For seven decades the Los Angeles International Wine Competition has bestowed gold medals to the best wines from around the globe. Sixty years after the wine competition’s conception, the addition of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition was a perfect fit.

The extra virgin olive oil competition celebrates its 18th anniversary in 2017. Back in 2000, wine competition organizers were looking for a way to expand the competition. The marriage of extra virgin olive oil and wine was natural. Both require a distinguished palate, both have distinctive varietals, both are important to serving the perfect meal. At its inception, the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition enlisted an impressive list of judges to taste the finest domestic extra virgin olive oils. The competition was eventually opened to international oils, with oils coming from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and France.

The wine and extra virgin olive oil competitions are the foundation for an extensive education program that’s available to nearly 1.3 million visitors to the Los Angeles County Fair. Public wine tasting began in 1968; in 1998 a wine education center opened, complete with consumer-driven classes, tastings and a display of the award-winning wines. Extra virgin olive oil was added to the program in 2000 and spirits in 2007. The Los Angeles International Wine and Extra Virgin Olive Oil competitions are committed to educating the public about wine and extra virgin olive oil, featuring industry experts with extensive knowledge about selection, tasting and food pairings.

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Darrell Corti of Sacramento, Calif., is a wine merchant/grocer, President of Corti Brothers, Sacramento. He is a long-time judge at the Los Angeles County Fair beginning in the early 1970s. He is Chairman of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.

Maria Paz Aguilera Herrera has a PhD in Chemistry and is the Tasting Panel Leader and is the Head of Experimental Cooking Lab with Olive Oil in Citoliva. She is a researcher on the characterization and quality of olive oil. She is developing the application of extra virgin olive oil for cooking and the use of by-products. She has extensive teaching experience. Maria Paz has participated in the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, the XVII Quality Award of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Expoliva, The International Fair of Olive Oil and Related Industries, and Argoliva.

PierPaolo Arca has been a Taster of Olive Oil since 1991; Panel leader since 1997; Expert Olivecultural Sector of “Regione Sardegna”’ Technical Co-ordinator “Comitato Concorso Nazionale Montiferru” olive oil from 1994 to 2011; Member of Jury of the regional selection “Concorso Nazionale Ercole Olivario” in 1995/96/97/98/2000/01/04/05/06/10 and Panel Leader in 1999/2003/2007/2011; Member of the National Jury “Concorso Nazionale Ercole Olivario” in 2000; Member of International Jury of the “Premio BIOL – International Competition Organic Olive Oil from 1997 – 2011; Member of jury of SOL D’Oro International Olive Oil Verona 2003; Member of International Jury of the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition fromn 2008 – 2015; Member of Internaitonal Jury of the Japan Olive oil Prize in 2014 and 2015; Coordinator for Sardinia guide Extravergini olive oil Slow Food from 2002 to 2016 and the Presidio Slow Food Extravergini by olive groves.

Margaret Edwards enjoyed a career as a dietitian, university lecturer (part time), and management roles with leading New Zealand companies. She retired in 2003 to concentrate on olive oil. She was the leader of the now disbanded IOC recognized New Zealand tasting panel for olive oil. Margaret is an international olive oil judge, a consultant to the olive industry. She runs olive oil workshops and lectures about New Zealand extra virgin olive oil. She is the author of numerous publications about food, nutrition and olive oil. Margaret and her husband own a boutique olive grove and olive mill on Waiheke Island, New Zealand where they produce their award winning extra virgin olive oil.

Fran Gage is a San Francisco baker, writer, and trained olive oil taster. She owned Fran Gage Pâtisserie Française in San Francisco for ten years. The bakery consistently won critical acclaim locally and nationally for its pastry, bread, and chocolates. She closed the bakery following a fire in 1995 and turned to writing about food, an endeavor that produced numerous articles and six books. Chocolate Obsession, co-authored with Michael Recchiuti, was a James Beard Award finalist. Her most recent book is The New American Olive Oil, Profiles of Artisan Producers and 75 Recipes. She has been a member of the California Olive Oil Council taste panel for thirteen years and also tastes for the UC Continuing Education panel. In addition, she judges at various olive oil competitions.

