It is 1996. Natalie Wheen is an established writer and broadcaster, covering music and the arts with the BBC. She, along with her friend, the painter Deborah MacMillan, who travels the world helping with the production of her late husband's ballets, decide they need a retreat. A place away from the deadlines, demands and pressures of life.
They fall in love with the beautiful island of Lesvos, Greece. And together they buy a picturesque ruin by the sea, on the south of the island.
As is often the case, it isn't plain sailing. The restoration isn't easy, and they have to buy further land in order to complete it. Costs spiral. But all good plots need a twist.
The land Natalie and Deborah own is packed with olive trees. Lots and lots of mature olive trees. So the plot shifts, and the two women find that instead of quietly writing and painting in their island home, they have become olive farmers. They research. They learn. They are frequently horrified. They study. They make the decision to go organic. They are strict. They ensure their team treat the olives with respect. They shun the approaches which favour quantity over quality. They persevere. They find there is only a three week window between their mountain olives being ripe and the snow making harvest impossible. They stick to their principles. They overcome obstacles. It takes time. But it works.
Natalie and Deborah create two single estate organic extra virgin olive oils. One from olives grown 500-600m above sea level on a rugged, romantic, limestone and marble mountainside, covered in wildflowers and watered by melting winter snow. The other from olives grown on the richer, sheltered soil at sea level. Each is unique. Both are delicious. By 2013 they are winning awards, and their oils are sold at fine food retailers such as Tastes Delicatessen. Surely that would make a fantastic final scene! ;)For those wanting to sample the oil do pop into Tastes. The olives are all hand picked in December when they are the perfect mix of green, pink and black. The olives are milled immediately upon picking and the resulting oil is bottled as soon as possible to preserve its unique characteristics. It is unfiltered and unadulterated. The oil has a light consistency and golden colour. Each bottle has the required best before date, but also the more informative harvest date. The oils are top quality "finishing oils" perfect for lightly steamed summer vegetables, salads, chilled soups, fish, dipping bread, pasta etc.
The oil from the mountainside Agatheri Grove is subtle, delicate and smooth with long and complex flavour. It is perfect for use with fine salads, steamed vegetables and baked fish dishes. The oil from the lower Avlaki Grove is more robust, with a grassy and fruity flavour and buttery finish. It is brilliant with Mediterranean foods such as sliced tomatoes, ratatouille, roasted vegetables or pasta and soups.