15 Nov

Ojai home tour includes Italianate villa with orchard

By Lisa McKinnon,

In many parts of the country, a holiday home tour would be just that: a tour of homes. Ticketholders would march past gardens barren of leaves and flowers, or just plain covered in snow, in order to get to the main, preferably heated, attraction.

Not so in California and, in particular, Ojai.

Those attending this weekend’s Ojai Music Festival Holiday Home Look In will see not only a Spanish Revival home designed by 20th-century architect George Washington Smith and a contemporary residence created by Ojai architect Marc Whitman but also the period-perfect plants, blooming rose gardens and fruit-laden citrus orchards that surround them.

And at one of the tour’s four stops, they will also get a good look at, and a taste of, the olive grove that produces Regalo, an estate-bottled, extra-virgin olive oil whose profits are earmarked for charity.

Bristling with the silver-green leaves of hundreds of Italian- and Spanish-variety olive trees, the grove sits on 12 acres at Omaggio Farm, the home of Jeff and Rosalyn Luttrull and their five children, who range in age from 12 to 18.

An ophthalmologist with practices in Camarillo and Ventura, Jeff Luttrull knew nothing about olives when he bought the then-10-year-old Italian villa-style house and its citrus orchards in 1996. What he did know was that the oranges weren’t pulling their weight, financially. “I think I sold them at a profit one year; another, the market was so bad, some growers left their fruit to rot on the trees. I thought, There must be something more useful I could be doing with this land.'”

Inspiration came during one of Luttrull’s daily runs along McNell Road. “As part of my loop, I would pass under this pretty canopy of trees,” he said. “The pavement was always smooth there, from olives dropping on the ground and getting run over. I realized that those olive trees had been growing there forever, with no one taking particular care of them.”

So about five years ago, Luttrull began replacing the citrus trees with olives. He learned about varieties, growing requirements and olive-press machinery as he went along.

He also had as an example the work being done by the Asquith family, who in 2002 began pressing Ojai Olive Oil-label oils from the new and 120-year-old trees growing on their own East End ranch.

In the past, the picking, pressing and bottling of Omaggio Farm-grown olives and their oils has been purely a family affair, albeit a grueling one. “One day last fall, it took all of us about an hour and a half to pick all the olives off of one tree,” Luttrull said with a laugh.

No more. Professional harvesters have been called in for the farm’s third olive harvest, which began last week. During the home tour, visitors to the farm likely will hear the distant whine of the machinery that shakes the olives free from their stems before crushing them, pits and all, and separating the oil from the mash via a series of centrifuges. The pressing facility will not be open during the home tour, but visitors will be able to taste and purchase two varieties of Regalo extra-virgin olive oil.

The name Regalo, which means “gift” both in Spanish and Italian, was selected by family members when they decided that any profits would go to local and international charities.

Made in Trento, Italy, according to the Luttrulls’ purposefully asymmetrical design, each bottle that contains Regalo extra-virgin olive oil is decorated by members of the family before it leaves the premises.

Colorful ribbons and tags are tied on by hand, and the cartouche molded into the dark-amber glass is highlighted with a light brushing of metallic paint. Bronze is used for bottles of Caterina, named for daughter Catherine and made solely of Arbequina olives; gold for Amelia, named for daughter Emily and made with an Italian-inspired blend of four varieties of olives.

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