Orietta Gianjorio is a certified sommelier, an olive oil, a chocolate and honey taster. She collaborates with the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel, California Olive Oil Council, the Honey and Pollination Center and Mars Chocolate Taste Panel. Orietta was born and raised in Rome, and now resides in California. Orietta is the Delegate in Sacramento for the Italian Academy of Cuisine. She is the author of A guide to Olive Oil and Olive Oil Tasting and two children’s books about olive oil and tasting, Coratina and Come Visit The Teeny Tiny Town of Taste. Orietta has judged in different wine and olive oil competitions including the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and BIOL (Puglia, Italy). She has written, produced and hosted several TV shows in Italy and America and is a regular guest on many TV stations as a food and wine taster and expert.

Maria Luz Hurtado is an Agricultural Engineer, PhD, graduated from the University of Chile. Since 2003 she began her studies and specialization in olive oil in different countries like Argentina, Spain, and Italy. In 2004 she took over as Director of Oil Production and received her diploma in the aforementioned university. She became an expert as a Tester in Olive Oil.
Sue Langstaff has a Master’s degree in Food Science from the University of California at Davis where she studied Sensory Science, Enology and Brewing. Sue has judged wine, beer and olive oil at numerous competitions and her research in Sensory Science has been published in several technical journals. Sue is co-editor of the book Olive Oil Sensory Science (Wiley/Blackwell, 2014) and is the creator of The Defects Wheel for wine, beer and olive oil. Currently, Sue works as a sensory scientist for her own consulting company, Applied Sensory, LLC which provides sensory consulting to the food, wine and beer industries. Sue is also the North American Global Sensory Manager for FlavorActiV, a company which provides sensory taste panel training and reference standards. Julie Menge began her tasting career as an in-house taster for Dole Packaged Foods, evaluating pineapple, fruit, and packaged food products while she was employed as an R&D chemist. Her background includes biochemical and field research at Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences/Texas Ag Extension Service. In the late 90’s she began tasting olive oil with UC Davis to improve the quality and standards of US produced olive oil. She was a founding member of all California internationally certified olive oil taste panels and currently serves as a panel member, judge in olive oil competitions, and teaches olive oil tasting classes.

Chef David Teig’s cooking career began at an upstate New York Buddhist ashram, giving him an early appreciation for fresh products and organic foods before it became mainstream. Further experiences lead him to France, working at the Michelin three-star, Maison de Bricourt, followed by a number of private and hotel restaurants, throughout Europe and United States. Prior to settling into his role at Fairplex, he traveled for Starwood Hotels, leading hotel openings and providing operational support. David currently oversees the food and beverage program on Fairplex campus, including the Farm at Fairplex.

Maria Lourdes Toujas is a consultant for Chile, Argentina and Uruguay for the extraction of extra virgin olive oil. As consultant, those companies have obtained numerous awards in prestigious international competitions. She has been a researcher at the National University of Cuyo and has worked with companies important to Argentina as head of the plant and production of olive oil.

Mercedes Uceda Maza has her MS in Biology and is a very qualified taster from the University of Jaen, Spain. Mercedes is an Environmental Technician in Sustainable Development during 5 years in the Experimental Station “Las Palmerillas”, Almeria, Spain. She participates in courses of olive oil tasting from UNIA in Baeza, Spain and Evora, Portugal. Pablo Voitzuk is an olive oil maker and taster, he is currently working with Pacific Sun Farms in Gerber, Northern California. A native from Buenos Aires, he learned his skills in olive oil and table olives curing working with Apollo Olive Oil and studying in Tuscany with Dr. Marco Mugelli and in Sardinia with Pier Paolo Arca. He has judged in different olive oil competitions; Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, California Olive Oil Council, Japan Olive Oil Prize and BIOL, Puglia, Italy.

Paul Vossen has an MS degree from UC Davis in Horticulture (Tree Crops Production), a Certificate in Olive Oil Production from the U of Córdoba, Spain; Panel Head Certificate from the IOC; and a Certificate in Marketing from UC Berkeley. He has been a University of California Cooperative Extension – Farm Advisor in Sonoma and Marin Counties since 1980, and he works internationally as a private consultant. His primary expertise is in the areas of fruit tree, berry, and specialty vegetable culture; pest control; and marketing of farm products.