Our estate vineyard is planted on the hilltop mesa overlooking the tasting room, orchard and lower vegetable gardens. The vineyard is a set of rolling and undulating hills, each planted to a grape varietal best suited to that particular location. The vines are all planted on their own roots, set into the classic 8’x10′ spacing.
Vineyard Manager Armando Zepeda has been farming the vineyard since it was first planted, and seems to know each vine personally. Armando is joined in the vineyard by soil consultant Stan Kadota and viticulturist Francisco Ramirez.
Harvest generally begins in September of each year, followed by the planting of a cover crop of barley, sweet pea and fava beans for the winter months. January brings the pruning crew, with each vine cane-pruned, with bud-break generally arriving in March, fruit set in May and veraison in July/August.
The vineyard map shows the changes over the years. The original vineyard plan was relatively simple, with largish blocks containing a single grape varietal: Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. This reflects our original focus on Bordeaux-style wines.
Over the years, our understanding of what grows well in our part of Santa Ynez Valley and our tastes in wine have evolved and we have grafted some of the original vines to other varietals. The biggest change is the addition of the Rhône varietals Syrah, Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc and Viognier. Malbec was added to our palette of red Bordeaux reds and the Musque clone of Sauvignon Blanc added to give greater complexity and aromatics, and a bit of Chenin Blanc planted in 2017.
We love trees here at Buttonwood. (Buttonwood is another name for the Sycamore tree). The stately Valley Oaks, the perennially beautiful Live Oaks, our little Palmetto volunteers in the vineyard and the Louisiana Cypress that grace our vineyard pond. But the orchard trees – well, we simply adore them!
The entrance to Buttonwood Farm is graced by almond trees, which herald the arrival of spring with their beautiful blossoms. If we get to the nuts before the crows do, we hand harvest and dry the almonds before having them shelled for consumption. The perfect snack, roasted, salted, herbed or just eaten!
Most famous are the peach trees. As Orchard Manager Fred Munch notes: “With fruit orchards totaling 250 trees, Buttonwood has become known as the Georgia of southern California! Late June brings the Springcrests. There are a whole bunch of crests: Springcrest, Flavorcrest, Suncrest – all different months. The Flavorcrest follows the Springcrest and usually starts the first week in July, and then the third week in July come the Babcock (a white peach) and the Elberta. The fourth week in July brings the Gene Elberta, which lasts until the first week in August. Then in the first week in August we see the Fay Elberta, after which comes the O’Henry, which lasts until the end of August or sometimes up until Labor Day.”
The peaches are sold at the farm stand here, as well as local Farmer’s Markets. Peach-based goods such as Spicy Peach Chutney, Ginger Peach Preserves and Green Chili Peach Salsa are also produced, for those unfortunate times when you can’t get a fresh one. Life’s a Peach at Buttonwood!
Pears and Asian pears are also grown, and the pear orchard is now expanding with, as Fred calls them, “new baby trees”. Pearhaps there are some pear products in our future?
Across the field is a tree-lined lane, known by us as Olive Lane. Indeed, one side of that road is 25-year olive trees, which ripen their dark bounty in late December and are then pressed into aromatic and farm-flavorful Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The north side of Olive Lane boasts our Pomegranate trees, whose cheerful, ornament-looking fruit ripens around the same time as the olives. December will bring whole Pomegranates to the tasting room and we press the balance for juice (the last pressing at the winery each year!) which finds its way into Pomegranate Jelly, Pomegranate Syrup and Pomegranate Glaze.
Garden and Crops
One of the most anticipated events of the year here at Buttonwood Farm is our All Farm Dinner wherein everything on the table is grown here on the farm. Some of the most remarkable dishes are from the vegetables grown by Lupe Flores and his family. Lupe is our winery Cellarmaster, and his vegetables are supplemented by melons grown by his father-in-law, Armando Zepeda (our Vineyard Manager). The most delicious Heirloom tomatoes you’ve ever had, tomatillos, peppers of all kinds, onions, squash, lettuces – and surprises each year (eggplant last year!). The vegetables are also sold to and prized by many of our local chefs.
As delicious as a just-picked, ripe-off-the-vine tomato is, seasoning is important too. Abel Navarro, who also makes our tasting room gardens so naturally beautiful, and Seyburn plan and oversee the Herb Garden, which includes thyme, marjoram, cumin, sorrel, chives, sage, peppermint and spearmint, winter savory, basil, oregano, fennel, dill, tarragon, lemon grass, four different varieties of garlic and shallots and lavender. Now that is a spice cabinet! Fresh herbs are available in the growing season and many are dried and available for purchase and use throughout the year. Seyburn also makes some lovely spice blends (try the Mediterranean!), and includes these in many of her recipes.
Abel also cares for our cut-flower garden, as flowers always grace our tasting room (another Betty legacy that we love), and we are one of the only farms to be able to grow peonies here in the Valley.