Food & Wine ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Worth the Drive: McEvoy Ranch

Posted on January 18, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun
McEvoy Ranch is just as pretty in the photos as it is in person (Photo: McEvoy Ranch)
McEvoy Ranch is just as pretty in the photos as it is in person (Photo: McEvoy Ranch)

McEvoy Ranch is synonymous with producing some of the world’s finest olive oil.

So fine, it is the olive oil of choice of Jacques Pepin. Next time you watch his cooking series, Heart & Soul, keep your eyes peeled for a stubby square olive oil bottle: it’s McEvoy Ranch.

Located on the Marin and Sonoma County border, the Ranch is 550 acres with more than 80 acres of organic olive trees, and orchards, gardens, vineyards and one of the most remarkable privately owned art collections in Northern California.

McEvoy Ranch was founded by Nan McEvoy at the young age of 72. Her grandfather Michael De Young, founded the San Francisco Chronicle.

Upon retiring from the Chronicle at the age of 72, McEvoy moved to the Ranch. Ever restless, she decided to develop the Ranch into an olive farm – and eventually one of the world’s finest producers of olive products. Nan McEvoy died in early 2015 and her son, Nion, serves as CEO.

With her legacy, McEvoy left an all encompassing foodie heaven – organic gardens that are so beautifully maintained when you walk through you feel like you’re in a magazine,  a kitchen staff to main and use said gardens, and architectural masterpieces designed just for parties.

Ever December, McEvoy Ranch hosts a public open house, allowing guests to roam the property, try their olive oils, body products, and wines. For those unable to wait until December: it’s also open by appointment.

This is nothing like visiting the shop in the Ferry Building. It’s a vast property, full of lush greenery, farm animals, and an exotic luxury farm lifestyle that you are more prone to finding in Italy than a 10 minute drive from Petaluma.

Olive Oil tasting at McEvoy Ranch
Olive Oil tasting at McEvoy Ranch

We tasted two types of olive oils: Olio Nuovo and their famed Signature Blend.

Olio Nuovo was unlike anything I’d tasted before. The name means “new oil.” It’s only available for purchase for a couple of months – and when we had it, it had literally been crushed and bottled days before. It’s sort of like the Beaujolais Nouveau of olive oil – but it tastes better: super peppery, super green in color and super rich in olive fruit flavor.

I’m not much of a peppery type, so I lean more towards the classic – which is a blend of six Ranch grown olive-varietals. It’s a perfect extra virgin olive oil – it has that pungent fruity scent and a buttery light flavor.

Unlike many large production extra virgin olive oils: it passes the test for the California Olive Oil Council’s strict guidelines.

Just as delightful as the taste of the oils is that production is led by a woman olive oil producer: Deborah Rogers, who co-founded Sonoma’s Olive Press in 1995.

Unbeknownst to us upon arrival was that McEvoy Ranch also produces wine: a Pinot Noir (The Evening Star – a homage to McEvoy’s journalism heritage), a red blend (The Red Piano – named after a Ranch owned piano, once owned by Elton John), and a rose (Rosebud).

They have a beautiful tasting room,  full of old typewriters and original artwork by McEvoy’s close friend, Wayne Thiebaud.

For me, the  wine highlight was a limited production Viognier named after McEvoy’s  horse, Grey Dawn. High acid, subtle minerality, and a nice balance of citrus and floral aromas without the experience of drinking potpourri.

I enjoyed – but wasn’t blown away by – the wines. However, I think over the years we’ll see McEvoy Ranch producing cult style wines that celebrate the Petaluma Gap AVA and become as coveted as their olive oils.

Feathered residents of McEvoy Ranch
Feathered residents of McEvoy Ranch

To walk off all of that wine and olive oil tasting, we took a guided walk through the property. The property is amazing – both the natural and manicured beauty are awe inspiring (and the farm cats are friendly, too).

It is also coveted ground: some of the greatest chefs and artists of our time have visited McEvoy Ranch, including Julia Childs, who, with her best cooking-pal Jacques Pepin, walked the grounds and enjoyed dinner with McEvoy in one of her party buildings.

There is something special about this property: the food, the wine, the design, the environs – when Nan McEvoy started the Ranch, she knew what she was doing, and what she was preparing to leave the world: a magical place to celebrate life, food and the bounty we have in North Bay.

It is truly worth the drive.

McEvoy Ranch is a private residence, and therefore open by appointment only or on occasional special events. A portion their tour fees go to local non-profits and they also offer wine tastings.

One thought on “Worth the Drive: McEvoy Ranch

  1. Sarah,

    I enjoyed your article about my neighbor in Marin, McEvoy Ranch.
    I am on the boards of the Sonoma County Wine Commission and the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Allainance.

    Perhaps you would like to visit Devils Gulch Ranch?

    Devils Gulch Ranch is a diversified family farm, in Nicasio, Marin County. For over 43 years, my wife, Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, DVM, and I have been raising and selling rabbits, pigs, quail, sheep, and winegrapes both retail and to many well known restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and California. Sustainable, humane agricultural practices are utilized, organic whenever possible.

    DG Educational Services (DGES, a 501c3 non-profit), was founded in 2008 to provide agriculture and nature educational programs for diverse communities, both locally and globally. These programs help develop the skills to produce food and to live sustainably while building an understanding of our interconnection with nature.

    We have been working in Haiti since 2007 providing agricultural education, mostly for rabbit production, but have recently also become involved with coffee producers and now offer locally roasted, 100% Haitian single origin coffee direct from the mountain forests of Haiti.

    PIGS: Devils Gulch Ranch has now partnered with Pete Langley (DG-Langley) raising local free range Berkshire cross pigs. Our pigs are fed whole milk, whey, brewer’s grains, organic whole wheat bread, and tortillas. You can get any size whole or half pig from 15 lb sucklings up to full sized market hogs.

    RABBITS: The rabbits that we produce are all natural, no hormones or antibiotics.

    QUAIL: Whole, bone in or Semi boneless.

    BACON: We are now offer bacon made from the bellies of our local pigs cured with no added nitrates in several special cures: Maple sugar, black pepper, Cajun, and Paleo no sugar, with more to come.

    LAMBS: We also raise and sell a small amount of 100% grass fed lambs.

    COFFEE: We now offer locally roasted, 100% Haitian single origin coffee.

    Please see: or
    WINE: Sean Thackrey and Dutton-Goldfield both produce vineyard designated Devils Gulch Ranch, Marin County Pinot Noirs that just happen to go very well with our rabbit, pork, lamb and quail.

    I encourage farm visits in order to see firsthand what we do. Our website has more, including information on our 501c3 non-profit (DG Educational Services; that provides agriculture and nature educational programs locally, and international agriculture development work in Haiti and other countries.

    Mark Pasternak
    707 953-0923 cell; [email protected]

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