Last updated on February 3, 2024
Dreaming of his next project brought Kevin Gleason to the Santa Ynez Valley; today, his Gleason Family Vineyards consists of three Santa Ynez wineries, each representing a different terroir and micro climate in the valley. The three distinct wineries are Refugio Ranch, Roblar, and Buttonwood. For the Gleason family, being stewards of the land, whether they grow grapes or farm produce, unites the three properties. Besides the Gleason family legacy, winemaker Max Marshak connects the three wineries with his winemaking prowess.
Each of these Santa Ynez properties has a unique and distinct experience to offer, and each is worth visiting on its own merits. Two of the Santa Ynez wineries offer food pairings to complement the wine by enhancing the wine-tasting experience with farm-to-table cuisine created by Executive Chef Peter Cham.
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History of the Gleason Family Vineyards
Kevin and Niki Gleason started searching for a property to purchase for his next project. Kevin worked in the outdoor advertising business, which included those billboards you see across the United States. He fell in love with the Santa Ynez Valley. He purchased the property, now known as Refugio Ranch, in 2004.
This 415-acre parcel lies along the northern face of the Santa Ynez Mountains, and one of its property lines is the Santa Ynez River. Formally a cattle ranch that boasts a history with cowboys, the Gleason’s planted 26 acres of vine in 2006 after the dirt doctors worked their magic. In 2008 they produced their first vintage, a blend of syrah and petite sirah that they now call Barbareno, now considered Refugio Ranch’s flagship wine.
Now in their second generation, their son Max Gleason is the Creative Director, Callie Gleason is the Director of Marketing and HR, and her husband, Matthew Bieszard, is General Manager.
Sustainability is at the core of the Gleason family business model and is practiced at all their Santa Ynez wineries and farms. Through these endeavors, they created a space where friendships develop and communities are built, surrounded by the vineyard, sipping glasses of wine paired with fabulous food. Kevin Gleason sums it up by saying, “It’s not so much about the meaning of life but about the experience of life. And that rich experience resonates with the soul. That’s what gives life meaning.”
Winemaker Max Marshak
Growing up in Washington State’s San Juan Islands, Max began his eclectic career in construction and commercial fishing. His love of all things wine started as a bartender in New York City, where he interacted with winemakers and public relations people representing various wine brands. Moving to California in 2012, Max became an intern at Fess Parker Winery.
By 2013, Max’s training continued at Jonata wineries. He quickly moved up the ladder to Enologist and Cellar Master of this winery’s three brands, Jonata, The Hilt, and The Paring. Max soon started his wine label, Marshak Wine Company. He joined the Gleason Family Vineyards in 2020 as head winemaker for all their brands. Max likes to produce wines that exhibit tannin and are rounded and plush.
Santa Ynez Wineries – The Vineyards
With numerous microclimates, the Refugio Ranch’s soils consist of clay and sandy loam. The vineyard is planted with malvasia bianca, roussanne, sauvignon blanc, semillon, and viognier in the whites. The reds consist of grenache, petite sirah, sangiovese, and syrah.
The soils at Roblar Winery and Vineyards are conducive to growing sauvignon blanc, viognier, sangiovese, syrah, grenache, mourvédre, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit Verdot.
At Buttonwood, the original vines signified a Bordeaux bent to winemaking. These included semillon, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon. Later after discovering that Rhone varieties do well in the Santa Ynez Valley, many vines were grafted to syrah, grenache noir, grenache blanc, and viognier. Later malbec and Musque clone of sauvignon blanc was planted, rounding out the portfolio of Bordeaux-inspired wines. The latest chenin blanc contributes to the wide range of diversity of wines produced at Buttonwood.
This is an excerpt from an article on Santa Ynez wineries I wrote for Wander with Wander.