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, ideal for this Buttonwood winery walk and brunch. Since every winery has their 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. This wine is going to be a nicely balanced bright, crisp and refreshing with flavors of grapefruit and tropical fruits
For Buttonwood the concepts of sustainability and organics are based around the farm, vineyards, winery and employees being a family unit. Every part is connected and integrating into each aspect of the farm and winery. These components are united 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 is punctuated by 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.
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 styled wines. Today many Rhone varietals have been planted. The emphasis has moved towards a mixture of the more diverse styles of wine.
The purpose of this Earth Month event was getting to know the vineyard, wines and the ecosystem that makes Buttonwood unique. With the assistance of winemaker Karen Steinwachs, who 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 to be 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 tasted on the wine walk were the 2013 Zingy with it aromatic and herbaceous flavors, the 2010 Cab Franc and as Karen puts it, “ the fussiest grape as it is the first to bud and the last to be picked”, the palate cleanser, the wonderfully fragrant 2013 Syrah Rosé and the 2011 Malbec, which is a newer varietal for Buttonwood.
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 Syrah Rosé is one of my all time favorites as it is refreshing with flavors of watermelon and strawberries. The Rosé, made from Syrah that is 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 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 a harmony between the fruits it bares and the people who produce it.
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