Séka Hills with Marc Gerome
In the Capay Valley lies a tribe, known as the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. On the rolling hills, they founded Séka Hills, translated to “blue hills” in Patwin language. Here, they began their mission in cultivating the land with the utmost respect to the land that surrounds their heritage.
Over the years Yocha Dehe planted an abundance of different crops, making them one of the most diverse farming operations in the region. They launched their specialty food brand Séka Hills in 2011.
The Tribe sustainably manages 22,000 acres, of which 3000 acres are cultivated to produce high quality products such as wines, honey, nuts, beef, and fresh produce. But in the case of our interests, Séka Hills specializes in rich, flavorful olive oil.
Their olive oil started with 82 acres of Arbequina olives planted in 2008, and is now a top-selling product (on our market as well!)
The Capay valley climate, according to Séka Hills’ marketing representative Marc Gerome, is an ideal Mediterranean climate for olives to grow in, and allows a peak quality for their olive oil.
Séka Hills has expanded its olive acreage from 82 acres to over 500 acres. The highly acclaimed and popular estate Arbequina comes from super high density planting. As Marc explained, super high density entails the trees being planted closer together. “We’re planting 600 trees per acre instead of 145 trees in a traditional orchard,” Marc said.
This method allows over-the-row harvesters, resulting in the olives arriving at the mill sooner. For quality, it's important for the olives to be milled soon after harvesting. Clearly, both the cultivation of their land and the production of olive oil are meticulously planned.
Marc ran me through the process of making their olive oils. Olives are milled soon after harvest in a temperature controlled environment. Contact with oxygen must be avoided as it affects the quality of the oil. Afterwards, the centrifuge separates the water from the oil. At the end, the oil is transferred into stainless steel tanks that are nitrogen capped. There, the oil is allowed to settle for 30 days or more in order for the leftover heavy sediments to settle at the bottom, where they are then separated out. The entire facility is temperature controlled and sheltered from the sunlight.
After this this process, the oil makes its way to the panel to be evaluated. Marc said that their olive oil is tested by both a sensory panel and a lab analysis to ensure that their extra virgin label is truly accurate.
And it pays off. Their olive oil is wonderfully fresh, smooth and holds a complex flavor profile at a perfect mild medium intensity. When asking Marc how they try to achieve a certain flavor, he said that the color of the olives — green being more pungent than the more ripe purple — influences the flavor but of course farming practices and “Mother Nature has a lot to do with this.”
And that is the goal for Séka Hills, to honor and respect the land of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Marc said that among their values are stewardship, environmental sustainability, and to protect the land that they share a sacred connection with.
The Tribe works to prevent excess waste, conserve water using an efficient underground drip system for irrigation, curb erosion that can harm local waterways, restore riparian land banks, and improve water distribution using solar pumps.
Not only does Seka Hills value the Tribe’s deep history and cultural connection to the land and practice purposeful sustainability, but they also create top notch products that are worthy of being proud of.
As Marc said, “Our goal is to create top quality products through the care of the land and being an educator for our customers.” Seka Hills is focused on producing only the finest quality products that thrive in the unique Capay Valley environment.