LA Experience - An Homage to the Humble Olive

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Just outside Ronda a hugely ambitious project is taking shape, due to open later in 2018, LA Experience is set to become one of Ronda’s greatest alternative attractions. To all those with a love of organic food production, horticulture or the avant-garde…watch this space…

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Starck's superb graphics on the original LA Organic EVOO

Organic olive oil from Ronda

A couple of miles north of El Olivar lies the 200 year old estate of La Amarilla. Once home to an order of nuns that harvested fruit from these ancient trees, La Amarilla now forms part of the LA Organic group of estates, each entirely organic, where the olives are picked early in the season and taken to mills less than an hour away to maintain the integrity of the flavour.

Established in the 1990s by Pedro Gómez de Baeza, LA Organic has illustrious French designer Phillipe Starck as Artistic Director and his influence can be seen throughout the brand’s beautiful graphics. The expertise of globally acclaimed oenologist Michel Rolland helps create the perfect blend of Picual, Arbequina, Hojiblanca, Picudo, Pajarera, Verdial or Manzanilla varieties depending on the intensity of the oil required.

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Starck's logo pays tribute to the local’s love of el toro

Uncover the history and process behind olive oil production

From small beginnings, LA Organic has become one of Spain’s most acclaimed organic olive oil producers. If you recognise the logo it may be that you have seen it in your local Waitrose, also stocked by Harvey Nichols, Planet Organic and The Natural Kitchen, in fact over half the oil that LA Organic produces is exported all over the world.

This year, sister company LA Experience will be opening up a beautiful visitor centre, a reverence to the olive, just 3km from the centre of Ronda. This March, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of what will be on offer. Impressively multi-lingual Victoria, who is managing this ambitious project, gave us a tour of the site and we were blown away by this beautiful project that will be right on our doorstep.

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Young olive trees in the early evening sun

Stunning views across the Serranía de Ronda to El Olivar

Set on the steep limestone hills 3km from Ronda and facing northwest across the valley of Llano de la Cruz, the old cortijo can be seen from the garden at El Olivar, occupying a commanding position above the valley. La Almazara, will be, as its name suggests the mill to press the olives grown on site. A visit will be an experiential, cultural and gastronomic experience with olive oil taking centre stage.

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Softly winding paths lead visitors around the estate

From the rather beautiful car park, copper coloured paths wind around the estate, heading across or up the hillside, snaking past deep terraces of lavender, a tiny vineyard, organic orchards, between gnarled and ancient olive trees, to key locations on the estate including an arboretum of aged olives, ‘Olivos del Mundo’, showcasing many of the diverse varieties of olives, not just those found in Andalucía but also the many varieties found throughout the world. 

LA Experience has such a tremendously beautiful setting, with the distant mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema blue against the horizon and the more softly rolling hills, that are the backdrop to Finca El Olivar, dark green with their forest cover. In March the wild flowers are already forming pockets of colour in the vibrant green landscape.

 

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The Medieval threshing circle was once the site of local festivities

Ambitious plans are afoot

Some of the plans are under wraps and won’t be revealed until later in the year but we saw a really tiny restored chapel, a Medieval threshing circle that was uncovered when works to the site began and a beautifully terraced vegetable garden complete with Arabic style irrigation system such as you might see at the Nasrid palace gardens of the Generalife. The plan is to enable visitors to taste the oils alongside freshly harvested vegetables from the organic vegetable garden. Lots of folk were working hard on the garden and it is fast taking shape to be a great visitor experience. Cypress trees and lavenders line the paths, crooked old holm oaks and newly planted citrus trees, a lightning struck eucalyptus, everything has been set into the hillside with tremendous care for the existing environment.

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Philippe Starck makes his mark

Dotted along the paths are surprise sculptural pieces by Phillipe Stark, crafted from sheet steel, reflecting and framing the stunning landscape, both playful and soulful and with a strong nod to the cultural traditions that have grown up around the city of Ronda, LA Experience, has been, in part, dreamt up by the designer himself and everything from the logo to the beautifully restored Cortijo Los Azules (that may be available for exclusive hire) carries his trademark style. Starck’s fondness for sheet steel can be seen in the sculpture, the staircase, the fireplace and even the bookshelves. Everything has been beautifully designed with no expense spared.

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Pinot Noir vines in the evening sun

Under the watchful eye of world famous oenologist Michel Rolland

Not to be outdone, Michel Rolland will be overseeing the niche production of 1,000 bottles per year of the estate’s pinot noir, the vines already taking hold on the terraced landscape facing into the western sun, a hugely influential oenologist, that is a wine I would definitely like to try! Other producers in this D.O. Serranía de Ronda (a sub appellation of the D.O. Sierras de Malaga) have been growing Pinot Noir, notably, Cortijo los Aguilares and F. Schatz, it will be very interesting to see what the master from Bordeaux creates, perhaps he will share some of his enormous knowledge with local producers.

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The perfect view

LA Experience highlights Ronda's long history of olive oil production

Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, it also has some of the world’s finest oils, LA Expereince is about to put Ronda’s considerable olive oil production back on the map. With its abundance of superb eateries serving everything from simple tapa to world class cuisine, (local restaurant Bardal gained its first Michelin star last autumn), Ronda's is especially appealing to foodies, LA Experience will surely bolster its culinary allure.

Planned to open in the summer of 2018, tours will last around one to two hours depending on the type of tour booked, three different tickets will be available, LA Experience, LA Gold and LA Premium, at the time of writing prices are TBC. LA Experience is certain to draw an even greater number of visitors to the perennially popular city of Ronda and to draw visitors from Ronda, this symbiosis should prove extremely successful. 

The attraction will appeal to the discerning traveller keen to gain a greater insight into the gold stuff as well as anyone with a love of the Andalucian landscape, a passion for culture, a keen interest in organic food, an appreciation of good design or a love of all things hyper tasteful. Like a relaxed visit to a historic garden with gastronomy at its centre, LA Experience will offer something truly unique. 

With huge thanks to Victoria for the sneak peek - we cannot wait to see the finished project!