Brian Dirk, owner of award-winning olive oil company Pasolivo, offers insight about the business of making liquid gold and shares his favorite places in town.
By Sharon Stello
When visiting some Central Coast wineries over a decade ago, Newport Beach resident Brian Dirk began to mull the idea of investing in some form of agriculture. After doing a bit of research, Dirk and his family found an orchard for sale in Paso Robles, California, and decided to dive into the olive oil business.
The company, which the Dirks purchased in 2012, has required a significant amount of work, but the payoff has been great: Pasolivo has won many awards for its extra-virgin olive oils, including five—four golds and a silver—at this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the industry’s largest and most prestigious contest. Overall, in 2022, Pasolivo has garnered a Best in Show, Best in Class and 11 gold medals at various competitions.
Dirk says he believes Pasolivo stands out because the brand’s primary focus is quality in all aspects of the business.
“We pick and process our 12 varieties of olives separately, giving us the opportunity to blend and produce the highest-quality olive oil possible,” he says. “Pasolivo is one of the United States’ top award winners in international olive oil competitions. We also are one of the few producers in California that allow customers to visit our ranch and watch our process at harvest time.
“… We welcome visitors seven days a week at both of our Paso Robles locations—[at the ranch and downtown]—for tastings. We also offer tours of our milling process at the ranch during harvest. Regardless of which location you visit, and what time of year, our associates can definitely walk you through the entire process of how our oil is made.”
The 45-acre orchard features 7,000 sustainably grown olive trees. Harvested by hand each fall, the olives are milled, cold-pressed and bottled in small batches on-site to ensure freshness. For the flavored oils, the company co-mills the olives with real fruits and herbs for a bold taste without any artificial flavorings or preservatives.
Notably, Pasolivo makes more than just olive oil, also creating vinegars, artisanal foods, and bath and body products. “Our Sparkling Citrus vinegar is extremely popular, especially for summertime salads,” Dirk says. “The truffle salt is a standout and staple in the kitchen. Our lotions, soaps and body butters are all popular. … Pick your favorite scent and enjoy.”
A Newport Beach resident for more than 30 years, Brian Dirk is originally from Stillwater, Minnesota, but a business acquisition brought him to Orange County. In addition to Pasolivo, he is also president of the Troy Group in Costa Mesa, which focuses on print and digital check and document security options. While he also has a home in Irvine, Dirk spends most of his time in Newport.
“I like that it is clean, there is access to great restaurants and shopping, and you are close to the water,” he says.
To help get the Pasolivo brand in the hands of more Newport residents, Dirk says the company may be opening a store in town next year. Until then, it can be ordered online at pasolivo.com.
For meals that can’t miss, Dirk’s go-to place is French restaurant MARCHÉ MODERNE in Crystal Cove Shopping Center. “I frequent Marché Moderne every couple of weeks because the food is fabulous,” Dirk says.
When Dirk needs to get some shopping done, he heads to FASHION ISLAND. “[This] outdoor mall … allows me to enjoy the beautiful weather Newport has to offer,” he says.
For a pick-me-up, Dirk’s go-to place is KÉAN COFFEE. “[It’s a] small, award-winning and family-owned—like Pasolivo—coffeehouse that roasts on-site,” he says. “My favorite drink is the Caffé Napoli.”
To get a close-up view of action on the water, Dirk stakes out a spot at THE WEDGE. “This is a great location to watch extreme body boarding,” he says.