There was one stop I had to make during our recent trip to Santa Barbara County wine country. A couple years ago I was covering a wine tasting at the Toledo Museum of Art that featured winemaker Karen Steinwachs of Buttonwood Farms Winery & Vineyard. We had the opportunity to sit down and sample her wines while she gave the backstory on each.
It was so enjoyable. The white wines seemed crisper and the red wines smoother as Karen described the Buttonwood Farm vineyard in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. Now I has the opportunity to see the farm firsthand.
Cousin Mary, husband Cleve, Green Dragon and I rolled through some rainy weather on the way from Lompoc to Buttonwood, but the light and airy tasting room lifted our spirits. The 39-acre vineyard stretches across the top of a mesa. A barn and production facility are at the top of the hill – unfortunately it was too muddy for us to walk up there.
Perhaps the coolest thing about Buttonwood is that it is a working 109-acre farm. The tasting room is nestled next to a field of fruit trees and the farm freshness is pervasive. The farm grows persimmons, olives, Asian pears, almonds and peaches.
The vineyard is planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Marsanne, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Buttonwood opened in 1989 and now produces about 8,000 cases of boutique wine goodness a year.
While we chatted with Karen, we tasted through her wines.
We opened with the 2010 Zingy Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship grape for Buttonwood and Zingy is a pure expression. There’s no oaking and no malolactic fermentation. It is bright gold in the glass with green highlights. On the palate there is citrus and a fresh zesty flavor with a mineral thread. Hard to believe that this wine is just $18 – one of the best values on our trip. Only 403 cases of this were produced versus more than 2,600 of Buttonwood’s regular Sauv Blanc.
We next tried the Grenache Blanc 2010. This is just the second vintage for this wine and it was a challenge. The grape ripens late and this year about half of the crop was lost. The bouquet is of white flowers. Peach and melon flavor notes mix together with a bit of dust.
The 2010 Devin is worlds apart from Zingy. Where Zingy is crisp and bold, Devin (a 60-40 blend of Sauvignon Bland and Semillon) is smooth and full bodied. This is a classic Bordeaux blend that has richness and depth, some of which is provided by fermentation in French Oak. Some lime and toast are evident.
The 2010 Syrah Dry Rose shone like a pink sapphire and radiated strawberry flavors. This is a perfect drink for a summer afternoon (and it wasn’t too bad in the middle of winter either!).
A highlight of the tasting was the flagship red blend Trevin (“tres vins” or three wines). The 2007 vintage is a superb red Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The dark wine resonates with blackberry, spice and vanilla bean. It spends 36 months in barrel bulking up and another nine months in the bottle. The mouthfeel is oh so smooth with a finish of black cherry and herb. Only 273 cases were made. It goes for $36 retail.
We closed with a delicious taste of P.O.S.H., a delightful Port-style wine made with Syrah grapes that are aged for 35 months and top out at 20% alcohol. This is a smooth sipper with rich, velvety, berry goodness. The acronym is Port Out, Starboard Back and it certainly is smooth sailing with this wine, which pairs well with almonds, chocolate or dried fruit.
Buttonwood Farms has produced a bumper crop of great wines. The value is outstanding as well. Dig in!