Buttonwood Winemaker, Karen Steinwachs, Creates Craft Wine Fusion of Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc and Locally-Sourced Hops
February 6, 2018 – Solvang, CA – Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyardwinemaker, Karen Steinwachs, has officially announced the release of the Solvang, California winery’s hops-infused Sauvignon Blanc, HOP ON. One of the first wines of its kind to be federally-approved, Steinwachs has released third batch of the pioneering hops-and-wine fusion, which displays wine labels reading “Hopped White Wine” with “Natural Flavors”.
Similar in fashion to craft beers, HOP ON is a small batch wine. Buttonwood plans to keep case count – and keg count – low, and batch production only as frequent as necessary, aiming to retain the freshness of the local and estate grown hops used in the winemaking process.
Batch “one” of HOP ON, quietly released in the fall of 2016, utilized Galaxy and Glacier hop pellets, while batch “two” included Crystal, Cascade, Chinook and Citra hops, all from Lompoc, California’s Pacific Valley Hops. Batch “three” of HOP ON includes Chinook, Cascade, Crystal and Columbus hops. The grapes going into HOP ON are all estate grown; the base wine blend includes 93% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Sémillon.
Steinwachs is organically, deeply rooted in the beer world: she is a direct “Pabst” descendant of the original Best Brewing Company family, via her great-great-grandfather. Meshed with her original “brew” background, is Steinwachs’ 17-year career in the wine industry. Steinwachs left her first work-life in the tech industry, in 2001, to start all over again in the working world, completing her first harvest with California Central Coast winemaker, Norm Yost, at Foley Estates – on the Solvang property now inhabited by Lincourt Vineyards.
In 2004, Steinwachs moved on to an assistant winemaking position with winemaker Kathy Joseph, at Fiddlehead Cellars, eventually landing at Buttonwood in 2007, as winemaker. Steinwachs’ decision to join Buttonwood was in part, due to her admiration for the work that the farm/vineyard combo was doing, creating symbiotic relationships between the grapes and the other offerings that the farm produced.
Steinwachs’ affinity towards both beer and wine drove her to test what a marriage between the two might look like, as did her musings over the craft beer and cider world, and what they were doing to involve wine and grapes in their processes.
“Brewers have been aging their ales in used wine barrels for some time now, among other cross-over production techniques, and I figured maybe it was time to experiment with what could be considered the opposite process,” explained Steinwachs. “I am myself, both a beer person and a wine lover, and HOP ON really takes signature elements of both, and asks them to play well together.”
HOP ON carries a hoppy, IPA-reminiscent nose, while the Sauvignon Blanc holds its natural acidity on the palate without the bitterness often associated with IPAs. Steinwachs and her winemaking team slightly dry the fresh hops destined for HOP ON in the winery’s cold room, infuse the wine with the hops for a few weeks, and then return the HOP ON to neutral French Oak barrels for a few months.
Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, established in 1968, specializes in Bordeaux and Rhone varietals; all of Buttonwood’s Estate Wines are sustainably grown. As a further tie-in to Buttonwood’s growing practices and use of their own fruit and produce, with the help of Brian DeBolt from Pacific Valley Hops, Buttonwood recently planted a hopyard on the farm property to produce the hops bound for HOP ON.
Due to government regulations – or lack thereof, for a product as innovative as HOP ON – the wine’s labels are not allowed to display a vintage, region or even the grape varietal. In turn, this affords Steinwachs the opportunity to create batches of HOP ON as necessary, instead of once per year as dictated by vintage.
Steinwachs continued, “We hope that HOP ON will appeal to those who dabble in both worlds, wine and beer, and that it might even make wine fans out of some of those previously not on board with the grape.”
Buttonwood has plans in place for an entire year of celebration, as 2018 marks the Farm’s 50th “Jubilee” anniversary year – as well as the 35th anniversary of the vineyard’s planting. A revamped tasting room will be unveiled on the property in early 2018, to include a complete remodel, an expanded indoor/outdoor bar area and possibly, a growler program for HOP ON. Buttonwood will be hosting a number of anniversary year events; dates and details TBA.
HOP ON is currently available by the bottle through Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard’s tasting room, located at 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA, 93463, as well as through the Buttonwood web site: www.buttonwoodwinery.com.
More information is available on the Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard web site, including how to join the label’s mailing list and Wine Clubs: www.buttonwoodwinery.com. Buttonwood is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, at facebook.com/ButtonwoodFarm, instagram.com/buttonwoodfarmwinery and twitter.com/ButtonwoodWine. To reach Buttonwood’s Tasting Room directly, please call 805.688.3032; the Tasting Room is open daily, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.