Long before grapevines were planted on the hilltop at Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, it was home to horses, goats, and chickens; trees bearing fruit, nuts, and olives; and gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, and flowers. And long before the words “sustainable” and “organic” were part of the common vernacular, they were ardently practiced here.
The farm has been operating since the 1800s. Buttonwood Farm—named after the buttonwood, a sycamore tree native to the area—was purchased by Betty Williams in 1968. From the beginning, she was dedicated to maintaining and nurturing the beautiful 106-acre parcel of land.
Winemaker Karen Steinwachs believes she benefits from this commitment to the earth as she works with the estate’s distinctive winegrapes. Karen, who describes herself as more of a shepherd of juice than a maker of wine, often detects an intriguingly flinty, mineral characteristic that she calls “buttonwoodish” in the entry and finish of the wines. Buttonwood wines are distinctive, well-structured, and balanced. They routinely win accolades and acclaim. Two tasting room favorites, the Sauvignon Blanc Zingy and the Cabernet Franc were both recently awarded 91 points by Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar writer Josh Raynolds.
Buttonwood wines are exquisite on their own, but they only taste better when paired with food. One of the year’s most anticipated events is Buttonwood’s All Farm Dinner that takes place each August. Everything on the table is sourced from its land, including farm-raised produce and meats, herbs, and fruits, all paired with Buttonwood wines. Even the flowers on the tables are grown on the property!
The cheerful tasting room features artwork by Seyburn Zorthian, Betty’s daughter and designer of Buttonwood’s abstract labels. Guests can taste the wines and then stroll out to the delightful picnic grounds where they can fully savor Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard.
An Interview with Winemaker Karen Steinwachs
T&T: As a farm first and then a winery, do you think Buttonwood Farm Winery was ahead of its time?
KS: Our Founder Betty and her family were always ahead of their time, with a keen philosophy on the ecological way to farm. There has always been a respect for the land and a philosophy of husbandry, and forward thinking to a time when people would get back to what makes sense.
T&T: You have a lot of farm to table events on the calendar. Why?
KS: Well, we like to eat! Happily, we grow so many delicious things here (row crops, pomegranates, olives, almonds, peaches, herbs, and of course, wine.) But what we really enjoy is the time around the table. Wine, food, and companionship are the ultimate, down-to-earth luxuries. We eat, drink, laugh, discuss, meet new people, reaquaint with those we’ve known, and take a breath. It’s an adult “time-out” to get back to the most important thing of all: communing personally with each other. We are a farm, and have been since 1966. Way before it was cool, we were green and locavores. It has just always been that way. Oh, and we like to eat!
T&T: Do you get involved with the planning of the farm to table events?
KS: For the major events, like our All Farm Dinner, I recommend wines for each course, which are always served family style! But, none of us are absolutely steadfast about this; if someone likes a particular white wine, and they want to have it with a meat course, who am I to insert my opinion? Really, it comes down to seasonality more than anything. There are foods that are seasonal and there are wines that seem to be as well. We bottle some wines very early after vintage to just carry us through the coming year, and others are aged to be hearty and are more autumnal than summery. The foods on the table really dictate this more than I.