of the lands and believe in giving back to the community when they can, because they can.
Séka Hills currently features seven estate-grown grape varieties, which are made into their wines. The valley’s soil and climate are perfectly suited to the chosen varietals.
To create a public space to share Séka Hills’ bounty, they built their tasting room in 2014. In addition to grapes and olives they also offer a wildflower honey produced on their lands by beekeeper John Foster. They have over 3,000 hives and sampling is offered in the tasting room.
The tasting room features local products from around the valley, including foods, jams, books by local writers, and local art. It’s a great place to shop for unique local gifts from the area.
At the farm, they produce and sell about 2,500 cases of wine per year, four estate extra virgin olive oil varieties (Arbequina, Picual, Taggiasca and Frantoio), three balsamic vinegars (elderberry, fig and pomegranate), wildflower honey, beef jerky, beef sticks, plain and flavored almonds and walnuts, and three flavors of hummus from homegrown garbanzo beans.
A tasting experience is most unique. It began with an olive oil tasting. Tasters will learn about first warming the sample cup in their hands, taking in aroma… then slurping it in with an air mixture, to take in all of the flavors.
The balsamic vinegars were unique — bold and sweet. When tasting a spoonful of wildflower honey, the tasting experience just kept getting better. Next came the almonds and walnuts, with a delicious variety of flavors. Scoring top tasting honors was the almond with chocolate and toffee, the garlic and herb flavor scored high marks too.
The food sampling finished with their hummus, mixed with their olive oil. The three hummus samples were traditional, olive, and cilantro/jalapeño.
Wine tasting came last, each one very enjoyable, with its own distinct flavors, and pairing well with selected foods.
After the tasting room experience came a lovely snack tray with salamis, a variety of cheeses, crackers and honey — a perfect ending to a tour and tastings, and available at the deli counter. These treats were enjoyed outside on the patio under the shade of an umbrella on a beautiful day.
This is the best time of year to visit Séka Hills because olive milling operations begin in a couple of weeks. It’s also the only time of year that visitors can purchase “olio nuovo,” or “new oil” — the first extra virgin olive oil off the press each season. The name refers to the best and freshest unfiltered oils made from olives harvested during the first two weeks of the season. It is said to be healthier when it is freshest.
In addition to tasting, Séka Hills offers a wine club that sends out wine four times per year, as well as a harvest club, which features other tribal products.
Enjoy a visit with family or friends. There’s something for everyone here at Séka Hills.
For tasting room hours, visit www.sekahills.com.