November 1, 2004

November 1, 2004

Dear Family and Friends,

Ed and I are at Bramasole for that everlasting ritual, olive picking time–so the harvest and the new oil are on my mind.  I wanted to let you know that Ashley and her friend Nico Peruzzi have their olive oil importing business up and running.  They want to sell directly, with the possibility later of expanding.  Right now, with the dollar at such a disadvantage and the uncertain shipping times due to increased inspections both leaving Italy and arriving in the U.S., they are keeping the business small and personal.  Nico and Ashley met a few years ago in graduate school and found the amazing Cortona connection.  When she mentioned to him that her mother had a house in Tuscany, he told her that his father was born and raised in Cortona.  Nico married Ashley's good friend Ann and now they are all plotting how they can spend several months a year in Cortona.  We rely on Nico's business expertise–he has taken over the legal aspects of setting up an LLC and importing permissions and important Tuscan regional validations for the oil.

They have a couple of pallets of this year's oil ready to ship from California.  We'll be sending back a sizable shipment as soon as this harvest is complete and the oil is bottled.  We expect the new oil to arrive in California in March.  You might already know that oil that soon out of the mill is impossible to come by in the U.S.  Most of the oil we buy there would disappoint a Tuscan profoundly.

The oil from the Cortona region, our area of Tuscany, is fresh, clean and lively.  This time of year everyone is excited to taste their own new oil and that of their neighbors, mainly to determine that their own is superior to all!  We have learned from Beppe, who helps us with the olives, that the first test is to watch how the oil behaves when poured onto a piece of bread.  If it "skis" off, that's a bad sign.  The oil should pool and stay and gradually absorb, but should not run.  The Tuscans simply taste with a tablespoon–something I can't manage no matter how much I love the oil.  Every year the oil is different.  For 2004 (November, 2003 harvest), the oil was pungent and full of pizzazz–a greeny, fruity taste with a spicy afterbite.  The local oil we've tasted for 2005 (November 2004 harvest) is quite svelte, luscious, and mellow, less piquant and more flowery. 

We have been astonished to learn over the years about the quantity of oil our thin and healthy neighbors consume.  "Our oil doesn't make you fat," one friend explained.  She and her husband use approximately sixty liters a year.  This quantity, it turns out, is quite normal.  Watching good cooks, we have seen them not drizzle from a spouted bottle, but pour from an uncapped bottle.  We're converts and only use butter and other oils on occasion.  The olive, we've come to believe, sprouts from the heart of Mediterranean civilization, and is key to the superb cuisines around that sea.

So, I am writing to you bon vivants to say that Bramasole Olive Oil is ready for you. Take a look at the website They are offering an introductory price right now. The shipping cost goes down for orders of cases or six packs.  If you'd like to order, or to augment your holiday shopping, please contact Nico at  They ship every Monday.  Let them know if you'd like to reserve 2005 oil for shipment when it arrives.

And if you pour our oil in your pan, please think of Ed and me poised in the trees in the wind, picking jillions of these little drupes then standing in the cold mulino watching the stone grind the olives, then the lovely green oil pouring into our demijohns.  We send you our best for the end of the year and many hopes for 2005. 

                                                                                Tante belle cose, Frances and Ed

P.S.  Please forward this letter to your dining companions!

Edward Mayes