Throughout April many wineries have been and will be participating in the Wine Institute’s Earth Month festivities celebrating the California Wine industry’s eco-friendly practices. One event that I was able to attend was the Buttonwood Farm Winery Scavenger Hunt and Brunch on April 13, 2014.
The weather was gorgeously clear over the Santa Ynez Valley making it perfect for this Buttonwood winery walk and brunch around the pond. Since every winery has its own interpretation of sustainability and organic farming, it was appropriate to first learn how Buttonwood views and practices these principles in their vineyard and winery. Therefore our gathering began in the winery over a barrel tasting of the unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc. I saw the potential of a nicely balanced bright, crisp and refreshing wine with flavors of grapefruit and tropical fruits.
Sustainability and Organics
For Buttonwood Farm Winery the concepts of sustainability and organics are based around the farm, vineyards, winery, and employees being a family unit. Therefore, the ultimate goal connects and integrates every aspect of the farm and winery together. Each component unites creating a balanced ecological system within itself. Behind this is the idea that you need healthy plants, soils, and fruit to create a unified family farm. This attitude punctuates the fact that Buttonwood does not believe in stressing the vine but rather to nurture it. The only stress comes from the weather, which is out of our control.
The program begins with the soil and the use of organic materials to create a healthy mineral balance. The farm uses compost made of horse manure to create healthy soils, which in turn creates healthy plants.
Throughout the vineyard, they have created natural ecosystems to encourage wildlife and birds of prey to live and keep rodents and other unwanted insects, birds, and animals in control. The pond is an example of an ecosystem enticing ducks, turtles and others to dwell in this natural habitat.
Recycling is a major factor in the sustainable program at Buttonwood. The grapes skins, seed, and stems are mixed back into the soil.
Buttonwood Farm Winery History
Betty Williams originally started the farm in the 1960s. This 106-acre property is divided into the orchards, farm and 39 acres of vineyards. The first vines were planted in 1983 with the focus being on Bordeaux style wines. Today many Rhone varietals have been planted. The emphasis has moved towards a mixture of the more diverse styles of wine.
A Walk Through the Vineyard
The purpose of this Earth Month event was getting to know the vineyard, wines and the ecosystem that makes Buttonwood Farm Winery unique. Winemaker Karen Steinwachs escorted us through the vineyard and scavenger hunt. We became part of the natural balance and an element of the family farm unit. The majority of items found on the scavenger hunt were those that represented the vineyard, the ecosystems; enable the winery to be sustainable and organic.
As we strolled the vineyard we sampled some of the wines in the Buttonwood portfolio. The varietals chosen were based on the vineyard rows we ambled by. Those wines tasted on the wine walk included the 2013 Zingy with its aromatic and herbaceous flavors. The 2010 Cab Franc, as Karen puts it, “ the fussiest grape as it is the first to bud and the last to be picked.” Our palate cleanser, the wonderfully fragrant 2013 Rosé and finally the 2011 Malbec, a newer varietal for Buttonwood.
Brunch By The Pond
Our final destination was the enticing pond with its fountain spewing forth shimmering droplets on this glorious day. We sat under the oak trees enjoying a brunch of quiche, sausage, potatoes, melon and yummy maple bacon muffins prepared by Karen’s husband, Dave Robinson. During brunch, we sample more of the wines we enjoyed on the wine walk as well as a Grenache Blanc and Merlot.
I have to say my favorites were the Rosé, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Buttonwood’s Rosé is one of my all-time favorites as it is refreshing with flavors of watermelon and strawberries. The Rosé utilizes Syrah grapes grown specifically for this purpose, ripening earlier with a lower amount of sugar. The grapes are picked early and the wine is created in the Methode Provencal Style. The weather was perfect for this type of wine. The Rosé is adorned with a beautiful label created by Buttonwood owner and artist, Seyburn Zorthian. I consider the Rosé, a lover’s wine; the label art title is perfectly matched and is called “Two Hearts Divided”.
The Malbec is a medium-bodied silky wine displaying flavors of cherries and cocoa. What I like about this Malbec is it is not as heavy many of the Malbecs produced. It is one that will complement almost any cuisine. Its label is also befitting as Seyburn calls it “Taking a Chance” and you are when you try this incredible wine.
I left Buttonwood Farm Winery with a very peaceful feeling, as I knew I had been one with the land. I was part of the natural habitat enjoying the marvelous wines in an environment that creates harmony between the fruits it bares and the people who produce it.