Nancy and Tony Lilly of Tallgrass Ranch

Nancy and Tony Lilly of Tallgrass Ranch

TallgrassOLIVE OIL
Tallgrass Ranch Olive Oil

I (Nancy) was raised on the ranch where I currently live, in the hills of southern Sonoma County.


I (Nancy) was raised on a cattle and hay ranch, so grew up outdoors with the hills, trees and streams as the locus for playtime.  My mother was an avid traveller and a wonderful and adventurous cook, so my two siblings and I were exposed to international flavors as well as all parts of a beef animal.   My brother, sister and I all became serious home cooks as a result.  When not in the vineyard or olive grove, I volunteer in my community of Sonoma.  This is in addition to being a proud and active member of three olive oil taste panels.

We began planting our grove in 1998, during the time that we were planting our vineyard.  I had recently taken an olive oil production course from Paul Vossen and thought that the several acres that were less suitable for wine grapes might be perfect for olive trees.  What began with 70 trees, Tuscan varieties sourced from Bob Cannard and Phil Coturri, and also Columella from Michael and Peggy Henwood, has stabilized at about 250 trees, which turns out to be all that two of us can handle.  Tony and I do nearly all of the pruning ourselves, and the bottling and marketing are in-house, too.  While our harvesting takes place on at least three days, with a little bit of hired labor, we invite friends to join us on what we call “Family Day”, where we serve lunch and my son’s beer to the crew after a hard morning of picking (rain or shine).  We learned early-on not to count on finishing the harvest on this day, but everyone has such a good time that we have friends coming from as far away as The Netherlands, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon to be with us.  Many have become good customers for the oil, too.

My perfect day would begin with a walk with my husband Tony, as we do most days, the mile up the hill to our vineyard.  There we check on the vines and olive trees, and in winter, this might include a visit to our favorite mushroom patches.  Ideally my children would be visiting, and maybe a friend or two.  Next we would see what was growing in the garden and would choose something tasty for lunch or dinner.  We might fire up the wood oven for a pizza or might collaborate on a meal to share.  There would be wine made from our own grapes (no, we don’t make wine ourselves), and we’d enjoy our time together with good conversation and laughter.  Living in this glorious place I call home, I couldn’t ask for more.

Tallgrass Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which was honored with a Good Food Award in 2014, is found at a limited, but select, number of places, though we do sell some directly to friends.

The Epicurean Connection, Sonoma

The Pasta Shop, Oakland and Berkeley

Bi-Rite Markets, San Francisco

Beyond the Olive, Pasadena

City Olive, Chicago


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