As Jay Carroll talks, a breeze rustles through our phone connection, the bone-dry air of the Mojave Desert making itself known.
Mr. Carroll is one half of lifestyle brand Wonder Valley, and along with his wife Alison is exploring what it means to pair luxury craftsmanship with the traditional simplicity of the desert lifestyle.
It’s a topic they discuss over dinners hosted in this sparser neighbour of Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, where some organic remark or voiced desire could inspire the brand’s next health or home goods offering.
To this end, they started with a culinary staple dating back multiple millennia: olive oil. When the couple lived in San Francisco, Mrs. Carroll was the marketing director for the California Olive Oil Council; that is, the body that certifies an olive oil to be EVOO according to the state’s standards. In California, whether an olive oil is extra virgin is essentially decided by a tasting panel.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Carroll both come from Italian families, Mrs. Carroll’s job is how they really fell in love with olive oil. Or, as Mr. Carroll calls it, ‘the fountain of youth.’
Jay Carroll compares the current domestic production of olive oil in California to the rising profile of the state’s vineyards in the 1970’s when blind taste tests could no longer distinguish between French wine and the Golden State’s finest. If there is an advantage to the California pressings it’s the industry’s lack of history.
‘We’re not tied down by tradition and are willing to experiment,’ Mr. Carroll says.
For Wonder Valley this means adding Ascolano olives to their blend, even though the large, green fruits are considered more of a table olive than the Taggiasca and Arbequina varieties Wonder Valley bottles with them. This is important to note, as you won't quite see what you're getting: the couple has designed a matt black bottle for the oil, powder coated glass that protects the freshness and flavour from light.
‘Sun and heat are olive oil’s worst enemy,’ Mr. Carroll explains, adding that the desert turns everything black anyway if left to its own devices.
Wonder Valley sees itself as an oasis. Future projects could include furniture and scents. Their latest offering is a Turkish towel in three bright colours– evidence of their faith that there is cool water to be found, even where you have to search a little harder for it.